MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Gary Vitti, Head Trainer LA Lakers for 32 Years
Updated: May 23, 2020
Over two years ago, when I started playing with the idea of creating MEET ITALY, I had a meeting with Jeff Capaccio, founder of SVIEC, our Northern California strategic partner. As I was discussing the MEET ITALY concept, Jeff told me that, from his experience, there will be many reasons to do it and many good feedbacks from such an endeavor but probably meeting great people and making meaningful and long-lasting friendships was going to be the better reward.
Meeting Gary Vitti has been such an experience. Gary was introduced to MEET ITALY by a common friend and the journey began with a lunch in sunny Manhattan Beach over a year ago.
Gary was the Head Athletic Trainer of the LA Lakers for 32 years, from 1984 to 2016. This unique professional background makes conversations with Gary a never-ending journey into the land of life inspiration.
Sports and their inspirational connotations are a powerful cocktail for insightful discussions on what past experiences can teach us about ourselves and how they can guide us into the future. Gary has the innate gift of making you feel good and yet motivate you to be even better. It is not just the locker room stories and the pathos of recounting great battles fought in the courts of the NBA, nor the uncovering of the human aspect of athletes we might have revered in our younger days. It is really because of Gary. His genuine approach to life is the secret ingredient of his success and his likeability.
Since his retirement, Gary worked on putting on paper his Lakers stories and his teachings about achieving a healthy and fulfilling life. These writings are now a reality. Gary recently published his manuscript “32 Years of Trophies and Tears from the Best Seat in the House: What I Learned About Happiness, Greatness, Leadership and the Evolution of Sports Science.”
He gave me a copy recently which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I can’t wait to eventually pass it on to my daughter who is growing up to be a great athlete.
Gary Vitti Bio
Gary Vitti has worked in the health care field for 40 years with 32 of them as the Head Athletic Trainer for the storied Los Angeles Lakers. During his tenure, the team won 14 Division Titles, 12 Conference Titles and 8 NBA Championships. Vitti also represented the Western Conference at 4 All-Star games. He has worked side by side with basketball hall of fame greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal , Jamaal Wilkes, Bob McAdoo, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Mitch Richmond, Dennis Rodman, Bill Sharman, Jerry West, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. From 1984 to 1992 Vitti was also the Head Athletic Trainer for the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis. His teams and exhibition matches included but were not limited to tennis greats Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Martina Navratilova, Billy Jean King, and Chrissy Everett.
In addition to his work experience, Vitti lectures internationally. Since his retirement, he has given the 2019 commencement address to the University of Southern California’s Department of Bio-Kinesiology and Physical Therapy along with keynotes including but not limited to the US Military Academy at West Point, The University of Utah College of Health, The Equinox National Forum, Explor Conference, Imaging Network Group Forum and H-Wave’s national sales meeting. He has also spoken at conferences in Singapore, Shanghai, Orlando, and Sacramento.
He serves on the board of advisors for the International Sports Academy of Singapore. He has launched an online certification course, written a syndicated column for the LA Times, created an exercise video, published articles in peer-reviewed journals and appeared in two Hollywood movies. He has also been featured in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, ESPN Magazine, ESPN.Com, Fox News Sports, The Doctor’s Show, Hoop Magazine, NBATV, NBA Inside Stuff, CCTV China, Tencent China, and Time Warner Cable Network as well as several other international publications.
Along with his professional life, Vitti is known for his philanthropic work. He created the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association Foundation which during his tenure as chairman was involved with organ and tissue donation, the Miami Project for paralysis and the National Kidney Foundation as well as providing countless scholarships for young athletic training students. Vitti created the National Athletic Trainers Association Annual Blood Drive (now named in his honor) which set records for convention blood drives for the American Red Cross. He also served on the board of a Window Between Worlds, an organization that uses art as a healing tool for survivors of domestic violence. He currently is on the advisory board of Teamheal and the West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation: organizations that provide health care and education, as well as scholarships in underserved communities and he, is also a strong supporter of the Red Cross, Salvation Army, St. Jude’s Hospital and The Boys and Girls Club.
Vitti’s work has been recognized and awarded by the 26th US Senate District, the 35th US Congressional District, the City of Los Angeles, the California Legislature, US Naval Medi-cal Center of San Diego, his alma mater Southern Connecticut State University, Philippine Sports Commission, NBATA, Loyola Athletics, Teamheal, The West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation, STR Basket Italia, the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and most recently became the national honoree for the Stam-ford Old Timers Athletic Association.
Vitti has two daughters Rachel and Emilia, a grandson Cole and lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Martha.