July 10, 2023

Never Give Up: The story behind Jim Valvano’s most memorable speech

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Above, Jim Valvano in action as head coach of 1983 N.C. State basketball team that won a national championship. Photo by Jonathan Wroblewski from the Duke Chronicle/Duke University.

"That screen up there is flashing 30 seconds, like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body and I'm worried about some guy in the back going '30 seconds.'"

– Jim Valvano speaking at the 1993 ESPYs

This week in conjunction with the network's ESPY awards, ESPN is showing a new documentary that tells the story behind Jim Valvano's moving speech, delivered more than 30 years ago.

College basketball fans knew Jim Valvano as the high energy, wisecracking coach who pulled off a miracle national championship run at North Carolina State University in 1983. He was just 37 years old.

Ten years later, on March 4, 1993, Valvano was seriously ill with a form of cancer that would take his life before that summer. He was attending the first ever ESPY awards at Madison Square Garden. He was there to receive the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award

By all accounts, this much-quoted speech was not expected or planned for. No one thought Valvano had the strength to walk onto the stage, let alone address an audience. Valvano's wife says he didn't have any remarks prepared.

As you might suspect, we're always interested in the story behind any memorable speech and look forward to this one. If the trailer is any indication, we anticipate the documentary will be like Valvano's speech itself—full of humor, energy, surprising moments, and genuine emotion.

Below, find a preview of the documentary. For a transcript of the speech, visit this page at the V Foundation, where you'll notice that his ESPY speech includes a story about the power of coaches giving speeches.

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