Commentary

Jimmy V's legacy will live on forever

Updated: November 26, 2007, 4:26 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

One of my ultimate memories goes back to the very first ESPY Awards in 1993 and the announcement of the Arthur Ashe award. It seems like only yesterday. I remember sitting in the green room, waiting for my chance to introduce former college coach and ESPN analyst Jim Valvano as the recipient of the first Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

I remember being so nervous and asking for advice. Standing right there was one of the great actors of our time, an All-Rolls Roycer: Dustin Hoffman. His job was to explain what the Ashe Award is all about. Arthur Ashe was a champion in so many ways -- a winner both on the court and in life.

Wow, I was going up (after being introduced by Hoffman) to talk about Jimmy V. I still get goose bumps when I think of that moment. I reflect on how Jimmy struggled so hard in his fight against cancer -- and how he struggled to make the journey from Raleigh, N.C., just to be present at the first ESPYs in New York City.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his wife Mickie were on a flight with Jimmy, who was ill on the plane. Jimmy had to be in a wheelchair at the hotel in New York. I have so much respect for Coach K both on the court and as a humanitarian. He and his wife helped Jimmy so much on that trip to the ESPYs.

I remember the night before, talking to Jimmy's lovely wife Pam. She told me Jimmy was down after learning at his regular checkup that the cancer had spread throughout his body. I remember speaking to Jimmy, and we were both in tears. He shared with me his feelings about his children, Nicole, Leann and Jamie -- how much he loved them and how he would miss so much of their lives. Jimmy said he wasn't thinking about going to the ESPYs, but only about his family.
Jimmy V and Dick Vitale
ESPNDick Vitale, right, has fond memories of Jim Valvano, but none stand out more than his moving speech at the 1993 ESPY awards.

I told Jimmy he had to come to the event. I was so glad that Pam, Coach K and his wife were able to get him to New York.

As I reflect on those moments, the memories come flooding back. I flash back to Jimmy standing up there after struggling to get on the stage. I figured he would simply say thank you. He could barely make it to the podium, yet he electrified the audience with a brilliant speech. The crowd in the house and the TV audience heard something they will never forget -- Jimmy V was at his best.

He rocked the crowd. I was stunned watching him, with the crowd in the palm of his hand as he poured his heart out about battling cancer.

There are memories galore.

This year, we have some special treats in honor of our dear friend. The V Foundation for Cancer Research and ESPN will launch Jimmy V Week (from Nov. 28- Dec. 4) to help raise funds for cancer research. The ESPN family will telecast games all week that will work in concert with the V Foundation to raise money and put an end to this disease, which has taken too many people near and dear to our heart, well before their time.

It's only fitting that our Jimmy V Week content will be incorporated into so many of our spectacular games from college football to the NBA and eventually culminating on ESPN Classic On Dec. 4 with that infamous 1983 NCAA title game versus Houston. What a memory that was, watching the North Carolina State head coach run up and down the court after winning with the championship with his copious grin.

If only he were around today to see the depth of this season's diaper dandies. He'd be so impressed with the brilliant performances of Derrick Rose of Memphis, Michael Beasley of Kansas State, UCLA's Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo of USC. Rose was electric in two wins in the 2K Sports event benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. But we know that Jimmy will be watching from heaven and loving every moment of it. And, I'm sure he is even more proud of the ongoing endeavor to eradicate the disease that ultimately claimed his life.

It began with a dream from Jimmy shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer in 1993. And today, thanks to so many people involved, we have raised more than $70 million. I am so proud of everyone involved in this effort.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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