Earning the ESPY Award for Best Moment, Lauren Hill’s courage in fighting an inoperable brain tumor represented the essence of determination and perseverance. During a video tribute that featured commentary by NBA Finals champion Steph Curry, the powerful emotions were akin to Jim Valvano’s powerful speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, as he spoke of his own struggles with cancer.
Only 19 when she was diagnosed with the tumor, identified as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, it did not hinder her dreams of playing NCAA basketball. Earning the opportunity to play for Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, an NCAA Division III school; her illness only worsened.
While Hill participated in practices with the team, the chance to play just one game was graciously allowed. With the NCAA moving a game against Hiram College to November 2, 2014, ensuring Hill was healthy enough to play.
With Xavier University showing remarkable empathy by allowing the game to be played in their 10,000 seat facility, it evolved into an event that made headlines. Not only did tickets for the game sell out in less than an hour, she received gifts from NBA superstar LeBron James. It was only fitting that he was in attendance at the ESPY Awards. As a side note, Hill would play in three more games.
Hill’s courageous effort resulted in $1.5 million raised towards cancer research. Her legacy was akin to Yale Bulldogs ice hockey competitor Mandi Schwartz, whose search for a bone marrow donor resulted in an admirable effort that raised awareness of the disease.
At the ESPY Awards, Hill’s parents accepted the posthumous honor on her heroic behalf. Her mother, Lisa Hill, encouraged the audience and television viewers to believe in the possibility of achieving one’s dreams. She also thanked everyone who helped made her late daughter’s dreams come true.