Tracy Morgan is the host for the 27th annual ESPY Awards Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The former cast member for “Saturday Night Live” accepted the gig with his trademark absurdist humor.
“I am very excited to be hosting The ESPYs,” Morgan said in a statement. “I hope my Uncle Sidney Poitier is there with my biological father Tony Dorsett and my second cousin Herschel Walker. And Bo Jackson, I want my two dollars back!”
The ESPYs help raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded in 1993 by late college basketball coach Jimmy Valvano. Morgan’s first wife Sabina died from the disease, he said to Fox News.
“The main reason I really wanted to do it is the fight against cancer,” Morgan said in a phone interview, stating that his grandparents also passed due to the disease. “I have an opportunity to fight their cause and I’m all in.”
Here’s what you need to know about Sabina Morgan.
1. Tracy Morgan Is a Major Supporter of the Cancer Research Fundraising that The ESPYS Does
He expounded on his reasons for taking the hosting honors in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He focused on the inspiration Sabina gave him, saying that she will be with him on stage.
“It’s going to be an incredible night celebrating all of the great things these athletes have done, the thrill of victory, but we can’t let the most important thing from that night get away from us: fighting to end cancer,” he shared. “My ex-wife passed away from cancer three years ago, so when I go on that stage, that will be for my ex-wife. That will be for my kids. That will be for your family members. That will be for everyone who passed away from cancer. I’m taking a lot of people on that stage with me that night. I have to do something on this Earth before I leave here and I want to champion that cause.”
He also was very aware of Valvano and his story, who famously said “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up,” just a month before he died.
“I will never forget it,” Morgan said. “Whenever you make someone laugh, cry, and think in one day, you’ve lived a full day. I remember where I was when he gave that speech; everyone around me was crying. That man was the bravest.”
2. He Married Sabina in 1987 During a Tumultuous Year in High School
Tracy attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in the mid-80s. Sabina talked to PEOPLE in 2004 about how by Tracy’s senior year, he dropped out of school to help take care of his AIDS-stricken father Jimmy.
In 1985, when he was 15 and a sophomore at DeWitt Clinton High School, he learned his father had AIDS. In 1987 Jimmy took a turn for the worse. “He had to take care of his father,” says Sabina, whom Tracy had married that same year, “so he had to drop out of high school,” just four credits shy of a diploma. Jimmy died that November at 56.
He explained to the New Yorker this past May that he met Sabina at a Yankees game.
On a spring day in 1987, as the Yankees played the Minnesota Twins, Morgan saw “this bomb-ass chick on a pay phone,” he writes. He tells a friend, “I could pull her like a hamstring.” He struck up a conversation with the woman, whose name was Sabina, and they soon became an item.
Morgan is now 50-years-old. That means Sabina would’ve passed in her early 50s.
3. They Raised 3 Children Together
According to CNN Entertainment, the Morgans raised three sons together named Gitrid, Malcolm and Tracy, Jr. The first two came from a previous relationship, while he fathered Tracy, Jr.
He has a daughter named Maven from his current marriage with Megan Wollover. According to BCK in April 2018, Tracy was accompanied by Megan, Maven and Tracy, Jr. when he accepted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When Morgan was involved in a near-fatal highway crash in June 2014, Sabina told to New York Daily News that the three sons were “not holding up well at all” regarding their critically-injured father. Morgan recovered after a two-week coma.
4. She Encouraged Him to Get into Comedy in the First Place
In order to supplement the family’s income during the 80s, Sabina and friends pushed Morgan into stand-up comedy. He first started on the streets, per the PEOPLE piece.
“I started doing comedy on the streets,” Morgan said in 2004. “I was hustling. I would do a fat Michael Jackson from the projects. I was just working on pure imagination.”
When he finally committed to comedy as a career, she supported him under one condition.
“I’ve got you,” she told the New Yorker, “but you’ve got to keep at this no matter how hard it gets.”
Morgan’s first big break was a supporting role on the show “Martin” with fellow stand-up Martin Lawrence. As that show was wrapping up, Sabina challenged him to go to SNL. She said that’s where “Eddie” came from, as in Murphy.
He made the cut after his tryout, which kickstarted a public career that included Emmy nominations on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock” and the TBS hit “The Last O.G.”
5. They Divorced in 2009 After Tracy’s Struggles with Addiction
In a 2010 interview on PBS with Tavis Smiley, Morgan revealed that his addiction to alcohol and fame led to the end of his marriage with Sabina.
“I started to even hurt people that I love,” he said. “I was changing and I’m glad that I caught it in time. All the drinking and the craziness, I had fun. Nobody got hurt, but I hurt me.”
According to the official news of the divorce from the New York Daily News, he and Sabina were separated for eight years before the divorce was filed.
“Basically they were divorced without the paperwork,” one friend said. “It seems like he has had a different girlfriend every five months or so. In the past three years, I’ve met three girlfriends.”
Despite the acrimonious relationship, she rushed to Morgan’s defense when TMZ posted video of the crash site from his 2014 accident. Tracy’s longtime comedian friend Jimmy McNair died in the wreck, while three others besides Morgan were seriously injured.
“This is just not good. I’m heartbroken right now,” she said to the Daily News. “We’re hanging in there, but this isn’t helping. It’s ridiculous.”
Now that Tracy has recovered from his dark past, he is using his newfound success to help people like his first wife who suffer from the same disease that killed her.