By Lenn Robbins
When I was in a very different place and time, I wrote a column about one of the most amazing speeches I’ve ever had a chance to witness: It was when the late Jimmy Valvano accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award with his “Never Give Up,” speech at the 1993 ESPYs.
Less than two months later, Jimmy V was dead.
The cancer he so courageously and positively fought had prematurely claimed another life. Valvano, a Queens guy who played at Rutgers and coached at Iona, among other stops, before winning an NCAA Championship at N.C. State, was 47.
I was 33, pretty certain I had the world figured out.
The words from that speech that reverberated from heart to head, were, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
Valvano said them with such promise, such belief, such sincerity, and such passion that the rest of his words faded – until December of 2018. That was a little more than one year after doctors removed the mass behind my right ear and cancer became an uninvited guest.
The Jimmy V Classic was being played at The Garden and for the first time in memory, I couldn’t go. Jimmy V’s speech was aired and this time it was another part of the speech that resonated:
To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. No. 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.
But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heckuva day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.
Laugh. Think. Cry. Seems pretty simple on the surface. And you know what? It is.
It’s really easy to laugh, think, cry when you’re in The Garden and college basketball is being played, as was the case Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.
Texas Tech upset No,1-ranked Louisville, 70-57. It marked the first time in Tech history it upset the nation’s No.1-ranked team. Indiana edged UConn, 57-54, in the second game. The Huskies return to The Garden (and to the Big East) reminded us how electric this sport can be – even in December.
ESPN did a noble job of remembering Valvano and anchor Stuart Scott, who succumbed to cancer in January of 2015. Talk about a couple of guys who could laugh, think and cry. Robin Roberts and Holly Rowe reminded us to never give up.
Look around you. Chances are someone is fighting the fight. All you have to do is follow the words of Valvano. Chances are, it will be a pretty good day.