One of ESPN's longest-tenured and most recognizable voices will be off the air for the remainder of the year. Dick Vitale, who has called college basketball games on ESPN for the last 40-plus years, announced he won't return to the booth this season as he recovers from Dysplasia and ulcerated lesions of the vocal cord.
Vitale made the announcement on ESPN Front Row, and said after meeting with a throat specialist, he'll need surgery, which will happen at a later date. The 82-year-old said his prognosis is good and that he's encouraged by the progress.
"While I’m heartbroken that I won’t appear on ESPN for the rest of this season, I’m encouraged by the progress," he said. "In fact, it appears that by resting my voice for the past three weeks, I’ve reduced the inflammation by 60 percent. Let’s hope the added rest will help it heal some more, and things will look even better when I go for my next follow-up."
Vitale made an emotional return to the booth in November, a month after announcing he was diagnosed with lymphoma on Oct. 18.
He had previously been diagnosed with melanoma over the summer, but was said to be cancer-free.
"You know I am an eternal optimist who acts like he’s a teenager. Yet there is no doubt these past five months have been emotionally and physically frustrating," Vitale said. "I am so appreciative of the love and care demonstrated by the incredible members of the medical community.
"I will be forever grateful for the calls, texts, and social media expressions of encouragement from friends, colleagues, fans, media and members of my ESPN family. I love people, and I’m honored to receive such overwhelming support."
The former head coach of the Pistons and Detroit Mercy also made it clear that these throat issues were separate from his cancer diagnoses and the treatment he's been receiving.
He called ESPN's first college basketball game on December 5, 1979 and has been at ESPN ever since. He called several high-profile games this season, including a matchup of then-No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA on Nov. 23 and and a buzzer-beater upset by Dayton over then-No. 4 Kansas three days later.
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