Jim Valvano to be inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as contributor

NC State’s Jim Valvano celebrates after the Wolfpack defeated Houston to win the National championship on April 5, 1983.

NC State’s Jim Valvano celebrates after the Wolfpack defeated Houston to win the National championship on April 5, 1983.

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Forty years after his most famous basketball moment, racing across the floor in Albuquerque looking for someone to hug after N.C. State’s improbable national championship, Jim Valvano is going into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

The late Wolfpack coach and cancer fundraiser was voted into the hall as a contributor in the 2023 induction class announced Saturday at the Final Four in Houston. The recognition “for significant contributions to the game of basketball” covers his work as a player at Rutgers, a coach at Iona and N.C. State, a broadcaster at ABC and, finally, for inspiring the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which continues to have an impact long after his death from cancer in 1993.

He joins Wolfpack legends Everett Case, David Thompson and Kay Yow in the Naismith Hall.

“The one word I would use to describe Jim is ‘passion,’” Yow said when Valvano died. “He had a passion for people and a passion for his tasks. But he also had humor, and to be able to put passion and humor together is so special. God just seemed to bless him to be able to see the invisible and to do the impossible so many times.

”Track coaches always like to tell their runners: ‘Never let up at the end of the race; run through the tape.’ In other words, really bust it. And that was Jim’s life — he ran through the tape. He endured the race and he leaned into the tape.”

Valvano’s 1983 N.C. State team — the “Cardiac Pack” — that shocked the world by upsetting Houston’s high-flying and heavily-favored “Phi Slama Jama” team was his highest point, but he would turn his lowest point into a positive that outlived him. After he was fired as basketball coach and athletic director in 1990 over a variety of infractions — some of which seem almost quaint in today’s world of college athletics — Valvano became one of the sport’s most distinctive television voices. N.C. State still hasn’t really recovered from his departure.

After his cancer diagnosis, his “Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up!” speech at the 1993 ESPY awards became a rallying cry and his enduring legacy. The V Foundation has since donated more than $150 million to cancer research.

“Jim’s tenacity and passion as a coach and as an ambassador for the game of basketball – and game of life – set a standard of excellence that we at the V Foundation embody to this day,” Evan Goldberg, chair of the V Foundation board of directors, said in a statement. “It’s an honor to carry on his legacy through our work funding game-changing cancer research.”

Valvano is one of 12 inductees to be enshrined in Springfield, Mass., in August. He’s joined by former Purdue coach Gene Keady, NBA coach Gregg Popovich, junior colllege coach Gene Bess and Division III coach David Hixon, WNBA star Becky Hammon, NBA stars Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade, women’s college coach Gary Blair and the silver-medal 1976 women’s Olympic team.

Staff writer Chip Alexander contributed to this report

This story was originally published April 1, 2023, 12:33 PM.

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock joined The News & Observer in 2000 and has covered six Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He is the current president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, was the 2020 winner of the National Headliner Award as the country’s top sports columnist and has twice been named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.

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