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Thank you. Many thanks. Thank you. This is the lowest I’ve ever seen Dick Vitale because the owner of the Detroit Pistons called him and told him to get on the radio.
I cannot tell you what an honor it is to be mentioned in the same breath Arthur Ashe. This is something that I will surely cherish forever. But like it was said on the tape – and I don’t have any of those things to do with the cue cards either, so I’ll be talking longer than anyone spoke 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 that I would like to say. Hopefully in the end I will have said something that will also be important to other people.
But I can’t help it. Now I’m fighting cancer. Everyone knows that. People ask me all the time how you are going through your life and what your day is like and nothing changes for me. As Dick said, I am a very emotional and passionate man. I can not change it. This is the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. 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 we should all be doing every day. We should do this every day of our life. # 1 is laughter. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is thinking. You should spend some time thinking. Number 3 is that tears should be brought to your feelings, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a whole day. It’s a heckuva day. You do this seven days a week, you will have something special.
I went on a plane today with Mike Krzyzewski, my good friend and wonderful trainer. People don’t know he’s ten times better than a coach and we know he’s a great coach. He has meant a lot to me in my fight over the past five or six months. But when I look at Mike, we were playing against each other as players. I trained against him for 15 years and I always have to think about what is 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 every day. If 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 trained at Rutgers University. That was my first job. Oh that’s wonderful [reaction to applause]and I was the novice coach. That was when newbies were playing on newbies teams and I was so excited about my first job. I see Lou Holtz here. Coach Holtz, who doesn’t like the first job you had? The first time you stood in the locker room giving an encouraging talk. This is a special place, the locker room, where a trainer can give a lecture. So my role model as a trainer was Vince Lombardi, and I read this book by Vince Lombardi called Commitment to Excellence. And in the book, Lombardi talked about the first time he spoke in front of his Green Bay Packers team in the locker room, and they were perennial losers. I read this and Lombardi said he think should it be a long conversation or a short one? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be short.
So here is what i did. Usually you come to the locker room, I don’t know, 25 minutes, half an hour before the team enters the field. You do your little Xs and O’s and then you give the big Knute Rockne a lecture. We all do that. Speech # 84. You pull them right out. Are you ready. You’re finishing your squad. Well this is the first I ever gave and I read this thing.
Lombardi, he said he didn’t go in, he was waiting. His team wonders where he is. Where is this great trainer? He is not there. He’s still not there for ten minutes. Three minutes before they could enter the field, Lombardi comes in, slams the door, and I think you all remember his great presence, his great presence. He went in and paced like that, just went and stared at the players. He said, “All eyes on me.”
I read that in this book. I get this picture from Lombardi before his first game and he said, “Gentlemen, we will be successful this year if you can focus on three 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, “This is beautiful.” I will do that. Your family, your religion and Rutgers basketball. That’s it. I had it. Look, I’m 21 years old. The kids I coach are 19 and I’ll be the greatest coach in the world, the next Lombardi. I am practicing outside the locker room and the managers tell me you need to go inside. Not yet, not yet, family, religion, Rutgers basketball. All eyes on me. I have it, I have it Then he finally said three minutes. I said good. True story. I’m going to open the doors, just like Lombardi. Boom! They don’t open up. I almost broke my arm. Now I was down, the players were watching. Help the trainer, help him. Now I liked Lombardi, I went back and forth and I walked like this, my arm getting the feeling again. Finally I said, “Gentlemen, all eyes are on me.” These children wanted to play. You are 19. “Let’s go,” I said. “Gentlemen, we will be successful this year if you can focus on three and only three things. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers,” I told them. I did that. I remember it. I remember where I came from.
Knowing where you are is so important. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you wanna be I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to 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 courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mother, Who is also right here. That screen will blink there for 30 seconds – like I’m bothering that screen right now, right? I have tumors all over my body. I’m worried that a guy in the background says “30 seconds?” You have a lot, hey, Và Fà a Napoli, buddy. You have a lot.
I only have one last thing: I urge you all to enjoy your life, the precious moments that you have. Spend every day laughing and thinking a little. To get your feelings going. Be amazed every day. And Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great can be achieved without enthusiasm.” to keep your dreams alive despite all the troubles. The ability to work hard to make your dreams come true and come true.
Now I look where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I want to do is pass the remaining time and give hope to others, and maybe some. The Arthur Ashe Foundation is a wonderful thing, and AIDS, the amount of money that goes into AIDS is not enough but it is significant. But if I were to tell you that it is ten times the amount that is being spent on cancer research, I also told you that 500,000 people will die of cancer this year, and I also tell you that one in four of them Disease will be affected. And yet we seem to have somehow put it in the background. I want to put it back on 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 lives. It can save someone you love. And it’s very important. And ESPN has been kind enough to assist me in this endeavor and allow me to announce this tonight What does what with the support of ESPN mean? Your money and your dollars and you help me: We’re creating the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And his motto is: “Don’t give up … never give up.”
And I’ll try to do that every minute I have. I will thank God for the day and moment that I have. When you see me, smile and maybe hug me. This is also important to me. But try if you can to support, whether it is AIDS or the Cancer Foundation, so that someone else can survive, thrive and actually be cured of this dreaded disease. I can’t thank ESPN enough for making this possible. I’ll work as hard as I can on cancer research and hopefully we may have some cures and some breakthroughs. I would like to think I’ll fight my brain to be here again next year for the Arthur Ashe recipient. I want to give it next year!
I know I have to go, I have to go And I have one last thing, and I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, cancer can affect all of my physical abilities. It can’t touch my mind, it can’t touch my heart, and it can’t touch my soul. And these three things will go on forever.
I thank you and God bless you all.
Stacey Pressman, Justin Tinsley and Jesse Rogers contributed to the coverage of this piece.
Originally published July 18, 2018.