It’s May 28, 2014, and the Miami Heat are about to take the court against the Indiana Pacers for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. ESPN’s NBA Countdown is in full effect, and the crew (Sage Steele, Doug Collins, Jalen Rose, and Bill Simmons) have the pre-game show looking like business as usual.
And things were business as usual, well until this happened:
Now I mention that moment not only because I can watch it on a loop for hours, but because it’s also one of the first things that came to mind when hearing the terrible news about the death of Stuart Scott. Because although he isn’t in the clip above, there is no better example of the bridge Scott built between sports broadcasting and Hip Hop culture than Doug Collins (a 63-year-old retired NBA player and coach) reciting a hook by The Clipse on national television.
But before “brrrrr, what happened to that boy,” there was Stuart, holding the Hip Hop torch. He crash landed at ESPN in 1993, and it’s fair to say Scott—and the culture he brought with him— wasn’t immediately welcomed with open arms. “When he went to ESPN, Stuart didn’t change his style— and there was some resistance. Even I encouraged him to maybe take a more traditional approach, but he had a strong conviction about who he wanted to be, and the voice he wanted to project” said ESPN anchor Suzy Kolber.
It was a voice that had remained silent in the world of sports broadcasting up until that point: the voice of the Hip Hop generation
And although met with resistance at first, eventually ESPN couldn’t deny Scott’s uniqueness, his talent, but most importantly, his relatability. Being able to turn on Sportscenter and hear a sports anchor quote Public Enemy’s Chuck D (“Hear the drummer get WICKED!”) or say things like, “Holla at a playa when you see him in the street,” was like finding that one other kid in class who loved Illmatic. For us Hip Hop heads, it changed the damn game.
But it wasn’t just the rap references that captivated us. Stuart Scott embodied everything dope about Hip Hop culture and delivered it through a sportscast every single night. He had the confidence, the fresh suits, the blinged out earring, the language. Shoot, he was Big Daddy Kane with a press badge. Unsurprisingly, he was met with skepticism, such was the case with ESPN colleague Michael Wilbon: “I was brought up in a buttoned-up world of traditional journalism where the person reporting/commenting/analyzing didn’t call attention to himself. Stuart, very deliberately and without much fear, was in the process of taking us to a new world of sports coverage, one where you let your emotion come pouring out much of the time, where personality would infuse the coverage.”
￼And since Scott’s personality was dripping with Hip Hop, it resulted in him slowly weaving Hip Hop culture into the mainstream. During a time when Hip Hop’s voice was barely a whimper, Stuart fought through adversity and scrutiny to provide the culture he loved with a microphone for the world to hear: “What I’ve done on television is try to work hard, try to be factually correct, try to write creatively and compellingly. I want to be myself, and anyone who says, ‘Oh well, he’s a hip-hop anchor,’ well that’s what I grew up on.”
Hip Hop no longer needs a microphone in 2015, however. It’s voice is not only the loudest it’s ever been, but probably is the loudest in pop culture today. From fashion, to slang, all the way to the President of the United States Barack Obama shouting out Jeezy, Hip Hop has now become the king of the mountain.
Stuart Scott played a major role in that ascension.
Even during the final year of his life, Scott kept it as Hip Hop as one could. While looking death in the eye, he provided nothing but words of strength and fight while accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY Awards: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
Stay cool up there Stu, as cool as the other side of the pillow.
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