Borrowing a line from boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Dick Vitale “shocked the world” Wednesday when he celebrated his 77th birthday by declaring his career is a long way from over after signing a contract extension with ESPN.
“I want to become the first person to announce a sports event at 100 years old. Why not? Don’t you have to dream big,” Vitale said. “I feel like 27, am acting like 7 and played tennis today. Muhammad Ali had a saying that I have used in motivational talks with kids: ‘If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it then you can achieve it.’ “I firmly believe that, and so my mind is telling me at 100 I am going to be the first guy to walk out there, sit at courtside and do a game.”
Vitale has been relatively healthy nearly all of his life, which he attributes to luck, good living habits and being surrounded by love.
“I have been blessed, but I work out a lot. I play tennis and this morning I walked for 30 minutes and try to work out everyday. I don’t smoke or drink. In fact at ESPN they call me Mr. Cranberry Juice,” Vitale said. “I have a great family and ESPN has treated me like royalty. I try to live by mother and father’s doctrine that if you are good to people they will be good to you.”
Vitale, who announced ESPN’s first major college basketball game on December 5, 1979, (Wisconsin at DePaul), is now signed through the 2018-19, which will take him through his 40th season with the network.
The Lakewood Ranch resident will continue to be assigned to many of the network’s marquee games, including regular-season action primarily on ESPN and ESPN2 and the Men’s Final Four for ESPN International.
“Fans truly appreciate Dick’s engaging and entertaining style, and his continued work to fight cancer on behalf of The V Foundation,” said ESPN Executive Vice-President John Wildhack. “Dick’s energy and love for basketball and life continue to be at the heart of his incredibly well-earned success.”
Vitale, who often says he lives in Hoops Heaven, will never lose his love for the game, but his big passion these days is raising money for pediatric cancer research under The V Foundation.
“What I am doing for The V Foundation exceeds anything I’ve ever done on television. We’ve raised $18 million that has gone to research and we are already starting on our goal of raising $3 million for next year.” he said.
Vitale has been inducted into 13 Hall of Fames including the prestigious Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and has become a popular figure to the younger generation, particularly college students, who embrace him as an iconic figure at the games.
“With my enthusiasm and energy I never had a problem relating with young people. They really like people who have a passion for what they do,” Vitale said.