Jim Boeheim wins over Dick Vitale in one-on-one basketball game (from the archives)

Jim Boeheim wins over Dick Vitale in one-on-one basketball game (from the archives)
Jim Boeheim wins over Dick Vitale in one-on-one basketball game (from the archives)

Editor’s note: The story was first published in the Post-Standard on July 20, 1991

By David Ramsey | Staff writer

Dripping with sweat, his aching left foot resting on a large bag of ice, Jim Boeheim basked in the glory of victory.

“I said I was going to kick him (bottom), didn’t I?” Boeheim said after his 16-3 one-on-one win over Dick Vitale.

He laughed, but was serious at the same time. His mood matched that of the evening. Playing before a crowd of about 1,000 in the heart of downtown Rochester, Boeheim and Vitale did their share of clowning.

“I’m going to bury him,” Vitale shouted during a break in the game.

“This is going to be the first time you’re ever going to see Dick Vitale shut up,” Boeheim said before the game.

But at the heart of the game was a sense of seriousness. The players, especially Vitale, played with a muscular style. While fighting for a loose ball, Vitale Boeheim delivered a stiff push right into the game’s referee, Mike Palermo.

When Vitale, who stands 5-foot-9, drove to the basket, Boeheim simply wouldn’t let him shoot, blocking at least 10 shots.

Boeheim threw some elbows. He followed the shots with gusto. That was one of the reasons why the game became a route. When Boeheim missed shots, he grabbed the rebounds and then scored. When Vitale missed the shot, he didn’t have a chance to jump over the 6-foot-4 Boeheim, who didn’t give up anything.

“When I play, it’s vicious,” Boeheim said. “If I played my mother, it would be evil.”

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Jim Boeheim plays defense on ESPN’s Dick Vitale during a charity one-on-one game. Stephen D. Cannerelli | syracuse.com archive

And in a move that won’t surprise Syracuse University basketball fans, Boeheim argued with the referee. He hit his forearm when the whistle didn’t go. At the one Boeheim station there was contact, but no telephone. Boeheim couldn’t believe it. He ran to Palermo to plead his case. Meanwhile, the ball was in play and Vitale took the chance to score his only easy basket of the evening.

“He missed a couple of calls,” Boeheim said, “but they all do. This gave me a chance to complain to an umpire in the summer.

The atmosphere in the game was a bit hard to believe. Here were two bald men playing in the middle of a city street among 15-story buildings. Boeheim wore a full SU home uniform with No. 44 on the jersey, and Vitale wore a navy blue sweater and light blue shorts. The crowd was loud and supportive with a slight preference for Vitale, the underdog. The game was played in singles with two points awarded for shots taken outside an 18-foot line.

It appeared early in the one-on-one game that Vitale had no chance, but when Boeheim finished the game with a long two-point jumper, the real drama began. Immediately after sinking the shot, Boeheim ran to a microphone on the court and screamed, “I want a foul shooting contest! I’ll give $500 to Camp Good Days if I lose!”

The one-on-one game raised $1,000, donated by a Rochester car dealership, for Camp Good Days and Special Times, a camp for youthful cancer victims. The misfire ended up netting another $500.

Vitale took Boeheim up on the offer, and almost triumphed. Vitale made 8 of 10 shots. Boeheim went to the line and missed two of his first seven, forcing him to make his final three for a chance at a tie. He swished shots eight and nine, but shot 10, for a tie, bounced hard on the back iron. The crowd roared, and Boeheim stood at the foul line, staring at the rim. The ball bounced high.

And fell right into the basket. Boeheim danced on the field with his hands above his head. A five-shot playoff followed, and Boeheim won easily, sinking four in a row after Vitale sank 3-of-5.

Boeheim accepted the winner’s trophy with a big smile. “He always says I never hit anybody,” Boeheim said. “The only problem is I still don’t have it.”

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