On Monday, it was announced that ESPN's Dick Vitale will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Just how much has Vitale, an ESPN college basketball analyst for 29 years, meant to college basketball? ESPN.com's writers and expert analysts share their thoughts
Dick Vitale is synonymous with college basketball, and his love and enthusiasm for the game have been unmatched over the last 30 years. No one has promoted the game with more enthusiasm, and we are all excited to see Dick take his rightful place among the game's greats in the Hall of Fame.
Dick Vitale is college basketball, baaaaaby! How's that for Vitale-ian hyperbole. And his contributions to game of basketball have, finally and appropriately, been recognized by the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The beginning of my coaching career in 1980 basically coincided with Vitale's emergence at ESPN as college basketball's biggest booster. Now, nearly two generations of college basketball players, coaches and fans have known his passion, energy and pure, unadulterated love of a game. And, he expressed that love of the game for us on hundreds and hundreds of winter's nights over the last three decades.
Dick will appropriately share this honor with his wife, Lorraine, and their beautiful family. What he doesn't realize is that his "extended family" of friends around the country will share honor with him.
I've been very fortunate to call Dick Vitale a friend and a colleague for quite some time. When I was a young reporter, starting out in Albuquerque in 1990, I had a local radio show and thought I'd take a flyer on calling up Vitale to be a guest. He didn't hesitate. Dick has been the voice of the sport decades. He has a great heart, a good soul and truly wants the best for the game. Sure, there are times when he can overextend. But the reality is that Dick has always and continues to feel like he has to prove himself. Well, getting into the Hall of Fame shouldn't change a thing. He arrived long ago as the face of the sport. Getting into the Hall is a well-deserved honor for someone who has energized students at countless campuses across the country.
Dick Vitale went into my personal Hall of Fame last year, and here's why:
A friend in North Carolina had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, the prognosis grim. He was 44 years old, father of four, a wonderful man. Obviously, the news was devastating. Knowing Dick, and knowing his passion to help people afflicted with cancer, I called him and asked a favor: "Could you please call my friend, Bob, who is a huge sports fan, and give him a quick pep talk?" The answer was a swift and enthusiastic yes. Dick phoned the hospital and, on the third try, finally got Bob in his room. Dick not only gave Bob a pep talk but also offered encouragement to his wife, Anne. Then he sent along an autographed copy of one of his books.
I have always loved Dick Vitale for what he's done for the game of basketball. I love him more for what he did for my friend and his family. That was a true Hall of Fame gesture.
If you did a word association test with any hoops fan and said, "College basketball," chances are the response would be, "Dick Vitale." He is as much a part of the game as the pebble grain on a leather ball.
Vitale and college basketball have been dating for decades. He loves the game, and the game -- and its fans -- love him back.
Sure, he's a ham. So what? College basketball needed a cheerleader, and Vitale happily and passionately waved the pompoms. For the game. For the coaches. For the players. For the fans. For cancer research. For anything and anybody who cared as much as he did.
You can't define Vitale's contribution to the game by statistics. He isn't that kind of Hall of Famer. But he helped give college basketball a voice. A loud, sometimes wonderfully obnoxious voice that resonated then and still resonates now.