Dick Vitale Returns to Court for SEC Tournament, Gets Standing Ovation: VIDEO

by Suzanne Halliburton

Dick Vitale stepped onto a basketball court Saturday afternoon for the SEC basketball tournament semifinals. And may we say “that’s awesome baby with a capital A!”

You hear or read all the time about the so-called face of a team or an entire sport. Well, Dick Vitale is the high-octane voice of college basketball. It’s not the same without him talking diaper dandies or dangerous teams.

Vitale took a leave of absence late last year for health reasons. But the beloved announcer returned to the hardcourt for the SEC semifinals in Tampa, Fla, He lives in Sarasota, which is about an hour’s drive from the arena.

Vitale was introduced before the first of two SEC semifinal games. Texas A&M played Arkansas in the first. Tennessee and Kentucky meet in the second.

And let it be known that Dick Vitale was introduced like he was a dazzling, on-court star. The 82-year-old went through a line of cheerleaders as he waved to the crowd. Fans gave him a loud, hearty cheer.

ESPN shared the clip.

SEC Honored Dick Vitale with Ball Autographed By All 14 Coaches

Greg Sankey, the SEC commissioner, made a special presentation to Dick Vitale at mid-court of Amalie Arena. Sankey gave him a basketball signed by all 14 of the league’s coaches. Vitale then stopped by the ESPN broadcast area to say hello.

Vitale hasn’t made an on-court appearance since he called the Baylor-Villanova game, Dec. 12. He needed to take a leave of absence from announcing after doctors discovered pre-cancerous dysplasia on his vocal chords. Vitale underwent a three-hour surgery in mid-February.

It’s definitely been a difficult stretch of months for Vitale, the guy whose life brand is big, upbeat energy. He first was diagnosed with melanoma, then lymphoma. And on top of all that, he needed to deal with the issue with his vocal cords.

When he announced his leave, Dick Vitale wrote:

“Now, it is mandatory that I continue total voice rest for the next four weeks to help the healing process – doc’s orders. However, he feels optimistic that if I follow his plan [which I will] that he will get me back court side to do what I truly love – talking college hoops for ESPN during the 2022-23 season.

“A big THANK YOU to Dr. Zeitels and his staff and many others at Mass General for caring for me in such a professional manner. Dr. Z and all involved in my surgery and treatment were “Awesome Baby” with a capital ‘A.’”

Vitale tweeted about his return to the court late Friday night.

Vitale has called college basketball games for ESPN since 1979. And as he likes to say “I have coached 43 years on ESPN … and I’m like 1,000-0.” Check that, make it 1001-0. You gotta count Saturday.