The 2002 Video Music Awards were held on August 29 of that year. That date also happened to be [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist]'s birthday, so as a way of celebrating the day and honoring the man, MTV threw an impromptu birthday party for Jackson during the show.
[artist id="501686"]Britney Spears[/artist] was drafted to introduce Jackson and present him with a giant birthday cake. During her speech to set up the event, Spears praised Jackson's work (she's a big fan) and referred to him as the "artist of the millennium." She brought Jackson out and presented him with the cake, but that's when things got a little awkward.
In what became a signature moment in VMA history, Jackson began giving an acceptance speech thinking he had been presented with an award called "Artist of the Millennium." In an uncomfortable moment (later lampooned the following year by Jack Black), Jackson talked about his childhood in Indiana and how appreciative he was for this honor. Everybody was slightly confused, but eventually the audience at Radio City Music Hall went along with it and gave Jackson an ovation when he was finished.
Upon learning of Jackson's death on Thursday, Spears issued a statement, saying, "I was so excited to see his show in London. We were going to be on tour in Europe at the same time, and I was going to fly in to see him. He has been an inspiration throughout my entire life, and I'm devastated he's gone!"
Though it was a bit uncomfortable, the birthday incident certainly added to Jackson's legacy as a staple of the Video Music Awards.
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For everything we've got on the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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