This past Friday, the Sports world took some time to remember Stuart Scott, the legendary SportCenter Anchor who passed away in 2015 from Appendix Cancer. Friday, January 19th would have been Scott’s 54th birthday.
Stuart was unlike any sports reporter we had ever seen, bringing his unique style to the news desk. He was known for being extremely charismatic, using phrases such as “cool as the other side of the pillow” or “Booya!”
Another moment that stands out is when Stuart described Paul Konerko’s hit streaks by saying, “Konerko is like butter, cause he’s on a roll.” Stuart added his own pop, and you could tell that he was truly passionate about what he was doing. He had that flair that SportCenter was really missing at the time.
According to his coworkers, Stuart brought his high energy from the very beginning. Mark Gross, member of the SVP production team, described Scott as a “ball of fire walking around” when he first started at ESPN 2 in 1993.
Stuart’s style, however, was not universally accepted when first starting with ESPN. Other staff, as well as people outside of the organization, described his reporting as “grating” and were not happy with him bringing “the streets” to reporting. Despite the initial pushback, Stuart continued to do his thing. He made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to be himself, which meant using “black” lingo and bringing a different energy to the show. As an example, Stuart would describe black basketball players as “brothers” and talk about how certain players have “street cred,” which was something entirely new to the sports world.
He was essentially the Jackie Robinson of sports reporting, inspiring current black reporters such as Jay Harris and Sage Steele to feel as if they were finally a part of the conversation. In an interview following Stuart’s death, Sage shared that, before starting her professional career, “Stuart was the guy that [she] stayed up to watch.” In the same interview, Jay said that he took a liking to Stuart early on when he noticed that “Stuart was talking about things that [he] would say with [his] black friends that [his] white friends wouldn’t necessarily know about.”
Stuart not only helped inspire a wave of future sports anchors, but he also helped integrate a different culture by merging hip hop with sports. His constant Jay Z and Biggie Smalls references throughout the show made it must see TV for those who were fans of both hip hop and sports.
Despite finding great success in in his first 14 years with ESPN, Stuart was eventually faced with a challenge much bigger than sports reporting. In late 2007, he was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer.
What ensued for Stuart was an exhausting 7 year battle, a time period where Stuart was working his hardest to fight off cancer, only to have it return again and again, with each occurrence being worse than the last.
Throughout this difficult time, Stuart would not let his illness define him. Even with his medical conditions, Stuart fought like hell to continue doing the job that he loved.
In spite of the exhaustion that he experienced from the cancer, he brought the same charisma that he always did to SportCenter. Steve Levy, a co-anchor who worked daily with Stuart, shared that during commercial breaks, Stuart would be so tired that he would lean back in his chair, making it look like he was trying to catch a 30 second nap. Then when the commercial break was over, Stuart would magically re-focus and go back to his energetic self. As fans of SportsCenter, none of us knew the troubles that this man was dealing with behind the scenes. Stuart worked his hardest to bring the best show he could every night.
What’s most admiral about Stuart is how he kept such a positive attitude throughout the entire process. He just wanted to continue to live his normal life. He went to work, he spent time with his daughters, he took boxing classes, etc. He did not want his illness to affect the way that he lived his life.
At the 2014 ESPYS, Stuart was presented with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, an award given to a deserving member of the sports world who has overcome great obstacles through determination. What nobody knew is that Stuart had been in the hospital just weeks before receiving the award, undergoing multiple surgeries. After having his name called, Stuart, now thin as a rail, got up on stage and gave an all-time performance.
The entire speech was brilliant, but there’s one quote in particular that stands out to me. Towards the middle of his speech, Stuart made the statement: “when you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
This statement is coming from a man who was on his last legs. A man that had been through a torturous 7 years of recurring pain and suffering. Considering the terrible condition that Stuart was in, it’s remarkable how he was able to deliver such as speech.
We all know that it’s easy to talk the talk. We hear motivational speakers and influencers say “live life to the fullest” or “live like it’s your last day” all the time. It’s easy to share a positive message when life isn’t completely fucking you up. But for Stuart to get up on stage, with terrible medical conditions, and still deliver a message of positivity and encouragement… that’s just unfathomable.
This man’s journey is a lesson to us all. Sometimes we deal with tough situations where it’s easy to dwell, and complain, and ask “why me?” But at the end of the day, complaining isn’t going to change anything. We have to continue to fight each day. And that is exactly what Stuart did.
Looking ahead to now, four years after Stuart’s death, it’s incredible to see how his legacy continues to have a huge impact on people throughout the world. Whether it’s his family members, his friends, all of us sports fans, or those fighting cancer, we can reflect on the positive energy that this man brought to the world. And we owe it to him to continue fighting each day.
Growing up watching SportCenter, I oftentimes reflect on watching Stuart’s commentary of web gems and top 10 plays. It was the perfect setting; sitting in my parents’ room with my dad and my brother, watching Stuart on the TV. And looking back, these really were some of the best moments of my childhood. I was always drawn to Stuart’s enthusiasm and charisma, and that played a huge role in helping me find my love for sports.
Stuart has certainly had an influence on me, and for that reason, I owe it to him to help his legacy continue. For anyone who has been impacted by Stuart, I think his final wish would be that we live our lives to the fullest, pursue what we’re passionate about, and bring joy to those around us.
Thank you, Stuart Scott.