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The Numbers Behind Jim Valvano’s Lasting Legacy

In 1993, Jim Valvano asked for our help to eradicate cancer. Three decades and $300 million later, the mission of the V Foundation continues.

Jim Valvano’s ESPY Speech is right around 11 minutes long. That night in 1993, when his good friend Dick Vitale needed to help him onto the Madison Square Garden stage, Valvano could not have known the impact his words were about to have.

Well, he knew some of it. He knew he was announcing that night that ESPN was helping him launch the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. He did not realize that his comments that night would become so iconic that ESPN would air them repeatedly for one week every December three decades later.

Laugh, think, cry.

Where you started, where you are, and where you’re going to be.

Family, religion, the Green Bay Packers.

That night, Valvano whipped out speech No. 84, and for a few minutes, you could not tell he had so much as a cold, let alone (as he put it) “tumors all over [his] body.” Valvano died just weeks after that speech, but the V Foundation has carried on his legacy. On Tuesday, the college basketball world celebrated him with the annual men’s Jimmy V Classic at MSG.

It was the 29th iteration of the event, with Illinois outlasting 2023 Final Four Cinderella Florida Atlantic in the first game and defending champion UConn winning a battle of bluebloods in the nightcap over North Carolina. Fans at home and in the arena saw that speech, but what they may not have seen is the numbers behind what that speech launched.

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The V Foundation’s Impact

As Valvano said that night, the goal was not to save his own life. It was to save someone else’s — to have “some cures and some breakthroughs.” And while the ultimate goal of eradicating cancer remains unmet, the foundation has done plenty of quantifiable good. Take a look at the numbers (via v.org):

  • Total Money Raised for Research: $310 million in 1,186 total research grants
    • $66.7 million for pediatric cancer
    • $60.8 million for blood cancers
    • $30.9 million for breast cancer
    • $29.3 million for gastrointestinal cancer
    • $26 million for lung cancer
    • $14.2 million for female reproductive cancers
    • $11.2 million for prostate cancer
  • Total raised in 2022: $27 million
    • $6.5 million designated for Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund
    • $1.5 million designated for Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund

And, of course, it won’t stop there. We don’t have total 2023 numbers just yet, but the V Foundation made a big announcement during Tuesday night’s men’s Jimmy V Classic. During a media timeout, the foundation honored members of the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer ride. The ride, presented as a partnership between the V Foundation and Bristol Myers Squibb, raised over $1 million for cancer research. BMS added an additional $500,000 donation to bring the total raise above $1.5 million.

The Jimmy V Classic: A College Sports Mainstay

The men’s Classic itself has stayed with a consistent format over the years. Four high-profile teams come into Madison Square Garden in early December for a Tuesday night doubleheader. ESPN airs Jimmy V’s speech during the event, and it plays on the MSG video board as well. Here’s how it has evolved over the years:

  • 1995: First men’s Jimmy V Classic, held in East Rutherford, NJ. Temple defeated Kansas, and UMass beat Georgia Tech.
  • 2002: First women’s Jimmy V Classic, held in Raleigh, NC. Duke defeated Tennessee, and UConn beat NC State.
  • 2003: Men’s Jimmy V Classic moves to Madison Square Garden, where it has been annually except for 2021.
  • 2023: Women’s Jimmy V Classic moves to a triple-header format at campus sites. Duke, Texas, and Tennessee all post season-highs in attendance (so far).

Unfortunately, Valvano never got to see the impact his foundation and his classic have had. But he knew that would be the case. As he said when he closed his speech, he wanted his legacy to carry on long after his death. The V Foundation is living proof that he succeeded.

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About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.