If there is anyone who embodies the word “perseverance,” it’s Dick Vitale.
Indeed, the 83-year-old college basketball coach turned ESPN broadcasting legend has seen his share of challenges in recent years, which have included bouts with melanoma, lymphoma, COVID and precancerous growths on his vocal cords. After surgery and chemotherapy, he’s been declared free of the first two. But he had to take time away earlier this year from his passion, basketball, to take care of his throat. At this writing, he had postponed surgery.
Dick Vitale will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2022 ESPYS Wednesday on ABC. (Newscom)
But the man known as “Dickie V” will be among the guests of honor when he is bestowed with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2022 ESPYS when they air live from Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Wednesday on ABC. The award is named for Vitale’s friend and former North Carolina State hoops coach Jim Valvano, whose exhortation of “don’t give up, don’t ever give up” at the first ESPY ceremony in 1993, when he was dying of cancer, became synonymous with the spirit of the awards.
“I remember that day almost 30 years ago, when I stood onstage at the first ESPYS, introduced Jimmy V and witnessed him give that incredible speech we all remember,” Vitale said in a statement. “I reflected on his speech many times during my seven-month battle — ‘don’t give up, don’t ever give up, Dickie V’ — and I remembered my mother and father, who taught me never to believe in ‘can’t.’ Jimmy V was special and his legacy lives on. I am so grateful to receive this tremendous award in his honor.”
Valvano would lose his battle less than two months after his legendary speech, but not before creating the V Foundation for Cancer Research with ESPN. Vitale has been active within the organization, having long hosted a gala that has raised nearly $55 million for pediatric cancer research and the Foundation.
And he hopes to get back to the studio when the college basketball season gets going in the fall.
The Basketball Hall of Famer who coined the phrases “This is awesome, baby!,” “diaper dandy” and “Get a T.O., baby!” has a love of the game and an exuberance that can’t be tempered by illness. As he says, he may be 83 but he has the excitement of a 12-year-old.
“Dick is one of a kind,” James Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and Sports Content, said in a statement. “He has embodied the spirit of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance his entire career, and his fight against cancer has been no different. He has taken his struggle as an opportunity to help others, to help people to understand the challenges and to remove the stigmas and false assumptions. … It is an honor to add Dick to the distinguished list of winners of this award.”