At just 49 years old, beloved sportscaster Stuart Scott passed away from cancer.
I didn’t know a lot about Stuart Scott when the news of his death flooded my news feeds on the morning of January 4, but the overwhelming response and admiration shown in the wake of his death from his ESPN colleagues, athletes and those of us who watched him on TV made it so that I had to find out more about him.
He grew up in a middle-class family, spent his formative years in North Carolina and attended UNC. He held a number of news reporting jobs before finding his place at ESPN.
Though most of the research I have done about Stuart Scott’s life seems fairly regular, what you won’t be able to find by reading either his Wikipedia page, or the biography of his early life, is quality of man he was.
As I read through the tributes and tweets, I was struck by the outpouring of love and support for Scott and his family, but also by the consistent themes that emerged.
Stuart Scott was a man who grabbed life by the balls, and I doubt he’d want to be remembered by his three-time battle with cancer, or by his death.
So, as a tribute, we should, instead, remember Stuart Scott in life — particularly by these four things:
1. As someone who stayed true to himself and encouraged others to do the same
Scott, described by ESPN as a “new voice at a new time,” admitted to facing challenges when he first started sportscasting. People questioned his “blackness,” some insinuating he was too much or too little.
In 2011’s ESPN Oral History, “Those Guys Have All the Fun,” Scott said:
Can I really be concerned with what other people think about me who don’t know me? What I’ve done on television is try to work hard, try to be factually correct, try to write creatively and compellingly.
I want to be myself, and anyone who says, ‘Oh well, he’s a hip-hop anchor,’ well, that’s what I grew up on. I grew up mostly on hip-hop and show tunes. I grew up on ‘West Side Story,’ ‘The Wiz,’ ‘Godspell,’ but also ‘Public Enemy.’
In addition to staying true to himself, Scott was remembered for encouraging and mentoring up-and-coming talent on ESPN. As ESPN broke the news of Scott’s death, many members of the ESPN family spoke about Scott’s inspirational life and how he inspired his colleagues to be who they are.
The most poignant of the speakers was Keyshawn Johnson who stated,
One of the first things Stu taught me when I first took this job was to not change who I was, be exactly who I’m supposed to be.
2. As someone who did not fear death, but instead, embraced life
One of Scott’s most famous and quoted speeches was his acceptance speech for the Perseverance Award at the 2014 Espy Awards.
During this speech, on purpose or not, Scott inspired us to think, to be our best selves, to be thankful for what we have and, most importantly, to live.
His famous quote sums up the speech well. He said,
When you die that doesn’t mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.
3. As someone who understood the power of love
Scott leaves behind two daughters, whom many have said were his pride and joy. His love for his children was his inspiration to go on, to fight and to live to the fullest.
During his Espy speech, he is quoted saying,
I can’t ever give up because I can’t leave my daughters. I love you girls more than I will ever be able to express. You are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage tonight because of you.
4. And, of course, “as cool as the other side of the pillow”
Stuart Scott used this term to describe someone who played sports with ease, but to me, Scott is the very definition of cool.
In his article on the life and death of Stuart Scott, ESPN reporter Steve Wulf describes Scott as a poet, someone who had the ability to both “reference Tupac” and “quote Shakespeare.” If that doesn’t say badass, I don’t know what does.
So, as we remember Stuart Scott, let us not remember him by how he died, but how he lived his life: with an unwavering sense of self, with passion, with love and most of all, with coolness.