Here's the article Kelly Dwyer wrote on Commentators in the NBA:
Behind the Boxscore
By NBAtalk Columnist Kelly Dwyer
BtB: because without announcers, we'd have no idea how to pronounce 'schnide,' much less be able to get off it...
Remember last week's look at the studio crews?
Pass the Mic
Watching a game on TV is one thing, but actually seeing the games live is something else, an altogether different thing. A bad thing. Who needs it? Bad entertainment during timeouts, migraine-inducing canned audio during actual possessions, and nary a score ticker to be found. Nary!
It’s a real pain, watching these games live, even if the ticket prices were somewhat affordable. Give me a comfortable couch, a brat and a beer, and the soothing tones of Marv Albert or Dick Stockton; and I’m happy as a recluse in a fallout shelter.
But you still have to find something to keep your attention, something to entertain you, when all these games begin to blend together and the bratwurst starts doing unspeakable things to your stomach lining. You have to stay entertained, amused, and ready to mock. There has to be a sideshow, filled with self-absorbed cliché-mongers and washed-up old jocks (to say nothing of ex-ballplayers).
When the span is at nil, and the Lakers are up by 25, I turn to the broadcasters…
Marv Albert – Marv is still the best in the business, undaunted by personal semi-scandals and a legion of second generation Albert clones. At his best, he is dry, sharp with the facetious-witticisms, and aware of place in the broadcast. Still, he always manages to keep the game above him, instead of below, as some of his post-Baby Boomer brethren (the Reilly’s, the Costas’) have gotten so good at.
The best part about Marv is the legitimacy he adds, for my generation especially, to every game he works. Just like the Goodyear Blimp: for the millions weaned on the NBA on NBC, when Albert is lending his touch, you know it’s gonna be a game.
And Marv’s MSG broadcasts are always an inspiring reminder of the bright lights and big city life that is still able to be pulled off with class and touch. Paired with that paragon of timeless cool, Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, Marv is able to jive and riff without having to strain too hard.
It seems effortless, the delivery, and we’ve heard that this ‘seeming’ isn’t too far from the truth: supposedly, after doing so many games for so many years, Albert’s pre-game routine is a study in what we call 'the bare-bones approach.' Call it the Chuck Berry solution, Marv makes sure his microphone is working, checks the paper for which teams are playing, and goes to work. He’s that good.
Ok, maybe the rumors about his pre-game schedule are a little exaggerated, but that’s the Babe Ruth factor. Marv Albert is the best play by play man in the biz, even beyond basketball, and his return to Finals work this year will be welcomed with open arms.
Mike Fratello – In this era of ultra-fast information websites and 14-year olds than know more about a 2-2-1 zone than Bob Huggins does, Fratello’s X’s and O’s approach has lost some of its edge. He’s still way up there, for viewers who like their commentary chock full of knowledge and brevity in opposition to bluster and catchphrase. It remains to be seen whether Fratello will return with Albert to doing the game of the week, or if Marv will retain Doug Collins. As far as the ex-coaches go, Fratello is still #2 to Hubie Brown in my book.
Bill Walton – Much-maligned, miserably mocked, and brutally battered; Walton remains unseasonably undeterred and unnerved. I don’t mind saying it: I love the guy, and I love listening to the games he commentates on.
The man is way-off on at least 75% of his proclamations, he inadvertently makes each broadcast his own after two quarters, and his ramblings on the state of the game are usually unspeakably predictable and horrifically blunt.
That said, the man is brilliant. Just like anyone else who goes out of their way to make an impact, you’re going to mix some love and hate and you don’t know where the next feeling is usually coming from. At the heart of his commentary instincts lie the soul of a man who knows what he’s talking about and the heart of a child who loves the game. For better or worse, when all the bluster is boiled down, Walton is spot on with the bottom line.
Each time he throws off something like 'Shaq needs to demand 35 shots tonight, and pull in 25 rebounds,' as bad as that is, Walton is telling the truth. Maybe not 35 and 25, but for the Lakers to win that game, that has to be the mentality that Shaq needs to own. Walton understands this, and he’ll get your attention with phrases like 'demand 35 shots tonight, and pull in 25 rebounds,' instead of 'for the Lakers to win that game, that has to be the mentality that Shaq needs to own.'
This is what makes him great, I’m like you in not agreeing with half of what he says (a conservative estimate), but the game needs his opinion.
Matt Guokas – The thing that keeps popping up in games Guokas does is the sense and feeling that somehow Matty has been wronged, that he deserves better than doing color commentary. He took a lot of heat for slamming Bison Dele, his former player who was then Brian Williams, in a few national telecasts back in 1997. He continues to go out of his way to question less-than-questionable coaching decisions made during games, the game needs commentators to do this, but Guokas is so far off with his observations that they seem agenda-driven.
Bob Costas – Let’s keep this simple. Bob’s a great guy, good for sports, and he’s very talented at a number of things. He knows sports, he understands history and what he means to the present, and he has a way with the Willie Mays analogies. Calling basketball games, these days at least, are not his greatest talent (compared with others who could have had that top NBC job) in my opinion. Thanks for keeping Marv’s seat warm.
He does deserve credit for trying to introduce the phrase 'blow job' in sports lexicon, in reference to a blown St. Louis Spirits loss back in the 1970s.
Doug Collins – He’s grown on me, just with the little things he brings up that nobody else sees. Collins is invaluable in separating what the chaff from the wheat: Shaquille’s alley-oop flush was great, but that driving 16-foot bank shot (going to his left) from Tim Duncan was amazing. The little things, like guys who get up there with two hands, the difference between an ankle twinge and an ankle sprain, and Doug’s supreme scouting capabilities; I really like listening to him break games down.
Kevin Harlan – Fun, solid, but the excitement of listening to him call a game has gone down exponentially in the last few years. At least since Tom Gugliotta signed with the Suns.
Calvin Murphy and Bill Worrell – Houston’s duo, Murph is unendingly amusing and Worrell is just along for the ride. They don’t hold back, there are some weird silences, and you gotta love that.
Dick Stockton – A great broadcaster, he's very knowledgeable, but in the words of Andy Dolan, 'how sad is it that his wife Lesley Visser is now so homely that people are asking him why they're married?'
Hubie Brown – My favorite commentator, because I’m usually not looking for entertainment, I'm after the knowledge. In a world with hundreds know-alls, Hubie breaks it down like no one else: 'now, if you’re Allan Houston, you’re saying to yourself, ‘hey…’'
Hubie’s smarts know no bounds, and game in and game out he’ll take the time to breakdown each detail bit by bit. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t work well with coaching players anymore, especially during practice (they’ll stiffen up), but it’s perfect for TV. For good TV, not MTV. He’s a master at breaking down game tape for the viewers, and he’s been around the game long enough to be able to link the past with the present.
Also, Dave D’Alessandro supposedly does a great Hubie impression, but I’ve never been around to verify it.
Jim Durham – The best local man in the biz, bar none. If it wasn’t for Marv, Durham would be the tops.
Tom Dore and Johnny 'Red' Kerr – Easily the tallest duo around, these guys have been doing local Bulls games since Durham left town. Dore is unassuming, he gets excited when he should, and he knows each Bull inside-out. Very solid, entertaining, and I dig him.
Red Kerr is a treasure, he’s fun to listen to and easy to learn from. Dore and Kerr also get extra points for trying to jinx the opposing free throw shooter at every given opportunity.
Chick Hearn and Hot Rod Hundley – These guys have to have nearly 70 years of broadcasting experience behind them, and I feel a little suspect for not devoting what should be an entire article to them. I can tell you this: listening to radio men do TV games is great, it always feels like there is more ball movement than what is actually going on with these two behind the microphone, and they’ve been around for so long that nobody is going to tell them what to do. And there’s nothing better than old men with a lot on their mind.
Jim Petersen – The T-Wolves commentator (and ex-Rockets and Warrior center) always keeps his partners on edge, and you gotta love it when he makes the producer nervous with his 'Deliverance' quotations. Extra points for being in half of NBA.com TV’s programming.
Bill Raftery – He has the volumic range of Anita Baker, and he comes off as the nicest guy in the business. The legendary Seton Hall coach has been doing Nets games for almost 20 years, and he still brings a new outlook to each and every game he does. For all his knowledge, for all the things he’s seen, he’s still as excited and amazed as the 12-year olds in the stands are with some of the new things that pop up. Along with the vocal stylings of Chick and Hot Rod, getting to hear more of Raftery a couple times a week is one of the unexpected thrills of getting the NBA’s League Pass.
Dallas’ duo -- …since Jim Durham left, are easily the most painful to listen to in the biz. They mix a potent combination of cliché-driven throwdowns (who still says cha-ching?), and overripe point pushing (yes, we know offensive rebounds are important).
Tom Heinsohn – Just like Pitino, I can’t see this guy getting past January. The Celtic legend was part of that famous 1956 Draft (K.C. Jones and Bill Russell), was a Hall of Fame player, and a title winning Celtic coach in the 1970s. He was CBS’ main color commentator back in the 1980s, and is still calling the Celts. Calling them, calling them out, whatever.
For a team that does a lot wrong, and has a Coach that tells the press they do everything right, Heinsohn’s blunt touch is a welcome addition to the Boston experience. From begging the players to contest right-handed jumpers with the left hand, or imploring them to at least attempt to run the floor, Heinsohn brings the voice of the tortured Celtic fan to the airwaves.
Francis out top, 9 seconds on the clock, he gives a no look pass to Cuttino Mobley, 4 seconds left, Mobley passes to an open Langhi in the corner with 1 second left! Langhi at the buzzer.......YES!!! How Sweet It Is!!