Lakewood Ranch's Dick Vitale won't call games on ESPN for rest of college basketball season

·2 min read

SARASOTA — His first two medical challenges, melanoma and lymphoma, didn’t rob Dick Vitale of what made him the voice of college basketball.

His voice.

Three weeks ago, the 82-year-old Lakewood Ranch resident and ESPN college basketball announcer was diagnosed with dysplasia on his vocal cords. His physician, Dr. Steven Zeitels of Massachusetts General Hospital, told Vitale to rest his voice.

But after a follow-up visit on Monday with Zeitels, despite what Vitale said was a 60% reduction in inflammation, he was told continued voice rest is necessary, forcing Vitale to forgo his position behind an ESPN courtside microphone for the rest of the college basketball season.

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ABC/ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale, a Lakewood Ranch resident, sits at mid-court prior to an NCAA college basketball game between Baylor and Villanova on Dec. 12, 2021, in Waco, Texas. Vitale will not be able to call any more games this season because of dysplasia on his vocal cords.  RAY CARLIN/AP
ABC/ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale, a Lakewood Ranch resident, sits at mid-court prior to an NCAA college basketball game between Baylor and Villanova on Dec. 12, 2021, in Waco, Texas. Vitale will not be able to call any more games this season because of dysplasia on his vocal cords. RAY CARLIN/AP

In addition to the dysplasia, which are precancerous surface changes to the vocal cords, they also have ulcerated lesions. Vitale, forced to communicate via text, indicated surgery by Zeitels, who has operated on singers Lionel Richie, Steven Tyler and others, will be necessary, but not until Zeitels sees more reduction in the inflammation. Vitale is scheduled to see him again Feb. 16.

“After surgery, I will again be on voice rest,” he texted. “The good news is that Dr. Zeitels feels that I will be stronger than ever, if I listen to him. This has been five of the toughest months. I have dealt with melanoma, lymphoma, and now the vocal cord problems.”

Though cured of the melanoma, Vitale continues to undergo chemotherapy for his lymphoma. He said he’s scheduled Wednesday for an “intense” treatment. “The good news thus far with the lymphoma is that my blood counts have been very good. My ongoing chemo continues to progress positively. I’ve seen what cancer can do. I feel so lucky.”

Vitale said he’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern from people through texts and social-media messages. “I have received so much inspiration.” But while his voice heals, Vitale can’t use it for his annual assault on pediatric cancer.

Dick Vitale during the press conference at the 16th Annual Dick Vitale Gala held at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Friday evening May 7, 2021.
Dick Vitale during the press conference at the 16th Annual Dick Vitale Gala held at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Friday evening May 7, 2021.

“I am so frustrated as I cannot use the phone to call potential donors to raise money for my Gala for kids battling cancer.” Vitale has set a goal of $7 million for this year’s Dick Vitale Gala, which would bring the total raised for the V Foundation for Cancer Research to more than $50 million. The 17th annual event is scheduled for May 6 at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.

Vitale urges people to donate through DickVitale.com.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Dick Vitale won't call games on ESPN for rest of season to rest vocal chords