Jim Valvano’s appearance at the ESPY Awards ceremony on March 3, 1993, remains a classic — he had less than two months to live, but the former North Carolina State basketball coach, ravaged by cancer, gave an impassioned speech. He told the attendees and a national television audience that “cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind. It cannot touch my heart. And it cannot touch my soul.”
In other words, don’t ever give up. That was Valvano’s motto, and he never did give up.
Money to find cures for cancer has been a big part of the V Foundation that Valvano founded. So far, the non-profit group has funded more than $150 million in cancer research grants. And on Wednesday, July 13, ESPN will host 2016 ESPY Day, with the cornerstone event being ESPN Radio’s 12th annual ESPY Day V Foundation auction.
This year’s auction, conducted on eBay, has over 100 lots, including sports memorabilia, interactive experiences with athletes and celebrities — plus sports-related themes with ESPN broadcasters like Mike and Mike, Jon Gruden, Barry Melrose, Stephen A. Smith and Julie Foudy.
Some of the autographed memorabilia features a football signed by Peyton Manning with the inscription “Never Give Up.” Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz penned a Red Sox replica batting helmet with the same slogan.
There are autographed items from the likes of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, Muhammad Ali, Steph Curry and Tom Brady and a Chicago Cubs “W” victory flag signed by 13 players.
But the most coveted piece of memorabilia — and perhaps, the most expensive — could be a Super Bowl MVP authentic helmet with 43 signatures. Some of the hand-signed autographs include Joe Montana, John Elway, Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Peyton and Eli Manning, Jerry Rice, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and John Riggins.
Celebrity excursions include golf with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilborn, an opportunity to join bowling enthusiast and Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis for a day on the lanes and a heavy metal concert with NFL reporter John Clayton, who apparently IS a big fan (remember the SportsCenter commercial?).
There are events, too. A fan can go behind the scenes and on the field for a Monday Night Football game, enjoy the Ultimate Wrestlemania experience, or travel to Tuscaloosa to watch an Alabama home football game and then later meet Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
In 2016, there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed and 595,690 cancer deaths in the US. The V Foundation Auction has raised more than $8.4 million for cancer research,a fitting tribute to Jim Valvano as the search for a cure continues.
For their part, the doctors and researchers will never give up.