Analyst Dick Vitale called his first college basketball game for ESPN on Dec. 5, 1979 – DePaul vs. Wisconsin – on the newly-formed 24-hour sports network.
Now in his 35th season and more than 1,000 basketball games later, Vitale will call his latest tonight: Kansas versus Florida (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, WatchESPN). He has become synonymous with the sport. Known for his knowledge, passion and unique style, the former high school, college and NBA coach has received many accolades, including the sport’s highest honor in 2008 when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor.
His achievements off the court are just as remarkable. Vitale is on the Board of Directors of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, he hosts an annual V Foundation Gala in Florida that has raised millions of dollars, and he is actively involved with the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota.
While his knowledge, preparation and enthusiasm are unparalleled, his “Vitale-isms” have taken on a life of their own. To commemorate Vitale’s 35th year on the network, 35 of his ESPN colleagues from various sports took time to send their well wishes and some even offer their own “Dickie V” impersonations in the video above.
“Dick Vitale and college basketball go hand-in-hand,” ESPN Executive Vice President, Production, John Wildhack said. “ESPN is fortunate to have had Dick be part of our team for the last 35 years. He is truly a PTP’er and one of our industry’s most successful and popular personalities ever.”
The video below is the open from Vitale’s 1979 ESPN debut with play-by-play commentator Joe Boyle.
Video above produced by Dave Williams