For more than 40 years, Dick Vitale has been a fixture on the ESPN airwaves, serving as one of the most prominent faces of the network’s college basketball coverage and as a well-known ambassador for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. However, Vitale has not been on the air as the 2021-22 season begins, as he underwent surgeries to remove melanoma in August before being diagnosed with lymphoma in October. His absence has certainly been felt, particularly for long-time college hoops observers, but ESPN announced on Thursday that Vitale has been cleared by his doctors to return to the booth on Nov. 23 to call a marquee matchup between Gonzaga and UCLA.
Vitale will join forces with play-by-play Dave O’Brien to call the game in Las Vegas, with Gonzaga and UCLA currently sporting top-two national rankings. Beyond the game itself, this is seemingly an encouraging step for Vitale as he navigates a six-month period of chemotherapy treatment.
“My family and I are absolutely jumping with joy,” Vitale said via release. “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.
“They gave me energy and lifted me up at a time that is not fun city – chemo for six months. To my ESPN family, starting with Jimmy Pitaro – I love you all. I’m so proud to start my 43rd year on Tuesday. Lastly, to the fans – you have given me a career that has exceeded any dream I’ve ever had.”
Vitale’s health is, of course, the most important factor here, and the best wishes are sent his way for a full recovery. In short order, fans will be able to hear his excited calls on the air again, and ESPN is welcoming him back on the grandest possible stage of non-conference play.