Russell, who attended the event with his wife, Ciara, praised their 5-year-old daughter Sienna as being "a premier athlete already." The couple also shares a 1-year-old son, Win, and Ciara is additionally mom to Future, 8, from a previous relationship.
Russell then turned his focus to his sister, Anna Wilson, a star basketball player at Stanford University.
"Anna, it was always fun watching her ball and go after it. She was the defensive player of the year last year. She had a great year this year. They won the National Championship last year," he gushed. "What amazing moments and memories with your sister and with family members and everything else."
Russell said that, with his personal connection to women's sports, he's glad that other male athletes are taking notice of their female counterparts.
"I think what's so great is how the NBA is supporting the WNBA, how football players are supporting women's soccer, or whatever it may be. We're all supporting each other. I think that's what it's about," he said. "It's such a difficult thing to be a world-class athlete. People don't know how much time and energy you put into it and how much thought, how many tears too, at times, how much pain you go through. It's a blessing."
To spread the word of that blessing, even more, Russell proposed a "women's day," where "strictly women's sports" would be shown on TV.
"Every Wednesday should be women's sports and you get to watch it and that's what's on TV," he proposed. "Those are my crazy ideas. I think it'd be cool."
In addition to supporting women's sports, Russell and Ciara are giving back by becoming members of the Board of Directors at The V Foundation, a cancer research charity founded by Jim Valvano, a legendary basketball coach, before he died of the disease in 1993.
"We have our foundation, the Why Not You Foundation. We've supported pediatric cancer for so many years and we've gotten to know the people from The V Foundation and the team," Russell explained. "... Jimmy V means a lot to me. I've always heard the stories and get to see the videos and the banners and the quotes, but more importantly, I think, it's what Jimmy V represented: never giving up hope and don't ever give up. I think for us, to be able to support that together, it's a blessing."
"Research really makes a difference and really is saving lives," Ciara added. "To be able to raise money, to be a part of helping to support the mission is real and powerful. It's just amazing to be a part of something so real and necessary. It's really beautiful."
Each year, the ESPYs honors an athlete with The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance in the late coach's honor. Dick Vitale, an ESPN college basketball broadcaster who's long battled cancer, is this year's recipient.
"We're all dealing with [cancer]. We've all lost people. We're all going through different things," Russell said. "What's also happening, the good news is research shows that all the resources we're putting into things, it's helping, it's curing cancer. We're figuring out ways to do it, so it's an exciting time."