ESPN’s 2023 V Week runs through Dec. 10. During the fundraiser for cancer research, Andscape is republishing articles and telling stories about early detection, research and survivorship in the Black community. The V Foundation’s Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund honors Scott’s legacy by awarding grants to scientists who are addressing racial disparities in cancer outcomes and providing opportunities to researchers from diverse backgrounds. ESPN and the V Foundation are proud to support this fund in Stuart’s honor. Donate today at v.org/stuart.
In the moments Sydni Scott has the desire to hear her father’s voice, the large body of work Stuart Scott left behind — the legendary highlight reads, the “Boo-Yah” compilations, the “This is SportsCenter” shorts — gives her multiple options.
Scott, for her quick fix, picks up her phone and sorts through the multiple voicemail messages from her father that she’s saved. There’s one in particular that stands out. The two had a tiff about some heels she swore she left at his house, and he swore that she didn’t … until he eventually found them.
“He called to tell me I was right, and ended with ‘this is your paternal unit,’ a line he used for years,” she recalled. “I can hear him laughing to himself as he finds them.”
Taelor Scott, her older sister, has a go-to voicemail saved as well. It’s her father calling from an event where Kendrick Lamar, a rap artist she introduced to her dad, was performing.
“It’s a really grainy video message with horrible audio,” Taelor Scott said. “I listen to it now hearing him have his Kendrick moment.
“It’s sad that there’s many artists like that I won’t be able to share with him going forward.
It’s approaching eight years since Stuart Scott, 49, died seven years after he was diagnosed with appendix cancer. On Monday, a celebration of his legacy will be held in New York at the annual “BOO-YAH” event that has raised more than $16 million with ESPN and the V Foundation for the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, which has a mission that was important to him: Making a significant impact on the racial disparities in cancer outcomes.
“His legacy is as much about sports as it is about the Black community and Black families,” Sydni Scott said. “So, to be part of the work trying to essentially elongate the time Black families spend together, through the study of racial disparities in cancer research, that’s a meaningful part of his legacy.”
Another part of her father’s legacy: the way he single-handedly changed the delivery of sports news through his hip-hop and cultural references, an approach never seen nationally before he joined ESPN in 1993. Born in Chicago, raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Scott put his cultural identity on display nightly through his catchphrases that resonated with African Americans, attracting a young demographic to ESPN.
It was a style that was embraced by many.
And maligned by more than a few.
“I didn’t get a chance to witness the trials and tribulations of him coming up in the business as young, loud, confident and proud,” Sydni Scott said. “As people tell me their stories, it tells me his tenacity in refusing to turn his back on the community that raised him.”
The stories that Sydni and Taelor Scott have heard in their travels about their dad are plentiful. Like the man they met two years ago in Winston-Salem who told the sisters he was a classmate of their father’s.
“He said he took the time to show his son videos of [Stuart Scott] to make sure he knew who my dad was,” Sydni Scott said. “Seeing the generational impact my dad had on their lives was one of the most special interactions I’ve had.”
Like the young Black journalists who tell them they felt there was a place in the industry by watching him become successful while being his authentic self.
“We’ve heard from aspiring Black journalists who remember getting advice from him in airports,” she said. “It’s special to hear he took time to foster those kinds of connections and inspire people, even as he was trying to catch a flight.”
His career inspired his daughter Taelor, who was 19 when her father died, to pursue a career as a visual storyteller.
“Being able to grow up around people who are storytellers, that has definitely been a huge point of inspiration,” said Taelor Scott, who has produced several short films. “My father had an intuitive ability to connect to people through stories, an ability I’m looking to cultivate myself. I hope that has rubbed off on me.”
Sydni Scott, who was 15 when her father died, graduated from Columbia University, where she ran track. “He ran track in high school so I remember, as a kid, practicing baton handoffs with my dad,” she said. “He’d set out paces in the grass, and yell out ‘go’ and ‘stick’ and I’d throw my hand back. I remember all of those practice times I had with him.”
After graduating from Columbia, Sydni was named a 2022 Rhodes Scholar (she was Columbia’s first women’s student-athlete to earn the honor) and is now studying abroad at Oxford University in England, where a major focus of her studies is on reparations.
“There are barriers that exist along racial lines, along ethnic lines, along gender lines,” she said. “I’m galvanized for the work my father did for representation.”
Stuart Scott delivered many catchphrases, which the sisters hear often in their travels.
“My favorite is, ‘as cool as the other side of the pillow,’ which is so sweet, so smooth,” Sydni Scott said. “I shared that with a friend who didn’t grow up watching sports, and who never heard it before.
“And then there’s ‘Boo-Yah’ which, growing up, it was like, ‘oh my God, that’s my dad,’ and it was a little embarrassing teenage stuff,” she added. “But now there’s a little nugget of pride in there when I hear it. He really brought that into the general lexicon.”
Taelor Scott’s favorite catchphrase has no connection to her father’s sports deliveries.
“He took Italian in college, and knew about five words,” she said. “At home eating he’d always say ‘Mangia tutto,’ which means ‘eat everything.’
“I love the fact that he never spoke any other languages, but had deep pride in the five Italian words he knew.”
There is, for the sisters, so much to miss about their father who, during the 2014 ESPYs and six months before his death, delivered one of the network’s most emotional moments as he accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.
“What I miss most is someone to share everything with,” Taelor Scott said. “As time goes on, your contact list gets shorter and shorter and I feel like there’s a huge hole and I have a deep nostalgia for when I did not feel that particular emptiness.
“It’s like your biggest fan is not going to be there.”
Her sister agrees.
“Missing my dad is so caught up in the nostalgia of adolescence, of growing up, of childhood,” she said. “I had to forge this path out of childhood into adulthood — which I’m early on the journey — without him.
“I miss his joy,” she said. “There are times when it feels difficult to miss him because it scares me to think that he wouldn’t — not that he wouldn’t recognize me — but that he wouldn’t know who I am because the child that he left behind was 15 years old.”
It’s in those moments of longing when the sisters pick up their phone and listen to their father’s voicemails.
“He always saved messages from us from different years,” Taelor Scott said. “And he would play them and it was weird because I’d hear myself at 8 years old and say, ‘is this how I sounded?’
“Now to listen to his voicemails, it’s special.”
According to her sister, for good reason.
“I listen to those voicemails, not only were they really special,” she said. “I listen because those messages were intended just for me.”