He’s back, baby. Dick Vitale, the voice of college basketball and one of the most iconic announcers ever, returned to his usual courtside seat Tuesday night for the biggest game of the season so far. It’s the first time he’s called a game since doctors diagnosed him with lymphoma earlier this year. It was an emotional moment for Vitale, who broke down while thanking fans and colleagues for their support.
Dick Vitale said he never thought he’d be able to return to college basketball after the diagnosis. He wept as ESPN announcer Dave O’Brien introduced him ahead of the No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA game. The undefeated Bulldogs beat the Bruins 83-63.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting here,” he said, struck by the profundity of it all. “This is really a big thrill for me. I want to thank all you people that sent me such great messages. On Oct. 12, I’ll be honest with you, when they walked in and told me I had cancer … I never dreamt at 82 that I’d ever be courtside again. But to be here today. … I’m sorry, I hope I don’t cause a problem out there. I feel so emotional. But the game is the big thing, so let’s get this game going and talk some basketball.”
Gonzaga presented him with a Bulldogs jersey that said Dickie V on the back. UCLA gave him a Bruins jersey that said “Never Give Up.”
Doctors detected the lymphoma in October following a surgery for melanoma earlier this year. The College Basketball Hall of Famer started chemotherapy soon after. After six rounds, doctors said he was healthy enough to travel again. And Dick Vitale knew where he wanted to be.
Vitale is in his 43rd season with ESPN. The College Basketball Hall of Fame announcer called his first game in 1979.
Fans React to the Return of Dick Vitale
Dick Vitale was thrilled when he learned he’d be able to return to college basketball.
“My family and I are absolutely jumping with joy,” Vitale said then. “Knowing I’ll be courtside with all my buddies and calling Number 1 versus 2, this is the best medicine I could ask for. To all of you, I simply say thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers and messages, phone calls and texts.”
Fans were just as happy to have him back.
“Dick Vitale is one of the biggest reasons why March Madness is March Madness. Having him back on the mic is awesome, baby,” someone tweeted.
“Dick Vitale in tears gives all the feels right now,” another person posted. “It’s Go Time.”
“Dick Vitale is a treasure and it’s wonderful to see him doing what he loves again,” a fan wrote. “The joy he brings to everything he does is uplifting.”