Jimmy Valvano and I shared a passion for life. We both had such love for our families and had such a great time in the studio.
His life ended so prematurely as a victim of the dreaded disease of cancer.
Some will look at Jimmy V's legacy as his Wolfpack cut down the nets in Albuquerque as surprising national champions. I believe his legacy lives on in this valiant battle against cancer.
I remember vividly attending when Jimmy gave his brilliant speech when he said "Don't give up, don't ever give up." He was in so much pain that night, needing help going up on stage and coming back down. Yet he was so amazing that evening, and people will always remember his passion and emotion in such a difficult situation.
The V Foundation has raised $100 million in this war. Great people like Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, John Saunders, Bob Lloyd and Jimmy's brother Nick, have been so diligent in working for this cause.
My friends, people often ask me why I am so driven in the fight against cancer. I have been working for the V Foundation ever since, trying to raise the money for cancer research to get rid of this horrible disease. It affects so many people, whether you are rich or poor, black or white, Christian, Jewish or whatever religion you believe in; it strikes different people of all persuasions. Cancer doesn't judge you, it simply wreaks havoc on the families and friends of those victimized.
Earlier this year, I had one of the toughest tasks of my life. I was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who died of cancer. He was a little child, and it was so tough, one of the toughest things I have ever done, talking about the Littlejohn family. No kid should have to suffer; they should be out playing and enjoying life. Cancer can be so unfair.
I had such a blast with Jimmy over the years. We talked about basketball, about life, about our families. His loss had a profound influence on my life. That is why Jimmy V Week is so special.
I work all year round to raise money through my Dickie V gala, with the goal of donating $1 million to the V Foundation for research grants. My event is in Sarasota, Fla., at the Ritz-Carlton on May 18, 2012, and I am so proud of it because so many people work so hard on making it a success. This year we are honoring Lou Holtz, Gary Williams and Jay Wright, three outstanding coaches. What always makes me proud is the fact that all of the celebrities in attendance come down on their own dime. They are not paid a cent and they are happy to be part of the evening.
It is so emotional as we bring in families that have been affected by cancer. There is not a dry eye in the house as they hear stories of people who have beaten the disease and are enjoying their lives. There are reflections on their fight and how they are big winners in the game of life.
We must beat cancer in our lifetime. We have made such tremendous strides in progressing our research. We have saved so many lives already. There is still so much to do.
Jimmy V's legacy lives on in such a positive way. I know he is looking down from heaven, so proud of what has been done in his name. I know that he would be so proud of the Jimmy V Classic, caring so much about the roundball, baby!