Stuart Scott could have been my uncle. He sure sounded like him on-air. I’ve spent many years watching looped ESPN highlights. Stuart Scott was the first relatable news anchor I’d encountered.
It’s because he talked like me. He thought like me. He looked like me. He used the same sports barber shop lexicon I used. A player with a smooth game became, Cooler than the other side of the pillow. A nice NBA block became, You ain’t gotta go home, but you gotta get the heck up outta here. A player entering the proverbial zone became, Call him a car wash because he’s automatic.
This kind of chatter happened every day in black barber shops, one of the most sacred spaces for black men. Scott flung the barber shop door wide open and let the rest of the world in. And the rest of the world loved it.
He brought the flair of an athlete to ESPN when many of network’s anchors were cautious and reserved. Scott was an ambassador, a color analyst of color, commenting on athletic events dominated by men and women who looked like him. It was an easy job for him, like a proud relative talking about cousins, nieces, and nephews.
When Stuart Scott spoke, the world listened. Other minorities listened too, wondering if outsiders caught obscure hip-hop and cultural references. Yo, did Stu—a term of endearment from his peeps—just drop a Biggie reference? We were proud. Scott was quickly becoming a cultural icon.
Then cancer happened. And July 16, 2014 happened. That day was like any other day in Scott’s career. He spoke. The world listened. It was ESPY night, the night ESPN celebrated some of the most talented athletes on the planet. That night, however, belonged to a cancer-stricken news anchor.
Scott became the epitome of one of his favorite post-dunk Stu-isms. And the Lord said, you gotta rise up! And rise up, Scott did. He delivered one of the most moving speeches in recent memory. Looking frail and tired, Scott addressed the captivated audience with these words: “When you die it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
The Greatest Stu-sim
How you live. Why you live. The manner in which you live. There were so many gospel implications in Scott’s words that night. With the world listening, he changed people’s minds about his cancer. Most thought he was losing a battle, but Scott was winning. He preferred to model what it looked like to live as an example. A suffering servant. A cultural icon. A battle-worn soldier.
As a Christian, his words remain with me. How am I living? Why am I living? What is my manner of life? I learned a lot from Scott over the years. He’s carried himself as a consummate professional. He’s delivered countless statistics and one-liners. But he delivered much more than that last July—and throughout his career at ESPN. He may not have known it, but throughout his career, Scott delivered hope. He delivered hope that minorities could anchor a network television show. He delivered hope that cancer isn’t a death sentence, but a mandate to live and maximize your time. Today, I reflect on his life and am grateful for his example.
I close with another Stu-ism, addressed to the man himself:
Lord, he made his kin folk proud, Pookie, Ray-Ray, Moesha…
Gonna miss you Uncle Stu!