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The authentic genius of Stuart Scott

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Stuart Scott's Legacy (14:52)

Stuart Scott, a longtime anchor at ESPN, died at the age of 49. He inspired his colleagues with his talent, his work ethic, his personality and his devotion to his daughters. (14:52)

"Boo-Yah" is not a term or word you would find in Webster's or anyone else's dictionary before 1993, when Stuart Scott bum-rushed ESPN2's show. It was a hood-rich term that -- with its Jamaican origins ("boo-yah-ka") -- placed heavy emphasis on the already known.

While "boo-yaw," as Scott wrote it on his shots sheets, was already a staple on the concrete that breeds Roses and LeBrons throughout America, Stuart Scott brought the term to the flat screens and made it part of the national lexicon. It's just one among many terms, sayings, catchphrases, slanguage, vocab, -isms, metaphors and analogies that he made contemporary for America.

But you've got to understand: None of these words entered our living rooms by mistake.

That was his essence -- the way he approached and executed his craft: without apology.

Not many saw the research and the preparation Scott put in to make what he did seem so natural, so much an extension of him. He called what he did and what he was allowed to do a blessing, but those who were lucky enough to see him before the "SportsCenter" or "Monday Night Football" or NBA Finals lights hit him knew that he made broadcasting look easy because it was his work of art.

He used to tell me: "Man, if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here."

That was our little joke, so inside that not even people inside of ESPN or members of his family knew what in the hell we were talking about.

See, as the story goes, my father was the one who introduced Stuart's parents to each other back when they were all in high school in Chicago. That's what we were told. And because of that -- as we'd always take the story further -- every time we'd see one another, I'd take credit for his existence. As if he owed me.

And the beauty in the joke was how he always went with it. Never once challenging the truth that he would have not only been here but become who he became without my father's unsubstantiated match-making skills. Stuart always seemed to love the history behind it all.

The other beauty was that Stuart and I didn't know this story until long after we'd already known one another and had become friends. Long before I'd come to ESPN, long before he and Craig Kilborn became the young "franchise" anchors once the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann era found its first end.

He knew us long before we knew him -- like he'd been with millions of us. He knew what was missing, he knew what we needed. He spoke both to and for "Pookie and them" because even without seeing Pookie's face or shaking Ray-Ray's hand, Stuart knew that there was need of a voice on a stage where sports was more than just a game and players were more than just athletes.

With that he didn't become only the voice of urban, inner-city America as much as he became the voice of American cool, with both what he said and how he said it. He showed us the distinct difference between being oneself and being true to one's self in a public forum. A singular validation of broadcast excellence meets unashamed genius.

Which makes him more than just a role model for so many of us -- it makes him our necessity.

In 2008, less than a year after he was first diagnosed with cancer, he and I sat down to begin a book about his life. I insisted on ghostwriting, he insisted on my name being on the cover with his. The publishers insisted something altogether different. The book was never completed, never published.

During the times we spoke, the one true extraordinary character trait of the several extraordinary character traits Stuart had come to light: his intuitive honesty. An honesty that not only resides in truth but in knowing that what he was saying was something for all to hear and learn.

An excerpt:

"I knew I heard the doctor correctly. I didn't think he said something else, I didn't think for a second, 'Well maybe he didn't say it.' No, I knew I heard him! But I still couldn't comprehend ... in my mind ... in my soul ... he just said, 'cancer.' But he's not talking about me. ..."

That was the first initial thought: "He's not talking about me!" And after about two seconds, the reality hit. Harder than the pain. "He is talking about me."

The next thought was a different one. Here was a young man of 42 years who worked his way to a position that no other of his kind and of his generation had reached. The next thought was not a flashback of everything achieved, of "Monday Night Football" and "SportsCenters." It wasn't even about his baby girls or the love he still held for his ex-wife. No, it was much less beautiful.

"The next thought I had was, 'I'm going to die.'"

What intercepted his thoughts of death were kids. His kids. The two daughters. His life.

"I said to the doctors after they told me all of this: 'Look -- I need to see my kids. I've got to see them.' At that point I just had to see them. And anybody that has kids understands this. It's that feeling of whenever anything is going bad in my life, I need to see my children. I need to smell them, I need to touch them, I need to hug them. They become like water. You need water to survive. And to me, for me, I believe that there are moments in your life where you need your kids to survive. And at that point, before I had another surgery, I had to, I had to, see my kids. I had to see my kids to survive."

What survives is his unremitting generosity. His imperturbable and equanimous integrity. His irreconcilable conviction.

The eight collective NFL and NBA moments of silence before Sunday's games. Rich Eisen's impassioned, in-the-moment, on-air tribute on the NFL Network. Tom Rinaldi's words, as recited by Robin Roberts on the "SportsCenter" tribute: "Change: What does it look like, how does it sound, what does it say?" UNC basketball coach Roy Williams calling him a "hero." The "profound and evident" (words used by his brother-from-another-mother Scott Van Pelt) love he had for his daughters Sydni and Taelor. The president of the United States' tweet.

In his "I Have A Dream" moment, when he received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPYS, Stuart ended his speech with words that owned the moment while also so subtly saying goodbye to all of us. "Have a great rest of your night, have a great rest of your life."

He did. We will.