Dick Vitale will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor today joining, among others, his former Pistons boss and former Lightning owner Bill Davidson.
Vitale, 69, a Lakewood Ranch resident and member of numerous Halls, said this is "one of the greatest honors you can ever receive," especially given his story of parlaying his passion and blue-collar work ethic to rise from a sixth-grade teacher to NBA coach to television fixture.
The ceremony will be carried live on ESPN Classic at 7:30 p.m.
Other inductees: Pat Riley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Adrian Dantley and Immaculata University coach Cathy Rush, a pioneer who led her team to three titles.
Riley, who retired from coaching this year, has five rings, four with the "Showtime" Lakers led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His last championship was with the Heat in 2006.
Ewing and Olajuwon's careers have intersected since college, where Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas beat Olajuwon's Houston Cougars in the 1984 NCAA title game. A decade later, Olajuwon's Rockets defeated Ewing's Knicks for the NBA championship.
"We both are warriors. We both want to excel. We both wanted to dominate, and when you play against the best you want to perform at your best," Ewing said in April after the Hall of Fame vote was announced. "So we both definitely looked at each other as the best."
That 1994 Knicks team was coached by Riley, who has said that failing to get an NBA ring for Ewing is among his greatest regrets.
Dantley, a six-time All-Star, played for seven teams during his 15-year NBA career.
In 1979, Vitale accepted an offer from ESPN, then a fledgling cable sports station out of Bristol, Conn. He had been fired by Davidson after a short stint as Pistons coach.
Vitale spent the next 30 years becoming the voice of college basketball.
"I would have been dead by 50 if I had stayed in coaching," Vitale said this week. "I just could not handle losing."
"He's truly an icon who creates excitement by his very presence, a unique broadcasting quality that few share," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.