Power Ranking the Best Commentator Combinations in the NBA
The NBA, along with the rest of the sports world, has to put a face (or really, a voice) out front in order to communicate between the game and the fans at home. Sure, we could watch games without play-by-play men and color commentators, but in most cases it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable.
On television, the role of the play-by-play man drastically changes, as there's no need to give an exact retelling of what's happening, but rather to be an intermediary between the action on the floor, the rest of the broadcast crew and the viewer.
Meanwhile, the color man is there for the same reason every time—and no, it's not to throw out biased ideas about why his team is going to make the playoffs. They are there to give deeper insight into what has just happened on the floor.
It's an interesting relationship that's difficult to balance at times, but when it works, it works miraculously.
So which combinations of talkers are the best in the NBA, and which ones could we not imagine living without?
12. Tom Hanneman and Jim Petersen
There's something about the Minnesota Timberwolves' broadcast team that seems to endear itself to me.
It could be the fact that play-by-play man Tom Hanneman has been with the team to some extent for 21 years, most of the time calling out the play.
Legitimate experience like that breeds both knowledge and trust.
And then there's Jim Peterson, the typical local color commentator who gets too excited too soon and broods when things start to go wrong.
Don't get me wrong—he's no Tommy Heinsohn. He doesn't look at any old player and start comparing them to Kevin Garnett.
In all, this is a solid broadcast team that has been with the Timberwolves through their struggles, which makes them all the better when the team is playing well.
11. Ian Eagle and Mark Fratello
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For some reason, the New Jersey Nets have really got their things together when it comes to broadcast partners.
For years, they had Marv Albert as their lead play-by-play man, who is so good that even going to Ian Eagle seems like a downgrade.
Still, Eagle has a smooth voice and a good delivery, even if he can be a bit of a baby at times.
However, what really makes this team a behemoth when it comes to local announcers is the inclusion of Mike Fratello.
The Czar is one of the greatest color commentators out there, and to have him as a local color man is a treat.
10. Marc Zumoff and Malik Rose
I didn't know about Malik Rose as a color commentator until just a few weeks ago.
However, I found a nice stream from Philadelphia of a Sixers-Knicks game and was blown away.
Marc Zumoff is a fine play-by-play man, but there are times when he can just step aside and let Rose go on for minutes at a time, as everything that he has to say is insightful, humorous or enthralling.
If I could make a case for one local broadcast man to hop up to the national level with ESPN or TNT, Malik Rose would be the guy I'd argue for. That has to be good for something.
9. Chris Webber and Anyone
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Recently, Chris Webber has come out of the television set and filled houses with not only his enjoyable voice, but also with his insight, smooth talking ability and great charm.
Webber has been used mostly as an emergency color commentator, but he's gotten the chance to do a little play-by-play this year, and when I've been able to catch it, he's really knocked it out of the park.
You can tell that as a former basketball player himself, he isn't treating this like his job after basketball, but rather his career after basketball.
8. Dan Shulman and Chris Mullin
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I've always been a fan of Dan Shulman.
He's got that deep, rumbling voice, and along with his great conversation within the flow of the game, he's a pretty clever individual.
Shulman really has a great voice for any sport, but he has a rapid output of words that can be useful for basketball, especially when he's teamed up with Chris Mullin, something that has happened more frequently when there are multiple games on a single day.
At first, I looked at Mullin coming into the broadcast game and thought he would be too slow to catch on, but his methodical analysis of the game is really intriguing.
Beyond that, he's got a smart basketball mind, which always helps.
7. Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller
Some people like to get on Reggie Miller for his rather nasal, annoying voice, but when it all comes down to it, Reg has been a pretty insightful dude over the years for TNT.
With the commentating round-robin that is TNT's broadcast plan, Reggie will end up teamed with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr quite a bit, but I feel like he's best off with Kevin Harlan, someone he doesn't get paired up with nearly as much as he used to.
Harlan, with that deep and gravelly voice, isn't the center of the show like Marv Albert tends to be, allowing for an open ebb and flow of dominance by the color and play-by-play men equally.
6. Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy
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Jeff Van Gundy is another guy that gets a bunch of flak from some of the more traditional basketball fans out there, and it's completely legitimate flak, as Van Gundy is possibly one of the most annoying people on the planet, almost through no fault of his own.
He has a voice that could curdle milk, but whenever he speaks up, the other guys quiet down, whether it be for his eighth rant of the game about offensive foul calls or just to make some smart-ass quip about this or that. He's there for the entertainment factor.
Pair that with Mike Breen's solid ability to call a game and keep Van Gundy from taking over, and you've got yourself a nice little duo.
5. Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong
One of the hidden secrets of Toronto, the broadcast team of Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong (although at times it will be Leo Rautins) always seems to be having a great time.
Matt Devlin is the perfect balance for a local play-by-play man, as he's always hopeful for the team he's commentating on, but he's not so biased that it begins to distract from the game, putting himself at the center of attention.
Meanwhile, Jack Armstrong, a former coach at Niagara University, is an extremely smart guy who only chimes in when he has something important to say.
4. Bill MacDonald and Stu Lantz
The Los Angeles Lakers' duo nearly gets the crown for the best local broadcast crew in the NBA, but that one is reserved for a few special fellows.
Still, the Bill MacDonald-Stu Lantz combination has been a solid foundation of the team for years, and it seems like they'll be sticking around for a while.
I like, first off, that they aren't big, national names like New Jersey with Ian Eagle and Mike Fratello, but they are every bit as good as the nationally known guys.
Beyond that, these two just play off each other so well that it's nearly impossible not to get sucked into their broadcasts, which is really saying something.
3. Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown
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Whenever I flip on my television and hear Mike Tirico's voice, I always assume that there's some kind of football that is happening, about to happen or is just ending, but I'm always pleasantly surprised when I hear him do a basketball game.
Tirico has a voice that is ridiculously easy to listen to, and with his experience all over the place, he's able to adapt easily to basketball, which he has done.
Meanwhile, teaming him up with Hubie Brown is just unfair to all of the other play-by-play men. Hubie is one of my three favorite color men over the past decade, and everything he says seems to have some sort of weight.
2. Mike Breen and Walt Frazier
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That's right folks.
How can you go wrong with the New York Knicks' combination of Mike Breen and Walt Frazier?
These two take home the title as the best local broadcast team, and really, who else would have taken it?
Mike Breen has already been on this list once, alongside Jeff Van Gundy, so you have to imagine that when he's paired up with a guy who most would consider charming and vivacious that he'd rocket up the standings.
Walt Frazier, meanwhile, is probably one of the top 10 homers when it comes to color commentators, but his flair is more than enough to overlook the homerism.
With Breen and Frazier, you get the sizzle and the substance.
1. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr
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At this point, when it comes to national broadcast partners, you have Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, and then you have everybody else.
Sure, you can throw Reggie Miller in there, but in reality it's Marv and Steve, as Reggie is just along for the ride.
Marv Albert's credentials need not be reviewed, as he's one of the greatest broadcasters of all-time, even if he does start to get tired at times with his regurgitated catch-phrases.
Meanwhile, if you add a guy as insightful, endearing and just captivating in general as Steve Kerr then you're creating a behemoth of a broadcast team.
It's going to take a lot to take down a combo like this, but if I see Chris Webber doing play-by-play with Malik Rose one day, I may be able to see a duo with a shot.
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