Commentary

Classic has legacy of talent, giving

Updated: December 15, 2013, 12:44 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Memphis AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackMemphis plays Florida on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

This week, the latest installment of the Jimmy V Classic takes place at Madison Square Garden. The Florida Gators, Memphis Tigers, Cincinnati Bearcats and Pittsburgh Panthers will showcase their talents on the hardwood while helping serve the memory of Jimmy V.

It's been 20 years since Jim Valvano gave his iconic speech at the ESPYS awards. Since then, a lot has happened in the battle to defeat the dreaded disease of cancer. Over $115 million has been raised for the V Foundation as cancer research has been so vital in saving many lives.

In his time on the court, there also are many moments to remember. But, my friends, basketball fans most treasure the sight of Valvano dancing around, looking for someone to hug in Albuquerque, N.M., as his Wolfpack stunned the sporting world against Phi Slama Jama in 1983.

This event leaves a twofold legacy. First, the talent on the court -- just think about some of the future NBA stars that have competed in past Jimmy V Classic games and you will understand this is a marquee event. Paul Pierce, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala. (I wish I could coach that team, baby!)

I am just getting started. Stephon Marbury, Marcus Camby, Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Mike Miller, Jason Richardson and Mario Chalmers.

They have all taken the court for cancer research. Want some more? Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Dion Waiters, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor, Otto Porter Jr., Phil Pressey and Tony Wroten.

The list will grow as the four teams participating this week have players who should advance to the next level.

Second, and most important, is Jimmy V's great legacy off the court. He wanted his friends to rally around this cause: to fight cancer and find advances to beat the disease.

There is still a long way to go in this fight. It's personal, not just because of the loss of Jim Valvano, but because I have seen a number of youngsters pass away. No kid should have to suffer through chemo. No young person should be away from the playgrounds, taken from the enthusiasm and joy that all children should enjoy.

Recently, a 5-year-old named Eddie Livingston passed away. It was truly terrible to see what the family went through.

In Eddie's honor, we have started a research grant through the Jimmy V foundation. You can find ways to help in the box in this column or go to jimmyv.org/eddie.

While you are enjoying great basketball from Madison Square Garden, reflect on the legacy of Jimmy V. He said: "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

My friends, he was so right.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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