Behind The Scenes

What Dick Vitale means to us

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Editors’ Note: Monday night, ESPN’s Dick Vitale was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in Salisbury, N.C. ESPN Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer introduced Vitale for this prestigious award. Below are excerpts from that introduction.

It’s a great honor to introduce a living legend. Dick Vitale is a colleague but we are also friends who have a long history together. We first met at ESPN 32 years ago. I was starting as a driver and Dick was still a relatively new TV commentator . . . Our relationship has progressed from there and we’ve been great friends ever since.

In terms of his on-air skills, Dick has a special gift. He makes games bigger by his very presence. His energy, passion and love for the game are unrivaled. His vocabulary — as crazy as it may sound at times —  has become our vocabulary. The sports fans’ vocabulary. . . Vitale-isms have invaded our thoughts and we simply don’t know a sports world without them.

His major role in popularizing basketball and as the sport’s ultimate ambassador landed him a deserved spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Class of 2008. Like tonight, that was a moment of sincere joy for Dick . . . and since his growth in popularity mirrored ESPN’s growth, it was a great day of satisfaction and happiness for ESPN and all of us who care for him deeply.

Dick has touched many lives through his coaching and legendary broadcasting career. Yet what’s most special about the Dick Vitale story is what he’s done beyond that. He is a great family man. . . And his charitable endeavors are what complete the amazing Dick Vitale legacy.

He never says no. He’s accessible, relatable, passionate and kind. His work helping kids over the years is extraordinary. As a fellow Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research Board member, to see him in action with The V Foundation is truly a sight to behold. Just weeks ago, he staged his Dick Vitale Gala, an event he and his wife, Lorraine, have built with hard work, determination and passion. With the results from the most recent event now in the books, they have raised more than $10 million for The V Foundation.

Dick — there will never be anyone like you. You should be so proud of your accomplishments. I thank you for your friendship and for your genuine caring about everything you do in life. The role you’ve played in helping drive ESPN’s success cannot be overstated. I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done for ESPN and all that you’ve meant to our company. You are a Hall of Fame humanitarian as well as a Hall of Fame broadcaster.

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