Chance the Rapper Closes ESPY Awards With Muhammad Ali Tribute
Chance the Rapper closed the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night with a moving tribute to Muhammad Ali.
The Chicago-born musician, real name Chancelor Bennett, announced earlier in the day that he would be honoring the late boxing legend, who died aged 74 on June 3, but hadn’t given any details of the performance.
Bennett looked smart in a black suit and Chicago White Sox hat as he took to the stage at the end of the sporting ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles alongside singer Jamila Woods and musicians Peter CottonTale, Teddy Jackson, and Donnie Trumpet.
He then debuted the song, which had something of a gospel sound, accompanied by images of Ali and his family on the big screen behind him.
Lyrics for the as yet untitled track included: “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, I was a rock ‘n’ roller back in my day, but now I’m just a rock.”
Fans flocked to social media after the performance to praise Bennett for the emotive performance, which also featured voice clips of Ali at points.
Newlyweds Ciara and Russell Wilson opened the show, which recognizes the best in U.S. sport, by presenting the 2016 Best Record-Breaking Performance to basketball star Stephen Curry.
Other stars to appear at the annual ESPY Awards, which honors the biggest names in the sporting industry, included Justin Timberlake.
The singer was on hand to present the Icon Award to three retiring athletes – Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach – the first time the gong has been given to a trio.
“Kobe, Peyton, Abby: Before they all decided to say goodbye this past year, they had a lot in common,” Timberlake said as he took to the stage to present the award. “They were touted as stars from the start. Good would’ve been a disappointment. Even great would’ve underwhelmed.”
He then showed footage of the athletes’ proudest and lowest moments, before continuing: “Their primes were as great, as legendary as any in history. Super Bowl titles, Olympic gold medals, NBA championships, obliterated records. These are the achievements that are supposed to make you immortal.”
Bryant, Manning, and Wambach then made their appearance to collect the gong. Each took their time to thank fans for their support, with Bryant saying: “I felt an impressive 17 for 65 season would be a bold way to wrap up my 20-year career.”
“We’re not on this stage just because of talent and ability, but because of 4 a.m., two-a-days, and not letting anything stand in our way. We were never satisfied, finished – we’ll never be retired. I believe there’s time for resting at the end, but for me, that time is not now.”
Other winners at the awards ceremony included LeBron James, who picked up Best Male Athlete, Best Championship Performance, and Best NBA Player honors, while his team claimed Best Moment for winning the basketball championship and shared the Best Game prize with the Golden State Warriors.
Other top winners included Serena Williams (Best Female Tennis Player), Tom Brady (Best NFL Player), and Aaron Rodgers (Best Play).
The full list of winners at the 2016 ESPY Awards is as follows:
Male Athlete: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Female Athlete: Breanna Stewart, UConn
Record-Breaking Performance: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Breakthrough Athlete: Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Play: Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary to Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Moment: City of Cleveland wins first title in 52 years
Upset: Holly Holm over Ronda Rousey, UFC
Comeback Athlete: Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Championship Performance: LeBron James
Game: NBA Finals, Game 7
Coach: Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers
NBA Player: LeBron James
MLB Player: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
NFL Player: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
NHL Player: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Male College Athlete: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Female College Athlete: Breanna Stewart, UConn
Male Tennis Player: Novak Djokovic
Female Tennis Player: Serena Williams
Male Action Sports Athlete: Ryan Dungey
Female Action Sports Athlete: Jamie Anderson
Male Athlete with a Disability: Richard Browne
Female Athlete with a Disability: Tatyana McFadden
International Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo, soccer
Best MLS player: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
WNBA Player: Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Driver: Kyle Busch Male
Golfer: Jordan Spieth
Female Golfer: Lydia Ko
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Bowler: Jason Belmonte
Fighter: Conor McGregor