Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!
December 2, 2011 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Jim Valvano and 6th seeded North Carolina State completed one of the all time greatest Cinderella upsets in basketball history, winning the 1983 NCAA tournament title over the top ranked "Phi Slamma Jamma" out of Houston, featuring two future Hall of Fame and Top 50 all time NBA superstars Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. On March 3, 1993, shortly before his death from bone cancer diagnosed the previous year, Jimmy V delivered an iconic speech at the inaugural ESPY awards announcing the creation of The Jimmy V Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. Jimmy V week is celebrated each year on ESPN and has since raised over $100 million for cancer research.
posted by T.D. Strange (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Note: As my NC State alum friend taught me this week, not the Jimmy Fund Red Sox fans will be familiar with. Different "Jimmy".
posted by maryr at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2011

For some reference on how amazing that upset is...

People tend to forget about Olajuwon, because his career was so overshadowed by Michael Jordan. Drexler is one of the all-time greats, to be sure, but Olajuwon is arguably the greatest Center ever to play the game. (Also, he's unarguably one of the "good" guys, an extremely gracious man who has appeared ever-humble in spite of his immense talent, and spends his days now training every up-and-coming center in the game.) His history also has a weird black mark on it, for some, because he was drafted first in 1984, the same year Jordan was drafted third. Some have looked at that as a classically bad draft decision, but Olajuwon was one of the only players during that period who could reliably shut MJ down. Jordan himself has called Olajuwon the greatest Center of all time, and he retired leading the NBA in career blocked shots.

(Sorry, just my inner fanboy coming out.)

Point being, for NC State to have won that tournament was an incredibly difficult, outstanding endeavor. Great post.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:33 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Thank you for sharing he mentored a lot of young people and most certainly was inspiring: tonight I remember that speech from when I saw it years ago and I am re-inspired to remember to do some good each day
posted by Upon Further Review at 7:09 PM on December 2, 2011

Those were the days. No one hated Duke yet. Carolina introduced Michael Jordan to the world, and Jim Valvano was the most charismatic coach that ever lived. It was hard to not be won over by his humor, passion and sheer joy for the game. The year they won State was the underdog, down by something like... well I don’t remember... but it was over 12 points with just over a minute (or just under a minute) on the clock and the other team was already celebrating on the sidelines. I remember thinking, “This isn’t over yet.”

Dean Smith was the most ethically motivated college basketball coach ever. Jim Valvano was the most charismatic. And Mike Krzyzewski has the most wins.
posted by Huplescat at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2011

Most Rocket fans I know here in Houston have never regretted taking Olajuwon over Jordan. As amazing as Jordan was, Hakeem was The Dream.

The draft decision I always regretted was the previous year 1983, when the Rockets had both the first AND the third pick in the draft. They took Ralph Sampson first (no criticism there, though his knees never held up) and could have taken Clyde Drexler third. Instead, they chose forward Rodney McCray, who was a good solid player here, but was never the shining light that Clyde became. It was this back-to-back top pick bonanza for the Rockets that led to the lottery system in the NBA draft.
posted by John Smallberries at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2011 organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer.

"Cancer" is really 200 (or more) different diseases.

Valvano had not "bone cancer" but what several articles call "metastatic adenocarcinoma". Adenocarcinomas arise from epithelium, which bone doesn't have. I can find no mention of what organ Valvano's cancer originated in (it metastatized TO bone) so it may have been "adenocarcinoma of unknown primary". (He did apparently have a localized prostate cancer which would have been unlikely to metastatize aggressively.)
posted by neuron at 8:04 PM on December 2, 2011

"Don't quit. Don't even quit." --Emmitt Smith
posted by outlaw of averages at 9:43 PM on December 2, 2011

As someone who just finished participating in Movember, and is about to donate bone marrow/stem cells for the second time to the same recipient, I approve of finding a cure for cancer.

I fucking hate that disease.
posted by yiftach at 10:04 PM on December 2, 2011

As a UVa grad from that era, I was at the ACC tournament when they beat the Ralph Sampson team. Afterwards, a TV reporter was interviewing Wittenburg, Lowe and Valvano right in front of the UVa student section. I have great pictures of the three, but what I remember most was Jimmy V's ear to ear smile/grin. Interestingly, Sampson and Olajuwon played together for the Rockets. Valvano also coached at Iona with a terrific center named Jeff Ruland who took the small school from New Rochelle to the tournament. Jimmy Valvano was one of the good guys.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:50 PM on December 2, 2011

Never give up. Don;t ever give up.
posted by Cranberry at 12:14 AM on December 3, 2011

I watch the Jimmy V speech from time to time for inspiration. It still makes me teary.
posted by zooropa at 5:53 AM on December 3, 2011

Thanks to this post, I've laughed, thought, and cried in the last 11 minutes. Mostly cried, though.
posted by Optamystic at 7:26 AM on December 3, 2011

$100 million dollars seems like a staggering amount of money. It's nice to think about how big an impact Jimmy V has had on so many people, even so long after his death.
posted by Philemon at 8:16 AM on December 3, 2011

I remember that Final Four, where Houston beat Louisville (I think) and every other score seemed like a slamdunk. Awesome as Olajuwon was, I thought Drexler was just unbelievable.
posted by kgasmart at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2011

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