It's a family affair

Dustin BrownDominic DiSaia for ESPN

Share the ball.

That was the formula for success for the 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, who turned finding the open man into an art form.

But that's also the essence of sports, that willingness of one generation to swing the game around to another. Sometimes it's the present embracing the future, and sometimes it's the present paying homage to the past, but in either direction, it's a beautiful thing to experience.

You could see it in the way Tim Duncan tearfully held daughter Sydney and son Draven on the court after he won his fifth title, on Father's Day, then let them goof around at the postgame news conference.

You could hear it in the way Kevin Durant so deeply honored his mother, Wanda, at his league MVP news conference a few days before Mother's Day: "You sacrificed for us. You're the real MVP."

You could sense it with the first two picks of the 2014 NBA draft: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, both sons of former NBA players.

And that's just pro basketball. What did Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown do with the Stanley Cup when he took it home after beating the New York Rangers last month? He let his kids eat their cold cereal out of it.

What are those tattoos on the elbows of John Brooks, the hero of the United States' 2-1 victory over Ghana in the World Cup? The one on the left elbow is a star on a map signifying the German home of his mother, and the one on the right is a star for his father's hometown of Chicago.

What would the Masters be without the Par-3 contest and the field of players' children in their caddie overalls, or without Palmer, Nicklaus and Player teeing off before the first group?

That weave of past, present and future is everywhere. It's in the 22 major leaguers -- three of them All-Stars, Robinson Cano, Michael Brantley and Dee Gordon -- whose fathers were in the bigs. It's in the Manning and Matthews family trees in the NFL. It crosses sports -- former tennis star Yannick Noah begat hoops star Joakim Noah. And it crosses gender -- former NHL player Bobby Carpenter's daughter, Alex, was on the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team in Sochi.

And it's readily apparent at this year's ESPYS. Among the nominees for Best Driver are Dale Earnhardt Jr., who took the wheel from his father, and John Force, who didn't have to drag his three daughters into the family business. Up for Best Bowler is Pete Weber, the son of another bowling legend, Dick Weber. Best Fighter nominee Floyd Mayweather Jr. has had Senior in his corner. Joakim Noah is being considered for Best NBA Player.

The reason Doug McDermott of Creighton is a nominee for Best Male College Athlete was summed up by his own father and coach, Greg McDermott, after the Bluejays were eliminated by Baylor in the NCAA basketball tournament: "We had a front-row seat to one of the best collegiate performances for four years ? but I'm still prouder of who you are."

The winner of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, Stuart Scott, is doing his best to pass it on to his daughters. He especially loves going to Sydni's middle-school-age soccer practices and games. "Soccer wasn't his sport," she says. "But he gives me really good advice about how I'm supposed to act and how I should be and how I should play. ? He's told me that if he was playing his 80-year-old mother on the football field, he would not go easy on her ? but he always makes sure that I know what sportsmanship is and what's fair and what's right."

The ESPYS have a lineage of their own. It was at the first ESPYS, on March 4, 1993, that Jim Valvano delivered his moving "Don't give up, don't ever give up" speech, one in which he thanked his parents, Rocco and Angelina, for his passionate nature, and his wife and three daughters for their courage.

It was Jimmy V's acceptance speech for the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage Award, named for a man who understood how important it was to link generations. When Ashe became the first (and only) African-American man to win the U.S. Open, in 1968, he threw his left arm around the weeping man who had made it all possible: his father, Arthur Sr.

Share the joy.