ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who brought hip-hop to sports’ national airwaves, attention to the fight against cancer, and joy to countless sports fans’ days, died Sunday, Jan. 4. In what turned out to be his final public appearance, Stuart took the stage at the 2014 ESPY Awards to accept the Jimmy V Award and used everything he had inside himself to speak on what fighting really means. He reminded everyone watching that “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer; you beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” And it is in tribute to the life that Stuart Scott fought for that Billboard asked rapper, sports fanatic and ESPN devotee Freddie Gibbs to share his thoughts.
Sports is one of the keys to my life. It definitely kept me out of a lot of trouble and gave me a lot of discipline. I’ve been engulfed in sports since I was a 2-year-old; I picked up any kind of ball — a basketball, baseball, football — I just loved to play something. I loved the energy of being in arenas and watching the game on TV. My father took me to a lot of sports events as a child and our TV stayed on ESPN. My TV to this day stays on ESPN; I always have at least one TV in the house locked on ESPN at all times. When I wanted to start my brand, I just combined the streets with the sports: ESGN.
Coming up in America in the ’80s and ’90s, we were not too far removed from slavery. People forget that. Those effects and that tone during those times in America lingers on in the Black community, so to see a Black man excel in something is always an achievement. For me to get up every morning and look at this guy on the TV… Stuart Scott was a hero.
The first time I saw Stuart Scott was on ESPN2; he wasn’t even on SportsCenter, he was on the X Games. At first I was like, “Wow, they got a Black dude talking about X Games? That’s crazy. This doesn’t even match up, but I like this guy, he’s cool.” And later when I’d see him on SportsCenter, guys like him and Stephen A. Smith — the fact that they can show White America that the Black man can be intelligent and articulate, speaks volumes. They get on there and they know their stuff; they know what they’re talking about. Stuart revolutionized being a sports anchor — he brought hip-hop culture into it. Nobody else was saying what he said on air, and sometimes he pushed the envelope when he said the newest Jay Z line with a Michael Jordan highlight. But Stuart Scott was an artist. He’s right up there with Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann in bringing personality to that network. He changed a lot of people’s days with the positive energy he’d bring to the screen every time you turned on SportsCenter; you could be having a bad day and look at Stuart Scott, always in a positive mood with positive energy. I would look forward to seeing those shows at the end of the day.
I found out about his passing early on Sunday when I turned on SportsCenter, and it wrecked my day. I feel like he was just on television at the ESPYs, speaking on fighting cancer, or on a special doing cage fighting to combat his illness, and keep his body fresh. He definitely didn’t look like the same Stuart Scott, but he was hanging in there and fighting. It teaches us a lesson. I’m gonna be real: A lot of guys in the Black community, we don’t have health insurance, we don’t go get check-ups, we don’t put our health first. We’re too busy out here trying to maintain, get money, do whatever we gotta do. We don’t go to the doctor enough. When I saw how he was combating cancer and how it came up on him so sudden, that made me step back and take a better look at my health and go and get care and insurance. I have a daughter on the way now. At first, I was just out here living for me, but I saw how he was fighting to live for his daughters and that really inspired me. It definitely brought a tear to my eye. That was a true inspiration. To see him be such an advocate for cancer and bringing awareness, he might have saved my life, with me going to the doctor to get check-ups.
Stuart Scott saying “you beat cancer by how you live” is basically saying that cancer might eat your body, but it won’t eat your soul. We’re going to remember him for the legacy he left, the great things he did, the doors he opened up for other African-Americans. And his legacy will be him educating us. To see him go so hard for that cause, that speaks volumes. Him, Jimmy Valvano, Robin Roberts. Stuart Scott inspired a generation, to say the least.
–As told to Eric Rosenthal