Dick Vitale drives some people crazy. His hyperbole is usually over the top. The General! The Michelangelo of college basketball!
A lot of non-Duke fans call him Dukie V because they perceive a sense of bias towards Duke, but the reality isn’t that it’s Duke, it’s that Vitale likes being around great basketball. If it shifts to Gonzaga, so will Vitale. He goes where the juice is. No hard feelings there.
At the end of the day though, people appreciate his passion and immense love of the game.
But it isn’t just basketball.
Vitale has had two great passions in the last few decades. The first happened after the cocaine-induced death of Len Bias and he threw himself into saving young lives. If you’ve ever seen him do it, he’s absolutely serious about saving kids from disaster. He’s not being Basketball Dick. He’s deadly serious. He’s drenched in sweat, preaching to them, pleading to them to be smart. It’s honestly pretty riveting.
And in what has become his avocation since Jim Valvano died of cancer, leaving behind the V Foundation, Vitale has been one of its biggest supporters. He has thrown himself into the fight against cancer like few ever have.
So that makes it ironic and painful that Vitale has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time this year.
He had melanoma in August and this week announced he has been diagnosed with lymphoma.
Characteristically, he is optimistic and focuses on other people. In a statement, Vitale said this:
“... I consider myself very lucky. I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that cancer can have on families, on children, and on all of our loved ones. It can bring you to your knees. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. It robs you of so many things, including life itself for some of the most unfortunate patients. I never lose sight of that, and that’s why I feel so lucky.
“The plan is to treat my lymphoma with steroids and six months of chemotherapy. The medical experts tell me it has a 90-percent cure rate. They say I can continue to work so I will have to manage my work schedule around my chemo schedule as they will monitor my test results along the way.”
You can read the whole statement here and we hope you do. That he focuses on others more than himself is the measure of the man.
For all the comments about Vitale - and we’ve all made them, ESPN even had a sound-like-Vitale contest with the tagline “we’ve all got a little Dick in us” - there’s not one person in this world who thinks Vitale is a cynic. After everything else is done, people recognize Vitale as an immensely decent man who always tries his best.
Age may work against him - Vitale is 82 - but the survival rate is 90%. His plan is to keep working while he’s on chemo during the season.
He closes his letter with this: “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.”
He’s given his decade after decade. We’re pretty sure he’s getting a whole lot of that back right now.