“Jimmy V.” Died of Cancer

Derrick Wittenburg and  Jim Valvano at the 1983 NCAA championship game

Derrick Wittenburg and Jim Valvano at the 1983 NCAA championship game

On April 28, 1993, Jim Valvano died of cancer at the age of 47. Valvano was born in Queens, New York, played basketball at Rutgers University and had several coaching positions before coming to North Carolina State as head coach in 1980. In a series of inspiring and improbable last minute victories, he led the Wolfpack to the championship of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in 1983. Sports Illustrated included the achievement as one of the top 10 sporting events of the 20th century.

In 1992, Valvano was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the final months of his life, he helped establish the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, whose motto, “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up!” reflects Valvano’s eternal optimism. His last public appearance occurred when he received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage from ESPN in March1 993.

The broadcast of his inspirational speech at the ESPY awards ceremony has become an annual tradition on the network and has helped the V Foundation raise over 120 million dollars for cancer research – a fitting legacy to a man who inspired a nation both on and off the basketball court.

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