A Leader in the Fight Against Cancer, Dawn Staley Garners High Honor From ESPN

July 10, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu

University of Virginia basketball legend Dawn Staley will be celebrated Thursday night for her excellence in something that extends well beyond the court. 

Staley, an All-America point guard at UVA who has gone on to win three national championships as head coach of the University of South Carolina, is the 2024 recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. She’ll be honored Thursday night during the annual ESPY Awards on ABC. 

According to an ESPN release, Staley is being recognized for not only her contributions to women’s sports – her South Carolina team in 2023-24 finished 38-0 and won the national title, completing only the 10th undefeated season in NCAA Division I women’s college basketball history – but “also for her leadership in the fight against cancer.”

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The award is named after former North Carolina State University men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano, who famously delivered his “Don’t give up; don’t ever give up” speech while terminally ill with cancer during the 1993 ESPYs. In that spirit, Staley has become a persistent advocate for cancer research. 



Seeing the disease devastate both her sister, Tracey Underwood, and her friend and former assistant coach, Nikki McCray-Penson, in recent years, Staley took to the fight. According to an ESPN release, she partnered “with an organization to mobilize potential donors – especially those in the Black community – to sign up on a bone-marrow registry (the National Marrow Donor Program, formerly Be the Match); she advocated for patient care, research and resources; and she visited and supported those undergoing treatment.” 

Staley’s work with her sister, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2020, led to a life-saving bone-marrow transplant from their brother, Lawrence. 

Last summer, Staley, along with UVA women’s basketball coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, visited sickle cell patients at UVA Health Children’s. The experience led to the formation of a bond with one young girl who Staley still cherishes through a necklace. 



Staley, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, is the first woman to receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance since N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow won the inaugural honor in 2007. 

Other winners of the award include former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly and broadcasters Stuart Scott, Craig Sager and Dick Vitale. 

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications