Remembering Jimmy Valvano

Has it really been almost twenty-seven years since that Monday night in March when Lorenzo Charles pulled Dereck Whittenberg’s jump shot out of the air and slammed it home, ending the 1983 NCAA Championship game and vanquishing the mighty Phi Slama Jama?  I still remember the moment today — Whittenberg’s shot hanging in the air, almost as if by magic — and Charles putting the finishing touches on the most unlikely championship team of all.  And magical it was, with the sorcerer himself, head coach Jim Valvano, running wildly around the court, looking desperately for someone to hug and share the exhilaration of an impossible victory.  It’s a sporting moment I’ll never forget.

But it’s not Valvano’s coaching career that I remember him for;  for me, Valvano’s defining moment was his speech at the inagural ESPY’s in 1993, less than a year after he’d been diagnosed with bone cancer that had spread uncontrollably throughout his body.  When Valvano took the stage that evening to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, he could barely walk, requiring the assistance of close friends Dick Vitale and Mike Krzyzewski to even move from the podium when he’d finished.  He was a man living on borrowed time and he knew i — and less than two months after that night, he was gone.

The speech he gave that night moved me like few others I’ve heard have before or since.  Its message to always keep fighting and to understand the importance of the simple, yet important things in life is one that all of us can take a lesson from.

It’s Jimmy V Week at ESPN.  During this holiday time, I hope to not forget how fortunate myself and my family have been.  Everyone can check out the V Foundation for Cancer Research for more information about the organization that Valvano helped to found.  Below is the speech that Valvano gave that night in its entirety.  If you haven’t heard it before — or you haven’t heard it in a while — I strongly encourage you to listen to it now.  If you’re anything like me, it’s hard not to be moved.

Transcript of the speech found here.

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One Response to “Remembering Jimmy Valvano”

  1. […] to yourself to listen to it if you’ve never heard it (and even if you already have).  Click here for the piece. "Someday, the Heisman Trophy Club will just pretend I never got […]

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