By: Julio Olmo
Jimmy Valvano waged his final battle with cancer the way he always coached, talking up a storm and making sure he got his last shot.
Strangers were always writing or saying to him:
“We’re pulling for you, Vee. You can do it. Nobody thought you had a prayer against Houston in that national championship game in ’83, and you pulled that off, right? Keep fighting, Vee. You can do it again.”
Personally, due to vast experience on both subjects, I do not believe the two belonged in the same sentence or paragraph for that matter.
A basketball game and cancer eating through your body.
An opponent and death.
No correlation, as far as I could see. I always thought to myself and was certain that Jimmy V longed to tell them sometimes.
When he was the head coach at North Carolina State, after he delivered his pregame talks, Jimmy V would leave the locker room, mount the steps that led to the court, and stand on top of one, still unseen by the crowd.
For a moment he would not be an actor at the heart of the drama. He would be a spectator absorbing the immensity, the feeling of it all.
Probably thinking to himself:
“God, I am lucky. What do other people do when they get to work? Go to an office, sit at a desk? And I get this!”
That’s what cancer stole from him.
Coach probably thought to himself many times:
“I can’t do it .”
But Jim Valvano would not go down without a fight.
He found his true calling inspiring people all around the world.
Athletics are important. They demonstrate how human possibility is unlimited.
When the inconceivable is accomplished.
“That’s it kid! You got it. That’s the value of sports. All those games, you thought meant nothing, they meant everything after all.”
The people who compared his upset of Houston to his fight against cancer were right.
“It’s what I’ve to do…I’ve to find the unlimited scope of human possibility within myself. I’ve got to conceive the inconceivable – then accomplish it!” Jim Valvano.