"As a former teen -- a while ago -- who's made a few choices along the way, I'm here to tell you that you and your choices matter," said the "Can't Stop the Feeling" singer, who was presented the award by Kobe Bryant. Bryant's own ESPYs Icon Award was presented to him by Timberlake earlier this month.
"I grew up in Millington, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis," Timberlake began. "I was blessed to be raised by parents and a family who taught me some big lessons. They taught me to respect them, they taught me to respect myself and to respect all people on the basis of their character. Not where they live, not what they did for a living or the color of their skin."
"I try to live my life working most closely with, making music with, and spending so much of my time with an amazing group of people -- male, female, straight, gay -- every walk of life," he continued. "I was drawn to all these people not because they look like me, but because they feel and think like me. The truth is, we are all different. But that does not mean we all don't want the same thing."
Timberlake went on to talk about learning from the great groundbreakers and world-changing leaders of the past, especially the late Muhammad Ali, who "fought in the ring, but he fought for peace too."
The former *NSYNC star chose three of the greatest quotes from the beloved boxer, who died on June 3, beginning with, "Don't count the days, make the days count."
"You are young -- as I once was -- but do not think for a moment that what you do doesn't count. It does," Timberlake told the audience. "Not just to you but to the world and your generation who will someday inherit this world from [us] old timers."
The second iconic Ali quote Timberlake chose was, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
"So be generous, be kind, be fair. It's not just the right thing to do, it's the good thing to do," he explained. "And I think we all could agree that, with all the tension in the world today that can divide us, we should be part of the solution and not part of the problem."
Saving the best, and most poignant, for last, Timberlake shared the third important quote from the pugilist and political activist: "Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world that they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it's an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
"As a relatively new dad and a former teen, I'm here to say you will make mistakes along the way. You will fall down. I have, many times. Even Ali did. But what we do after that fall is how we make history," he shared. "Because impossible is nothing… So go out, do the impossible and just go on and become the greatest generation yet."