“Here’s a little five-day of Atlanta,” Champion said, giving the forecast for what will become his new home as he steps into the role of managing editor at the Weather Channel. “Get ready Atlanta.”
After 25 years with ABC, a network Champion has called “my home and my heart,” it was not without tears that his fellow anchors – Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer – bid him farewell.
“I promise there’s happy on the inside but the tears,” Elliott said, choking up. “I’m going to miss you and you are the best live broadcaster I’ve ever worked with. Thank you for giving the gift to us and to everybody at home every day.”
But wherever Champion goes, there is always fun, so the morning also included a lot of laughs as the “GMA” team looked back at Champion’s award-winning and occasionally gaffe-making moments on the morning show.
Champion started off his final morning on “GMA” with a surprise look back at his very first appearance on “GMA,” as he was introduced by then-anchor Charlie Gibson.
“I think it’s reminiscent of Elvis,” Champion said of his voice then. “I had just moved up from Jacksonville, Fla., and there’s a little southern accent.”
When his fellow anchors pleaded for Champion to deliver his second-to-last “GMA” weather report as he had done his first, Champion gave it a try but couldn’t pull it off again.
“I can’t do it that way. I don’t know what happened,” he said.
What Champion could do, however, was attempt to put any potentially embarrassing additional flashback clips to rest with a little humor.
“Just in–there was a terrible fire in the ABC tape library. All tapes have been lost forever,” he joked.
Champion could not avoid a look back at his greatest acting moments on the show, in which he gave Oscar-worthy performances during “GMA”‘s Oscar and Halloween specials.
“Sam, you’ve covered so many huge stories, we thought we would just ignore those for now so that we could bring you all of this,” Elliott said in introducing a special “Play of the Day” devoted to Champion’s acting highlights.
The clips included a look back at Champion transforming into characters from the big screen to the small, including as a “Magic Mike” dancer and King Joffrey of “Game of Thrones.”
“These are so much fun to do, by the way,” Champion said of the cameos.
To deliver his final “GMA” weather forecast, Champion ventured outside the Times Square studio with Elliott and Spencer, where he was greeted by a crowd of cheering fans, many holding signs and even placards of his face.
“It’s your birthday? Happy birthday,” Champion said, spotting a woman in the crowd with his name on a sign. “Welcome in and we’re glad you’re sharing your birthday with us.”
After delivering the forecast of his new home, Atlanta, Champion finished his final forecast with the same phrase he was ended his more than 7,000 previous forecasts.
“That’s the weather around the nation, ladies and gentleman,” he said.
Up next for Champion was yet another stroll down memory lane, this one a closer look at all that he has covered during his time on “GMA,” including his Peabody Award-winning coverage of Superstorm Sandy last year.
“You are a Renaissance man,” Roberts told her friend and co-anchor in introducing the montage. “You encompass all that is good and right in this world and you show it every day when you show up here.”
“So here, Sam, this is your life on ‘GMA.’”
From Iceland to New York City, Champion was seen in the midst of storms, zip-lining above water, scuba diving, doing a one-arm pushup in a gravity-free zone, riding a bull in Central Park, dressing as Harry Potter, dancing on the “Big” piano and winning the “GMA” Christmas sweater contest, just to name a few.
“I think it’s something that people will go through in their life when you want to stay, doing something you want to, and there’s an opportunity that says you gotta take it,” Champion said of moving on from “GMA.” “I’m not going to leave you guys. I’m not going to leave you.”
Starting tomorrow, instead of Champion it will be Ginger Zee that “GMA” viewers turn to for their weather forecasts. Today, Champion took the opportunity to pass the torch on to Zee, previously the weekend weather anchor for “GMA.”
The torch, in the case of weather editors, is an all-important and necessary pair of boots.
“They got you some boots,” Champion said, referring to a pair of standard, knee-high rain boots. “I’m going to get you some orange waders because you and I both know these things will not keep us dry where we go. This is for walking to get in a cab. I’m going to get you some bright orange Extreme Team hip-waders.”
Champion then “threw” the boots to Zee, who was nearly 2,000 miles away, reporting live from Denver on the frigid temperatures there.
“These boots are the biggest boots in the world,” Zee said to her predecessor. “I will never be able to be you or fill them. I am genuinely honored and humbled to have this opportunity.”
“You taught me one thing, that the ‘Extreme Team’ will be extreme forever, I can promise America that, and that you have to appreciate the people that you work with that do a great job,” Zee said. “You have been the best partner I could have ever asked for coming to this national stage. I couldn’t have had a better leader and I couldn’t have learned from anyone [better].”