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EXCLUSIVE CLIP: ESPN “SC Featured” about Jim Valvano’s Iconic ESPYS Speech to Debut July 12

ESPN Features Producer Michael O’Connor Shares why this film goes beyond just that special ESPYS night in 1993

Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY awards (ESPN Images)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic ESPYS speech delivered by former men’s college basketball coach and ESPN analyst Jim Valvano upon accepting the inaugural Arthur Ashe for Courage Award.

ESPN is taking a deeper behind-the-scenes look in a new one-hour documentary, “THE SPEECH” to commemorate the milestone.

The SC Featured piece will air Wednesday, July 12, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN ahead of The ESPYS, airing on ESPN that same evening at 8 p.m. “THE SPEECH” will reair Saturday, July 15, at 2 p.m. on ABC and will also be available on ESPN+.

Front Row caught up with Michael O’Connor, ESPN Features Producer & Director of “THE SPEECH,” to learn more about what fans can expect when watching.

What is something you learned during the making of the film?

When I interviewed Jamie Valvano, Jim’s middle daughter, we went on to learn that cancer research led doctors to find she had inherited a genetic mutation from her father, the BRCA2 gene, making her more susceptible to breast cancer.

One of the most impactful moments of Jim’s speech was when he said, “We’re starting the V Foundation for Cancer Research. It may not save my life. It may save my children’s life. It may save someone you love.”  Learning that cancer research advancements helped save Jim’s daughter became a focal point to explore in the documentary.

Why was now the best/right time to develop this SC Featured?

This year’s ESPYS will be the 30th anniversary, making it the perfect time to share Jim’s story in a new way, showing how an extraordinary collection of events led to the massive impact made today.

Anything to add?

Watching Jim’s speech, the part that stood out was when Jim said, “If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” Now, 30 years later, I am grateful to share his story with the support of ESPN, The V Foundation and the Valvano family.

To date, ESPN has helped the V Foundation raise more than $195 million for game-changing cancer research, accounting for more than half of the $310 million the V has granted to date. For more on how to donate, go to

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