Over the course of her illustrious career spanning 38 seasons, Pat Summitt made a habit out of winning. As the head coach of the Lady Volunteer’s women’s basketball team, she amassed 8 National Championships, 16 SEC titles and 1,098 wins, making her the winningest Division-1 basketball coach of all time. Now, she takes on her first undefeated competitor: the battle against Alzheimer’s disease.
On Wednesday, Summitt was honored as the Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient at the ESPY’s and was greeted with a standing ovation that didn’t cease until her speech was over. Escorted by her son, Tyler, she delivered a short speech that may have been short on buzzwords, but it was full of significance. By the time she walked off the stage, she had become one of the new faces of the fight against Alzheimer’s.
“During this time, that is the next challenge for me and Tyler, and it is time to fight,” Summitt said with stern dignity to a packed house of the nation’s best in sports, including several former players she coached and inspired.
As those words resounded through Nokia Theater, the tone of the auditorium evolved from a morose tribute, to a chilling call to action reminiscent of the great Jim Valvano ESPY speech of 1993. Without question, the fight to end Alzheimer’s will be a challenge with many defeats on the way, but with fighters such as Summitt to lead the way, there is always hope.
“I ask all of you to join me together so that we will win.”