An emotional Dick Vitale was back courtside for his first broadcast since being diagnosed with lymphoma.
The 82-year-old Vitale broke down during the open to the college basketball game between No 1. Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA Tuesday night on ESPN. His partner on the call, Dave O’Brien said this was a game Vitale had “circled for a long, long time” and that it’s “just awesome” to see him. Vitale said he didn’t want to cry, but the importance of the moment took over.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting here,” Vitale said fighting back tears with O’Brien’s arm around him. “This is really a big thrill for me. I want to thank all who sent me so many great messages, [ESPN president] Jimmy Pitaro, all my buddies at ESPN. I want to thank certainly my family and all the fans. My, you have been unbelievable.”
Vitale, three months after have surgery for melanoma, revealed his lymphoma diagnosis in October. He is in the midst of a treatment plan that includes six rounds of chemotherapy, but was given the OK from his doctors at Sarasota Memorial in Florida to return to work. Vitale’s broadcast career began in 1979, and he is in his 43rd season at ESPN.
During Tuesday night’s broadcast, Gonzaga gave him a jersey with “Dickie V” on it and UCLA gifted him one that said: “Never Give Up”. Vitale also said he received a text from Yankees legend Derek Jeter prior to the game.
“To ALL of u in any battle “Don’t believe in can’t”!” Vitale tweeted before tipoff.