Dick Vitale is a beloved figure throughout the college basketball world. The legendary announcer’s inspiring battle with cancer becomes a rallying cry for college basketball.
The outpouring of support for him during his ongoing battle with cancer is inspiring and a celebration of his endearing personality.
The 82-year-old Dick Vitale has a gift for connecting with people and making them feel special. On top of that, there has never been a better ambassador for college basketball. His enthusiasm is infectious. His love of the game is genuine.
Part of his appeal is the fun-loving kid that still exists inside him; even during a life-threatening chapter in his life.
While revealing that he has lymphoma in mid-October, the former Detroit Pistons coach wrapped up an article he penned for ESPN.com by saying:
“If you see me, please just give me a fist bump and say a prayer that I can return from being 82 years old to acting like I’m 12. Thanks so much for your love.”
An ESPN original, Dickie V is now in his sixth decade working as an analyst for the worldwide leader in Sports. He was the color commentator for ESPN’s first-ever college basketball telecast; DePaul vs. Wisconsin on Dec. 5, 1979.
The continuation of his broadcasting career while simultaneously battling cancer at his advanced age has become a rallying point for college hoops fans, players, coaches, and fellow broadcasters along with many other figures in the game.
Vitale, who was treated for melanoma (skin cancer) in August before he was diagnosed with lymphoma, worked a high-profile game on November 23, No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA in the Empire Classic in Las Vegas. It was his first game back on the air after starting medical treatment for lymphoma.
It provided an emotional release for Dickie V, who handled analyst duties alongside play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien.
“It’s great being here, Dave. I didn’t want to cry,” Vitale said on the broadcast.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting here. This is really a big thrill for me,” he continued. “I want to thank all you people, sent me so many great messages. ESPN (company chairman) Jimmy Pitaro, all my buddies at ESPN. I want to thank, certainly, my family and all the fans, my, you’ve been unbelievable.”
The game was a quintessential public appearance for Vitale. His timeless display of positivity was heartfelt. His battle with cancer is a public battle, because he embraces the public without hesitation and people naturally gravitate towards him.
And even when Dickie V is the big story, he turns the attention back to the masses, giving them something to think about and rally around. Vitale tweeted this before the opening tipoff.
Both schools honored Vitale with souvenirs. Vitale received a Gonzaga jersey with “Dickie V” printed on it. UCLA also presented him with a Bruins jersey that underscored his attitude; “Never Give Up,” is emblazoned on it.
Three days later, Dick Vitale was back on the air for the Kansas-Dayton game.
And on December 12, he was back to work in Waco, Texas, for the Baylor-Villanova telecast on ABC. Doctors gave the okay for Dickie V to fly to the Lone Star State for the game.
“After receiving my positive news, about blood counts from my medical team, headed by Dr. Rick Brown. I’ve been cleared to be courtside for No. 6 Villanova at No. 2 Baylor Sunday on ABC,” Vitale said in a statement. “I’m jumping for joy knowing I’ll be sitting next to Jon Sciambi and talking hoops instead of chemotherapy and blood counts. It will be fun to also share stories with our reporter Kris Budden on the sidelines. It’s my first ever trip to Waco since I began at ESPN on Dec. 5, 1979, and it is sure to be special. Thank you to all for the continued phone calls, messages, prayers and positive energy, it truly lifts me up!”
Before the game, Vitale received a No. 42 jersey from Baylor, and at halftime, a tribute to the legendary announcer appeared on video screens at the arena.
Vitale also received his doctors’ approval to work the Louisville-Kentucky game on Dec. 22, though the contest has been postponed because of COVID-19 issues for the Cardinals.
Clearly, positive energy is helping Dickie V cope with chemotherapy. He’s channeling his love of the game to connect with people from all walks of life. Age 65 is viewed as a traditional retirement age in America, but Vitale’s broadcast appearances and charitable endeavors have kept him busier than ever over the past few decades.
For instance, the V Foundation outlined his involvement in pediatric cancer research before the 16th annual Dick Vitale Gala in May:
“The mission of the Dick Vitale Gala is to raise funds for premiere pediatric cancer research across the nation, while simultaneously promoting awareness of pediatric cancer and how devastating it is to our children and their families, according to the foundation’s website. “As in prior years, net funds raised are utilized for the best research nationwide so one day no child will have to experience this horrific disease.”
Year after year, Vitale keeps cancer research in the public eye. The event raised $5 million for pediatric cancer research, Sarasota Magazine reported.
What fuels his tireless crusade? Those who’ve suffered from cancer, he’s said again and again.
In his ESPN letter, Dickie V cited a child named Tony Colton, who died in 2017 as an example of his commitment to help find a cure for cancer. Vitale wrote:
“I was called by Tony to his bedside at All Children’s Hospital prior to his passing and he said to me very weakly, ‘Please, Mr. V., keep pleading for money for kids like me so they don’t have to suffer like this,’” Vitale wrote. “I made Tony a promise, which is why I will beg and plead until my last breath. My goal is to get back to doing that more than ever, along with my fabulous teammates who work with and support The V Foundation for Cancer Research.”