Alan Dell

Commentary: Vitale dunks one for kids of all ages

Just when you think you have seen it all from Dick Vitale, he responds with a 360-degree, turn-around dunk.

College basketball’s most famous citizen has taken his game to a level few people of his magnitude ever traveled.

He’s written a book for kids who are too young to relate to Michael Jordan and “Awesome Baby,” but will set them on the path to becoming a productive citizen and fan of the game that has made Vitale a 71-year-old rock star.

It’s called “Dickie V’s ABCs and 1-2-3s, A Great Start for Young Superstars.”

Vitale’s love for children is well known, and when he was approached by Ascend Books Publisher Bob Snodgrass to do a book that would educate kids and introduce them to the game of basketball, it was as if he was out on a fast break and Kobe Bryant threw him a pass he couldn’t turn away from.

Using basketball terminology mixed with a little bit of Vitalism, the book teaches kids the alphabet and how to count. As they maneuver their way through the pages, they can push a button and hear one of Vitale’s digital, voice-recorded well known clichés: “You are a superstar. Hey it’s me, Dickie V.”

A for awesome, D for Dunk, E for effort, V for victory: Vitale incorporates basketball-related words while stressing that being a good reader is as important as being able to drain one from beyond the arc.

Awesome is that this is just the beginning!

The book, geared for children ages 2-6, is just the beginning. Five more covering topics relating to youth from the ages of two to around 18 are in the planning stage. The next is scheduled for publication in the fall.

“When Bob Snodgrass came to me and suggested this I thought, ‘Who would buy it?’ But he said it would work. We got a great illustrator and things just flew,” Vitale says. “I love kids, and I am excited about it. I am 5 years old myself at times so it was easy. This is an absolute fun situation. It won’t solve the major problems in the world, but it will help kids.”

All of the money he makes on the book ($14.95) goes into his personal war against cancer.

“I am in the last chapter of my life, and my biggest mission is raising money for pediatric cancer,” Vitale says. “I am doing this because I have five grandchildren, and I am selfish. I don’t want them to have to deal with cancer.”

Vitale jokes that he has published more books in his life (nine) than some people say he has read.

“I tell kids read because reading gives you knowledge, and knowledge gives you power,” Vitale says. “I don’t think enough people are doing enough reading, and I hope this book will start them in the right direction.”

Future books for young readers now in the planning stage will deal with subjects such as virtue and values, personal development and accountability.

They would focus on helping youth present a positive image, deal with child obesity and bullying, according to Bob Ibach of Ibach & Associates, which is handling the public relations for the future books.

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Vitale was recently named recipient of the inaugural Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award, given in honor of the former NBA standout who averaged 15 points and six rebounds over a 12-year career and was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma.

Tisdale died in May 2009 at age 44 after a battle with cancer. The award will be presented annually to an individual involved in college basketball who has had a significant positive impact on society.

“I am in nine Hall of Fames and have received numerous awards, but this one is real special to me,” Vitale says. “I was really touched when they called me because he represented everything you would want in an athlete. He was classy, a great jazz musician and always smiling even after he had his legs amputated because of the cancer.”

Vitale will receive the honor April 11 in Oklahoma City.

“There is no more deserving person for this first award,” says Trip Kuehne, 2011 chairman of the Wayman Tisdale Award Advisory Board. “He is a driving force in raising money for the V Foundation and his passion for that organization together with his very public persona makes him one of the most influential people in sports today.”