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20th Anniversary Of Jimmy V. Speech


Dick Vitale gave Jimmy Valvano a warm, Italian embrace. He then put his arm around Valvano and helped his good friend up the steps and to the podium on the stage at Madison Square Garden.

"I thought Jimmy would simply accept the trophy, say thank you, and I would help get him back to his seat," Vitale said this week about that night in 1993 at the first ESPY awards.

Instead, Vitale stood there on the stage for nearly 12 minutes, three feet away from a dying man who somehow gathered the strength and grace to deliver one of the most riveting, touching, and best-remembered speeches in sports history.

"If I would have known he was going to give that speech, I would have taken a seat," Vitale said.

But what better place to be than standing almost within arms reach of someone giving a speech that is replayed, somewhere, nearly every day; to be that close to history in the making.

"I stood there in total awe of every word coming out of his mouth," said Vitale, a Lakewood Ranch resident and ESPN broadcaster. "I don't know what got into him but he got up there and gave this electrifying speech that captured our nation."

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the speech that touched the hearts, the minds, the souls of people across the nation.

There to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, Valvano summoned the courage to ignore not only the pain wracking his body, but also the time limit on speeches to deliver a timeless oration packed with words to live by.


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