ESPYS speech by Jimmy V., annotated

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Thank you very much. Thanks very much. Thank you very much. That’s the lowest I’ve seen Dick Vitale since the Detroit Pistons owner called him and told him to go on TV.

I can’t tell you what an honor it is to even be named in the same breath as Arthur Ashe. This is something I will surely cherish forever. But like it said on the tape – and I don’t have any of those things with the cue cards either, so I’ll be speaking longer than everyone else tonight – that’s how it goes. Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things I want to say. I hope I ended up saying something that is important to others as well.

But I can’t help it. Now I’m fighting cancer. Everyone knows that. People ask me all the time how you go through your life and how your day is, and nothing has changed for me. As Dick said, I’m a very emotional and passionate man. I can not help myself. This is Rocco and Angelina Valvano’s son. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love.

When people say to me how do you get through life or every day? That is the same. For me there are three things that we should all do every day. We should do this every day of our life. #1 is laughter. You should laugh every day. #2 is thinking. You should spend some time in thought. #3 is that you should bring your feelings to tears, it could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a whole day. This is a damn day. If you do this seven days a week, you will have something special.

I flew up the plane today with Mike Krzyzewski, my good friend and wonderful trainer. People don’t know he’s a ten times better person than a coach and we know he’s a great coach. He’s meant a lot to me these last five or six months with my fight. But when I look at Mike I think we competed against each other as players. I trained against him for 15 years and I always have to think about what’s important to me in life are these three things. Where you started, where you are and where you will be. Those are the three things I try to do every day. When I think about getting up and giving a speech, I can’t help it. I have to remember the first speech I ever gave.

I was a coach at Rutgers University. That was my first job. Oh, that’s wonderful [reaction to applause], and I was the freshman coach. That was when freshmen played on freshman teams and I was so excited about my first job. I see Lou Holtz here. Coach Holtz, who doesn’t like your very first job? The very first time you stood in the dressing room to give a pep talk. It’s a special place, the dressing room, for a coach to give a talk. So my idol as a coach was Vince Lombardi and I read this book called Commitment to Excellence by Vince Lombardi. And in the book, Lombardi spoke about the first time he addressed his Green Bay Packers team in the locker room, and they were losers forever. I’m reading this and Lombardi said he’s debating whether it should be a long talk or a short talk? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be short.

So here’s what I did. Normally you get to the dressing room, I don’t know, 25 minutes, half an hour before the team takes the field. You do your little X’s and O’s and then you give the great Knute Rockne talk. We all do. Speech #84. They pull it right out. Are you ready. You get your squad ready. Well that’s the first one I’ve ever given and I’ve read this thing.

Lombardi, he said he didn’t go in, he was waiting. His team is wondering where is he? Where is this great coach? He is not there. Ten minutes, he’s still not here. Three minutes before they could take the field Lombardi came in, slammed the door open and I think you all remember what a great presence he had, great presence. He walked in and he paced back and forth, like this, just walked and stared at the players. He said, “All eyes on me.”

I read that in this book. I get this picture of Lombardi before his first game and he said: ‘Gentlemen, we will be successful this year if you can focus on three things and only three things. Your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers. “They tore down the walls and the rest was history.

I said, “That’s beautiful.” I will do it. Your family, your religion, and Rutgers basketball. That’s it. I had it. Listen, I’m 21 years old. The kids I coach are 19 and I’m going to be the best coach in the world, the next Lombardi. I train outside of the locker room and the managers tell me you have to go in. Not yet, not yet, family, religion, Rutgers basketball. All eyes on me. i got it, i got it Then finally he said three minutes. I said fine. True story. I go to open the doors, just like Lombardi. Boom! They don’t open. I almost broke my arm. Now I was down, the players were watching. Help the trainer, help him. Now I liked Lombardi, I walked back and forth, and I walked in such a way that my arm felt again. Finally I said, “Gentlemen, all eyes on me.” These kids wanted to play. You’re 19. “Let’s go,” I said. “Gentlemen, we will be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and only three things. Your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers,” I told them. i did this I remember it. I remember where I came from.

It’s so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you get from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have a zest for life. You must have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.

I talked about my family; My family is so important. People think I have guts. The courage in my family is my wife Pam, my three daughters, Nicole here, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom who is also here. That screen flashes up there for 30 seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I have tumors all over my body. I’m worried some guy is saying, “30 seconds?” in the background. You got a lot, hey, Và Fà a Napoli, mate. you have a lot

I have just one last thing: I urge you all, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments that you have. Spend every day laughing and thinking. To get your emotions going. Be excited every day. And Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Without enthusiasm nothing great could be achieved” to keep your dreams alive despite all the difficulties. The ability to work hard to make your dreams come true and become a reality.

Now I look at where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I would like to do is spend whatever time I have left and maybe give some hope to others. The Arthur Ashe Foundation is a wonderful cause, and AIDS, the amount of money that goes to AIDS is not enough, but it is significant. But when I told you that 10 times as much is going to cancer research, I’m also telling you that 500,000 people will die from cancer this year, and I’m also telling you that one in four will be affected by this disease . And yet we seem to have pushed it into the background somehow. I want to bring it back to the front table.

We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It can’t save my life. It can save my children’s life. It can save someone you love. And it’s very important. And ESPN has been kind enough to support me in this endeavor and allow me to announce tonight that with ESPN’s support, what does that mean? Your money and your dollars and you help me: We are establishing the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And his motto is, “Don’t give up…never give up.”

And that’s what I’ll try to do every minute I have. I will thank God for the day and moment I have. If you see me, smile and maybe hug me. That’s important to me too. But try to support if you can, whether it be AIDS or the Cancer Foundation, so someone else survives, thrives, and actually gets cured of this dreaded disease. I can’t thank ESPN enough for making this happen. I’m going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and maybe hopefully we’ll have some healings and some breakthroughs. I’d like to think of racking my brains to be back for Arthur Ashe’s receiver next year. I want to give it as a gift next year!

I know I gotta go, I gotta go And I have one last thing, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It can’t touch my mind, it can’t touch my heart, and it can’t touch my soul. And those three things will go on forever.

Thank you and God bless you all.

Stacey Pressman, Justin Tinsley, and Jesse Rogers contributed coverage to this article.

Originally published July 18, 2018.

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