Top 10 Announcer Sound Bites in NBA History

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 1, 2012

Top 10 Announcer Sound Bites in NBA History

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    The beauty of basketball has a chance to enter our minds through a couple of different senses. For the most part, none is more powerful than sight. But sometimes, as is the case for these 10 moments, audio takes over and announcers make something all the more memorable. 

    NBA history is filled with great plays, upsets, disappointments and things that we fans will never forget. 

    Thanks to these announcers, the moments have become even more ingrained in our consciousness. 

    Read on to discover the top 10 sound bites in NBA history. 

10. "West Threw It Up and Makes It!"

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    In the third game of the 1970 NBA Finals, Jerry West took the inbounds pass and threw up the very definition of a prayer: a 60-footer from past midcourt that had a one in a million chance of finding the intended target. 

    Somehow, though, the shot dropped through the net for two points and the Los Angeles Lakers tied up the game, sending it to an overtime they would eventually lose. 

    The honor of the famed "West threw it up and makes it" call, just seconds after Mr. Clutch earned his nickname, went to New York Knicks announcer Bob Rolff. Despite his affiliation to the other team, Rolff only lets the excitement of the moment affect his voice. No other emotions conflict with that overpowering one. 

    Now the call itself isn't one of the 10 greatest of all time. It lacks the scream, the witty turn of phrase and the other elements that make some calls special. But just like many others on this list, the combination of the call and the moment it will always be linked to make it unforgettable. 

9. Anything Bill Walton Ever Said

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    I seriously think that I could listen to Bill Walton calls all day long. 

    The man just has a way with words, and he's not afraid to say whatever he's thinking. Maybe he's still got special powers left over from his crazy days in the 1960s. Maybe he's just a genius. 

    I have no idea, but I love it. 

    If there's any video you need to watch in this slideshow, it's this one. 

8. "A Spectacular Move by Michael Jordan"

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    Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Jordan drove into the lane, saw an oncoming defender and switched the ball from his right to his left hand before laying it in for two points. 

    Was it necessary? Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know. 

    But it was a magical moment that showed the greatest basketball player of all time's creative genius. Personally, I like to believe that it wasn't a necessary adjustment and MJ was simply showing off because he could. 

    The moment was made all the better by Marv Albert's call. The slight pause between the first two syllables of "spectacular" gave so much emphasis to the word that you couldn't help but revel in the greatness of the call and the play. 

7. "Now There Is a Steal by Bird"

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    The first of Johnny Most's two entries in these rankings (I'm not really spoiling anything when I say that because we all know that the legendary Boston Celtics announcer made one call even more famous than this one), this call summed up the events of the final seconds of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals perfectly. 

    As Most's gravelly voice hit a crescendo, Larry Bird stole Isiah Thomas' inbounds pass and hit a cutting Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup. 

    The announcer simply yelled, "Now there is a steal by Bird."

    Sometimes, simplicity is the best way to get the point across—especially when Most is the one doing the talking. 

6. "Gar Heard Turnaround Shot in the Air...."

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    In the realm of great shots in NBA history, it's amazing how little attention Gar Heard's epic buzzer-beater in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals gets. 

    The series was tied at two games apiece and the up-and-coming Phoenix Suns were attempting to play David to the Boston Celtics' Goliath. When John Havlicek hit a running 15-footer to take a one-point lead with one second left in the second overtime period, it seemed as though that dream was coming to an end.

    Boston's fans assumed the game was over and rushed the court, celebrating what seemed like an epic victory. After the referees put a second back on the clock and cleared the court, play resumed.    

    Then Paul Westphal intentionally called a timeout he didn't have and Jo Jo White knocked down the ensuing technical free throw to take a two-point lead, but the Suns got the ball at midcourt as a result. That pass came in to Gar Heard and he sunk a rushed turnaround jumper at the buzzer that dropped in to force a third overtime. 

    Boston would go on to win in the third overtime and they'd eventually win the series, but Heard's shot stands out as the most memorable moment of one of the best games in NBA history. 

    And that, no doubt, was at least partially due to Rick Barry's great call of the moment. 

5. "How Magnificent Is It?"

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    Who better than Bob Costas to punctuate an incredible moment in basketball history and ask the question which occurs at 3:20 in the embedded video: "If that's the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?" 

    LIttle did he know that the longtime Chicago Bull would come out of retirement and join the Washington Wizards, but that's not really relevant to the sincerity of this moment. 

    Jordan had just completed the greatest career of all time and finished it off with a tremendous game-winner against the Utah Jazz to win his sixth title. 

    Costas, never one to get caught up in a moment that didn't deserve it, couldn't help but think about the significance of what had just happened. 

4. "My Name Is Al Harrington, and I Get Buckets"

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    This is sort of a legacy inclusion, as Gus Johnson is just too awesome to be left off this list. 

    My personal favorite call of Johnson's was what became his Al Harrington trademark. After the power forward knocked down a three-pointer against the Portland Trail Blazers, Johnson lied to his listeners by yelling out, "My name is Al Harrington, and I get buckets!"

    Johnson's name wasn't Al Harrington, but did anyone really give a damn? The man oozes coolness when he yells about basketball games, and this was just one more example. 

    Anytime you have your own soundboard, you know you've arrived. It's no coincidence that the soundboard I just linked you to is named "Gus Johnson Gets Buckets."

3. "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead"

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    The Indiana Pacers had lost to the New York Knicks in the playoffs over and over again during the 1990s. But that all changed in 1995 during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, as the Pacers won an emotional series against their rivals.

    Reggie Miller crumpling down onto his knees, overcome with emotion, is the enduring image in my mind, but nothing can trump the audio portion of the moment.

    Mark Boyle made one of the most brilliant calls in basketball history by using the absolutely perfect metaphor. Eluding to the classic tale The Wizard of Oz, the longtime voice of the Pacers almost lost control after Patrick Ewing missed a last-second layup attempt and the Knicks finally fell. 

    His inflection is perfectly normal as he says, "Ewing surrounded, two seconds to shoot, he drives, he shoots." 

    Then, Boyle's voice explodes into a shout as he exclaims, "HE MISSED! HE MISSED! HE MISSED! RING THE BELL BABY! DING DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD!" 

    How do you not love it? 

2. "Slaaaaaaam Dunk"

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    Arguably the greatest announcer in the history of the NBA, Chick Hearn made enough memorable calls that he could fill up a list like this and still have some to spare. I had to institute a one-slide max for Hearn to avoid having too many of his calls populating this article. 

    "Slaaaaam Dunk" is the title of this slide because it's the most popular of the many phrases he's coined. But if you've ever used any of the following phrases, you've been quoting Hearn: air ball, charity stripe, it'll count if it goes, didn't draw iron, finger roll, garbage time, give and go, no-look pass, picked his pocket, brick, ticky-tack foul, and many others.

    It's quite possible that over half of the articles I've written have unintentionally contained Chick-isms.

    Seeing as it's impossible to choose just one memorable call by Hearn, click play on the embedded video, sit back and enjoy the ear candy. 

1. "Havlicek Stole the Ball"

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    What else could have taken the No. 1 spot? 

    Along with Russ Hodge's "The Giants win the pennant!", Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles," Howard Cosell's "Down goes Frazier" and the other great calls in sports history, this exclamation by Johnny Most on the Boston Celtics radio feed will live on forever. 

    In Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics held a slim 110-109 lead over Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers in the final seconds of the game. Boston was already preparing to shoot free throws when Bill Russell's inbounds pass hit the wires coming down from the ceiling of the Boston Garden and the ball, and possibly the game, belonged to the visiting team. 

    Hal Greer prepared to inbound the ball to Wilt, but seeing that he was shut down, he jumped in the air and attempted to throw the rock to Chet Walker. John Havlicek saw where the pass was going, jumped the lane and then...

    "Greer is putting the ball into play. He gets it out deep. Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!"

    I have watched this clip a thousand times and I have yet to avoid getting goosebumps when Most's voice rises an octave and what seems like a hundred decibels before screaming "Havlicek steals it."