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Jimmy V Classic Comes to MSG

Despite disheartening sports stories such as the Jon Gruden Miami controversy, there is still plenty of positive happenings going on.  The annual Jimmy V Classic basketball tournament has a great lineup of teams this year. The Classic, held every year to raise money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, is one of the signature fund raising events for that organization. This year's tournament features four top teams from across the country: Memphis, Kansas, Syracuse, and Michigan State. Every year the teams put on a show for Madison Square Garden fans, and this year's tournament starting Tuesday December 8 figures to be no different.

Remembering Jimmy V

The Classic and the V Foundation build on the legacy of late basketball coach and commentator Jim Valvano, who was better known to most people by the nickname that he wore for many years. Jimmy V was a coach who made several stops along the way during his career, but he was best known for the work he did while coaching at North Carolina State University. During his time at NC State, the Wolfpack won an NCAA Championship in what is still considered one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history over the University of Houston, by the score of 54 to 52.

That University of Houston team was top ranked and riding a 26 game winning streak at the time of the championship matchup. They also featured two pretty good players who would end up being Hall of Famers by the time they were done, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Meanwhile on the other side of the court was NC State, a team that only tied for third in its own conference during the regular season and actually lost 10 times during the year. It was amazing when the Wolfpack pulled out the win on a desperation shot at the final buzzer and Jimmy V ran around the sideline looking for someone to hug.

1993 ESPY Awards Acceptance Speech

That moment with Jimmy V running up and down the sidelines in 1983 was the most iconic moment he provided the sporting community, until he topped it ten years later at the 1993 ESPY Awards show. By this time he was only two months away from his death. He was being beaten by cancer. He was about to lose a two year battle to the disease, but he was unwilling to give up hope. He said in closing the speech, "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all." [1]

Jimmy V went through some big ups and downs all through his life, from winning the championship to being forced out as coach and athletic director at NC State amid an academic scandal to the cancer that finally cost Jimmy V his life. But he refused to stop being positive. The Jimmy V legacy is embodied in the organization that carries his name and raises money for cancer awareness and research. Events like the Jimmy V Classic at the Madison Square Garden to date have raised over $100 million.

He was a basketball coach, an expert commentator once he got into the broadcast booth, and a skilled motivational speaker as well. But all these years later, he is probably remembered most of all for the passion he had for life, a passion that was personified in that great ESPY speech and in some of the other things that Jimmy V did and said through the years.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Valvano Retrieved 2010-12-06.

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