Sports & Culture Media

ESPN to Present the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to Dick Vitale

Broadcaster, Hall of Famer, and college basketball icon Dick Vitale will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2022 ESPYS, broadcasting live on July 20 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro announced the news during the Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota this past Friday.

Last summer, the 82-year-old “Dickie V,” who has been broadcasting college basketball on ESPN for more than four decades, announced that he had undergone multiple surgeries to remove melanoma. Then, a few months later, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, and underwent six months of chemotherapy. In March, a scan declared he was cancer free.

The ordeal, and the honor, is all the more poignant and symbolic considering that at the very first ESPYS in 1993, Vitale presented his great friend Jim Valvano with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, after which Jimmy V delivered the unforgettable acceptance speech that in many ways still epitomizes the spirit of the ESPYS, and led to the creation of the V Foundation for Cancer Research. In the years since, Dickie V has been one of the leading voices of the V Foundation. He has long hosted a gala that’s raised nearly $55 million for pediatric cancer research and the Foundation.

Said Vitale: “When I received the call from Jimmy Pitaro about receiving this award, I was absolutely blown away. I remember that day almost 30 years ago, when I stood on stage at the first ESPYS, introduced Jimmy V and witnessed him give that incredible speech we all remember. 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.”

Vitale’s history at ESPN goes back to the very beginning. He called the first-ever college basketball game the network aired, Wisconsin at DePaul on December 5, 1979. Since then, he’s called more than a thousand games, his thorough knowledge of the sport brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate, and never boring style. His “Vitale-isms” have taken on a life of their own, with “Awesome, baby!,” “Get a T.O., baby!”, “PTP’er” (primetime player), M&M’er (a mismatch), “Diaper Dandy” (freshman star), and many more all becoming part of the vernacular.

“Dick is one of a kind,” said Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “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’s fitting that we will present this award to him almost 30 years after he stood by Jimmy V’s side on the ESPYS stage, and it is an honor to add Dick to the distinguished list of winners of this award.” 

In 2007, Women’s College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, Devon and Leah Still, Craig Sager, Jarrius Robertson, Jim Kelly, Rob Mendez, Taquarius Wair, and Chris Nikic.

The ESPYS help to raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS back in 1993. ESPN has helped raise over $165 million for the V Foundation over the past 29 years.

Tyler Butler