Dick Vitale honored by ESPN with 2022 Jimmy V Award for Perseverance

Dick Vitale honored by ESPN with 2022 Jimmy V Award for Perseverance

USA News

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SARASOTA, Fla. — Dick Vitale promised his wife, Lorraine, he wouldn’t cry Friday at his 17th annual gala. Following a 40-minute long speech, Vitale not only predictably broke his promise, but the broadcasting icon had a crowd of 900 teary-eyed with him.  

On a night in which Vitale once again honored his All Courageous Team of pediatric cancer survivors, Friday night provided a powerful moment for all of those he’s been supporting over the years to honor him back – especially following the 82-year-old’s seven-month battle with cancer

“As much as he doesn’t want it to be about him, this night is about Dick and what he means to the sport in college basketball and kids who are fighting cancer,” former Villanova coach Jay Wright told USA TODAY Sports. “After what he went through this year, this is different. There’s a feeling here that we’re as happy for him as he is for all of us. We’re all here tonight because he’s inspirational in how he’s devoted his life to this cause.” 

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ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro surprised Vitale by announcing that he’ll be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2022 ESPYS this July. It’s a fitting tribute considering Vitale will be receiving the award nearly three decades after his dear friend Jim Valvano, whose riveting ESPYS speech is remembered for his words: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” 

That’s been Vitale’s mantra in fighting to raise funds for pediatric cancer research ever since. To date, Vitale’s helped raise $55 million in pediatric cancer research, including more than $11 million raised at Friday’s gala – the most ever. 

“Dick’s career has been about catchphrases and he’s known for what he’s meant to college basketball, but I feel his true calling has been raising money for cancer with these kids,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told USA TODAY Sports. He was one of four main honorees at the gala. “What he’s doing for these kids defines him as a man.” 

“Basketball without Dick Vitale doesn’t exist,” Iona coach Rick Pitino added. “There’s not a person out there more motivated in everything he does, so it doesn’t surprise me to see what he’s had to go through with chemotherapy – where even there, he’s unbelievably motivated.”  

The Jimmy V Award is given to a person “who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination.” Vitale rang the bell to be cancer free last month after grueling rounds of chemotherapy and a vocal cord surgery that kept him from using his voice for three months. After fighting the disease for kids, this past year saw him fighting it alongside them. 

“This disease sucks,” Vitale told a captivated crowd. “It sucks what it does to these kids.”

At a press conference earlier he tried to deflect the attention away from himself. “I’m in the fourth quarter, not like these kids with their whole lives ahead of them. I’ve got about four minutes left.” 

Drew was quick to counter: “You’ve still got overtime.” 

Follow national college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson

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