The ESPY Awards, ESPN's annual sports version of the Oscars or Emmys, have become a tradition for sports fans everywhere, often bringing moments of inspiration — most notably in the case of Jim Valvano's unforgettable 1993 speech while accepting the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Keeping with that tradition, the 2016 awards Wednesday night did not disappoint. The show was filled with poignant moments, along with the usual glitz of an awards show, as some athletes addressed divisive issues such as gun control and the Black Lives Matter social justice movement. Here are five highlights from Wednesday night's show.
A call to action
The beginning of the show might be what people remember most. In a year plagued with gun violence, NBA superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul made an passionate plea to work toward finding answers.
"The system is broken," Anthony said.
Paul invoked the names of young black men who were killed — many by police — while Wade said bias had to stop. The group of athletes said they had to follow in the footsteps of politically active athletes in the past, like Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Jim Brown and Billie Jean King in order to help end gun violence.
"We all have to do better," James said.
— NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) July 14, 2016
Craig Sager talks about fighting cancer
Sager, a beloved NBA sideline reporter, delivered a moving speech about fighting cancer. He fought it off once after being diagnosed in 2014. He recently learned it was no longer in remission.
"I will continue to keep fighting sucking the marrow out of life as life sucks the marrow out of me," Sager said. "I will live my life full of love and full of fun. It's the only way I know how."
You can watch the inspirational speech and read a summary over at SB Nation.
Cena embraces his hosting duties
Wrestler turned actor John Cena hosted the 2016 awards and got solid reviews. The Los Angeles Times wrote he was "not a bad host," who showed "some solid comic chops" while poking at the world of sports. The Big Lead called his opening monologue "fantastic" that was "undoubtedly one of the best in the show’s history." Watch it below.
Zaevion Dobson wins the Arthur Ashe Award
Dobson was just 15 years old when he shielded his friends from gunfire, sacrificing his own life to save others. The Tennessee high school football player won the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for the heroic act. His mother accepted the honor on his behalf.
“I’m here to fight back,” Zenobia Dobson said, flanked by her two remaining sons onstage. “We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America. Oh yes.”
Dobson was honored with a documentary-style video narrated by actor Michael B. Jordan.
Honoring the greatest
The ESPY awards paid tribute to Ali, the great boxer who died in June. The show closed by honoring the boxer who took bold political stands.
"I hope his death spurs his successors to remember what truly made him the greatest," said NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Chance the Rapper performed a soulful, gospel-inspired song to honor Ali. It included the lyrics, "Ain’t no one prettier, ain’t no one wiser, ain't no one better." Watch the performance below