The 2016 ESPY Awards finished on a fitting note Wednesday night [July 13], with a moving tribute to fallen icon Muhammad Ali. Following a reflective introduction from long-time friend, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the audience of star athletes were treated to a gospel backed song by Chance the Rapper and The Social Experiment.
With the help of Teddy Jackson, Donnie Trumpet, Jamila Woods and Peter Cottontale, Chance carried the tune standing before a montage of photos projected on a screen behind him. “Ain’t nowhere greater/ Ain’t nowhere brighter/ Ain’t nowhere better/ Ain’t no one prettier/ Ain’t no one wiser/ Ain’t no one better, better, better, better,” he sang, with black and white images of Ali with his children, with the press and the public, and in the ring, flashing in the dark theater. He began the song by grabbing a vintage ring announcer’s microphone that had been lowered from the ceiling. It gave off the ambiance of the room between the ropes with the GOAT.
The performance concluded what was a night of athletic achievement mixed with messages of social awareness, with “Jimmy Valvano Award” recipient Craig Sager giving an emotional speech on the fight for a cancer cure, and “Best Female Athlete,” Breanna Stewart calling for female athletes to receive the same kind of exposure and support that men’s sports are afforded. In Ali fashion Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James opened the night up speaking on an athlete’s duty to address social ills and injustice in the community from which they came.