The 25 Greatest NBA Announcers of All Time

Dan Levy@danlevythinksNational Lead WriterNovember 7, 2013

The 25 Greatest NBA Announcers of All Time

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    The NBA has long been a star-driven league, from the days of Wilt and Russell, to the era of Larry, Magic and Michael, to more modern times of Shaq, Kobe, AI and the current generation of King James’ reign.

    Perhaps in the NBA more than any other major American sport, the announcers have been as much a part of the game as the players. Is it possible that Charles Barkley is more important to the game of basketball as a studio analyst than he was as a Hall of Fame player? Where would Chick Hearn rank in terms of important members of the Los Angeles Lakers organization?

    What kid didn't grow up shooting hoops in the driveway and mimicking Marv Albert’s “Yesss...and it counts” every time the imaginary clock in his head wound down to one second to go with the game on the line?

    Who among us doesn't dunk a crumpled piece of paper into the recycling with "no regard for human life"?

    We love the game for the action on the court, the drama of a tight contest late in the fourth quarter and the excitement of a budding superstar having a career night on the brightest stage. The biggest moments, many of which come accompanied with the call from some of the industry’s best announcers, are etched in our minds forever.

    So who are those announcers? Like most professional sports, the NBA has had the fortune of being associated with some of the industry’s best play-by-play voices. The NBA has a strong tradition of color analysts as well, some of whom became more known for their work calling the game than playing it.

    This list is confined (almost) to play-by-play announcers and color analysts. It's part of a series of announcers rankings from Bleacher Report. Previously featured: NFL announcers, MLB announcers, and college football announcers.

    This is a look at some of the most memorable announcers in the NBA, with a strong focus on national television broadcasters, many of whom are still working today. As with any of our rankings, this is a purely subjective exercise, and if your favorite announcer or local legend didn't make the list, it doesn't mean he wasn't great. It probably just means that the list of industry experts I asked for help didn't mention him. Or they did, and I picked someone else instead. Sorry in advance, Joe Tait fans.

    To the list!

Honorable Mention

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    As with most of these historical lists, there were more than 25 names I wanted to include. This is a brief acknowledgement of some of the names that deserve recognition in some way and that I couldn't fit in the final 25. They are presented alphabetically.

     

    David Aldridge and Craig Sager

    This is the first of many times B/R's partners at Turner will be mentioned. This is also the first time, in any ranking we've done for any sport, that a sideline reporter is mentioned, but with both D.A. and Sager, we felt it was important to recognize the role in a telecast and how it can be done right.

    The nature of basketball—smaller playing surface, ability to listen to the huddle and hear chatter on the court and access to players and coaches usually willing to talk (Pop) during and after the game—makes the basketball sideline reporter a useful role, not just window dressing. Aldridge and Sager do the job very differently, but each is great in his own way.

     

    Gary Bender

    Bender began his broadcasting career in the 1960s working football, baseball and basketball, including the first NCAA tournament on CBS and the 1981 NBA Finals with Rick Barry and Bill Russell. Bender was the play-by-play announcer for the Phoenix Suns for nearly 20 years.

     

    Quinn Buckner

    Buckner was a solid NBA player in his career and has proven to be just as solid as a broadcaster. He had a few stints nationally with both NBC and ESPN, and he currently works as the vice president of communications and as an in-game announcer for the Indiana Pacers.

     

    Doris Burke

    Burke’s star is rising, and some might suggest she deserves to be in the Top 25 ranking. She is fantastic, an absolute trailblazer for women in broadcasting and one of the nicest people I've had the chance to meet—many moons ago when she was doing high-level women’s college basketball games for ESPN.

    I felt putting her in an all-time list would be making a statement I didn't want to make, and frankly, over the last few years, her cadence and pacing have become a bit sensationalized when calling games.

    Burke is a great studio analyst and a solid interviewer, but she allows the emotion of the game—certainly in her college basketball assignments—to gin up the excitement, almost in an effort to sound more like Dick Vitale or Bill Raftery than herself. When she is true to herself and her style, she’s downright fantastic.

     

    Billy Cunningham

    Cunningham was a longtime player and coach for the Sixers. Upon leaving the coaching ranks, he took to broadcasting local and national games. From a 1987 Philadelphia Inquirer story about Cunningham taking over for Tommy Heinsohn as the lead national analyst at CBS:

    Why was Heinsohn, a former player and successful Celtics coach, dropped into a less important spot? "I don't know," Cunningham said. "During the summer, I got a phone call to meet with CBS. During the luncheon, they came out and said, 'We want you to be the No. 1 analyst.' They didn't say, 'Tommy did this, and we don't want you to do that.'"

    "It was difficult for me, having a lot of respect for Tommy as a man and a basketball person. I called him and let him know, 'I didn't pursue your job.'"

    Cunningham eventually left broadcasting to take a minority ownership role in the Miami Heat, a position that did not last very long.

     

    Dick Enberg

    Enberg finds himself on every one of these lists, and while he is more well known for other sports—football, tennis and even baseball—he was a mainstay for NBC’s NBA coverage for the entire decade of the 1990s.

     

    Matt Guokas

    Guokas has been in the NBA for more than 40 years, first as a player, then as the head coach of the Sixers and Magic. After leaving Orlando, he served as a color commentator for the NBA on NBC. He also worked local games for the Cleveland Cavaliers and, until this season, Orlando. From Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie:

    [T]o those of us that make our living diving into the NBA League Pass package from October until April, desperately trying to keep up with each of the league’s 30 teams, Guokas has been a welcome voice throughout the legions of both blithely unaware and doggedly partisan local NBA color analysts. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the great majority of local color guys, as that majority are usually quite good.

    Guokas was great, though. The best, perhaps.

     

    Kevin Loughery

    Loughery had the chance in his NBA coaching career to mentor Dr. J and Michael Jordan. He used that experience in the booth, calling local and national games, most notably in the 1980s for CBS.

     

    Dick Stockton

    Stockton surely has a case for being in the Top 25. He called the NBA Finals on CBS from 1982 through 1990 and was the network’s lead NBA announcer for most of the 1980s. Stockton gets a bit of a bad rap at this point in his career. He is nearing his 71st birthday, still calling games for Fox Sports and Turner.

    While the last few years have certainly not been his best, there was a point in his career when Stockton was as good as anyone in the game.

     

    Chris Webber

    Webber has become a rising star in the broadcasting world in his short time since retiring as a player. A standout in the studio for NBA TV and Turner, Webber has shown he is a fantastic in-game analyst as well. I’ll admit, as a Sixers fan, Webber’s time with the team—and departure from the city—probably has skewed my opinion of him. He may be even better than I admit.

25. Charles Barkley

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    OK, look...I promised this list was going to be just in-game announcers, analysts and reporters and would specifically NOT include studio personalities, but it’s impossible to have a list of great basketball voices and not include Charles Barkley.

    Simply put, he’s the best. He’s the best today, he’ll be the best tomorrow, and when we look back at the history of American sports on television, he will be the best then, too. And to be fair, it’s not as if Barkley has never called games before. There have been a few games when Barkley has stepped out of friendly confines of the studio to call a game in the arena. He’s great at that, too, albeit from a more conversational standpoint.

    What makes Barkley the best? He just doesn’t seem to care if anyone is offended by his opinions. He is unabashedly honest, candid and self-deprecating. And he had the playing career to back it up. His opinion matters, and he knows that. Barkley understands his place in the game and is still as approachable as can be.

24. Local TV and Radio Homers

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    There are a handful of specific local announcers on this list, including some of the next few entries, but this choice is a quick fill-in-the-blank for your favorite local voice.

    This is where Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing can take credit for suggesting Joe Tait of Cleveland or Ralph Lawler of the Clippers. This is where Trey Kerby of The Starters can remind readers that Bill Wennington (Chicago) should be on the list because he is funny.

    For me, it’s Tom McGinnis.

    For years, McGinnis called Sixers games completely on his own, and he tells an amazing story on radio. He is exuberant without going too far over the top and can make a boring game in a lost season seem interesting to the listener. It’s a shame the Sixers have wasted much of his career by being so terrible. It’s hard to imagine as many sports fans in Philly are listening to McGinnis’ call as they should be. Maybe next year.

23. Jim Durham

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    Jim Durham called games for the Bulls from 1973 through 1991 until a contract dispute forced him out of Chicago. Durham hooked on with ESPN and ESPN Radio, calling national games for the Worldwide Leader.

    Durham had one of those voices you knew but couldn’t always put a name to. In a way, that’s the mark of a good play-by-play announcer, especially on radio, where the game of basketball is so fast-paced, it’s often difficult to keep control of the action. Durham always seemed in control, calling some of the biggest events in the game during his career.

    Durham passed away in November 2012. From a remembrance on ESPN.com:

    Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Every transcendent superstar needs a narrator. For Michael Jordan, there wasn't a better storyteller than Jim Durham. Jordan's theatrics didn't require wild exuberance from a play-by-play man. We didn't have to be sold on his Airness' talent. All we needed was an occasional reminder that what we were seeing and hearing was actually real. For that reason, Durham's gravitas was a perfect voice of record for Jordan's career. He was believable, trustworthy, linear in his descriptions and, above all, it was never about him.

22. Hot Rod Hundley

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    Rod Hundley was the first overall pick in the 1957 NBA draft, taken by the Cincinnati Royals. He was a two-time All-Star playing for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers before breaking into broadcasting.

    Hundley worked for the Phoenix Suns and Lakers before getting the national nod with CBS. In 1974, he became the first voice of the expansion New Orleans Jazz and went with the team five years later when the franchise moved to Salt Lake City. He continued to do both TV and radio until 2006, when he was replaced on television, continuing to just call the games on radio.

    Hundley retired after the 2008-09 season. In 2003, he was honored with the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

21. Johnny Most, Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn

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    Some Celtics fans may be upset that Most is in the same graph with Gorman and Heinsohn instead of given his own spot in the ranking, but there’s only so much Celtic Pride to go around in these parts.

    And talk about your homers—the Boston Celtics' crew is perhaps the most unapologetically biased crew in all of basketball, and that’s why for more than 30 years the voices of Gorman and Heinsohn have been so synonymous with Celtics basketball.

    Heinsohn was the lead analyst on CBS for much of the 1980s until his homerism and penchant for repetition soured the higher-ups, forcing a move to replace him with Billy Cunningham and eventually Hubie Brown.

    As for Most, his voice is on the call of some of the most legendary plays in Celtics history, including the one illustrating this slide—one of the most famous calls in NBA history—and this one, which is nearly as famous.

    Most’s raspy tone is a welcome reminder of some of the greats of yesteryear.

20. Doc Rivers

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    In the grand scheme of NBA history, the announcing career of Doc Rivers is minuscule, but boy, is it good. Rivers was so good in the booth that a lot of NBA people hoped he would quit coaching when the falling-out with the Celtics seemed imminent to go back to the booth to work for ESPN or TNT.

    Rivers has the knowledge of the game, ability to break down action in understandable bytes and a rapport with the players that enables him to be a fantastic in-game analyst. It’s a shame he seems to also be such an excellent coach.

    (Note: Nobody tell Bill Simmons I ranked Rivers ahead of all his Celtics announcers. It might kill one of us.)

19. Mike Tirico

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    Have you ever heard the term "a jack of all trades, a master of none"? Well, Tirico has proven he’s a jack of all trades and a master of ALL OF THEM.

    Tirico is ESPN’s lead NFL play-by-play announcer, second in line on the network’s NBA coverage and the lead announcer for PGA golf. Tirico also calls college basketball games for the Worldwide Leader...and he’s excellent at all of that.

    If ESPN ever gets the Olympics, Tirico can probably cover every event himself and not get tired or sound the least bit unknowledgable. Tirico is excellent, and while he’s the top guy for NFL coverage, he’s actually a better basketball announcer. Why? Because he loves it.

    Tirico is in the middle of the NFL season and is still calling midweek NBA games, mostly because he loves to do it. That’s a really refreshing attitude for one of the top guys at a network.

18. Ian Eagle

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    Instead of reading a write-up of how much I love Ian Eagle, click on this and listen to part of a 2009 interview I did with Eagle in which he talked about starting out calling NBA games for the Nets and working with Bill Raftery. For those who can’t click, here’s an excerpt:

    I remember it vividly. It was my first year and the Nets were playing a game down in Miami. And Kevin Edwards hit a big three from the corner to give the Nets a one-point lead late in the game. I had the call: "Edwards from the corner, three is GOOD." And Raf goes, "OOOOH, ONIONS!!!!"

    And I turn to him, and I knew Raf’s Raf-to-English translation like the back of my hand. I was able to provide listeners with the track that they needed to follow along. But I had no idea what he was talking about. So I turn to him during the break and say, "Bill, Raf, I don’t get that, what is that? Onions? What, it was so good that you cried?" He said, "Hey Bird (Raf’s nickname for Eagle)...BIG BALLS." And that was it. That’s when ONIONS was born.

    Eagle does a great Raf. He also calls a great basketball game.

17. Kevin Harlan

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    Harlan can gin up the enthusiasm with the best of them. Actually, come to think of it, Harlan is the best of them in that department.

    There is nobody in the game today who can get as excited as Harlan and still find the right words to articulate that passion. Harlan won’t just give the viewers a loud “wow” or call back to an often-used catchphrase. He reacts to the situation with exuberance, enhancing the moment without, in most cases, taking away from it.

    Harlan is one of those announcers who calls multiple sports, and while he’s good on things like the NFL, his pacing and cadence are perfect for the NBA.

16. Dan Shulman

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    I believe I said this in our MLB announcer list, but Dan Shulman is the finest play-by-play announcer working today. His profile in the industry should be much higher, but he doesn’t work NFL games and his basketball at this point in his career is primarily reserved for the college game.

    For years, however, Shulman called NBA games and proved himself as one of the top play-by-play voices in the game. He has the gravitas to capture big moments without making any of them about him. He is adept at the three-man booth, which is a plague in today’s sports media culture, and he knows the game as well as anyone.

    How well? From Awful Announcing (h/t Jerusalem Post):

    Shulman, the play-by-play voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and NCAA men’s college basketball coverage, is a well-known name in the North American sports world, even winning the US National Sportscaster of the Year in 2011. But during his stay in Israel for just under two weeks as a member of Canada’s masters(+35) male Maccabiah basketball team, he insists he is just another member of the squad.

    The 46-year-old native of Thornhill, a suburb just north of Toronto, became involved with Maccabi Canada after playing on a basketball team he organized for a local JNF charity tournament a few years ago.

15. Mike Breen

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    Mike Breen is ESPN’s lead NBA play-by-play announcer and a longtime broadcaster for the New York Knicks on both radio and television.

    I’ll admit, at first I had Breen lower on this list, but I had a hard time justifying a reason why. He’s great at calling NBA games, and maybe he doesn’t have as high a profile across all sports as some of the others on this list before him, but that doesn’t mean he’s any worse at calling NBA games.

    In fact, focusing primarily on basketball means he’s better. In some cases, much better.

    Breen has earned his status as the top announcer in the NBA for ESPN and has developed one of the most recognizable voices in the game.

14. Mike Fratello

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    "The Czar of the Telestrator," as Marv Albert coined him in the 1990s, Mike Fratello has been one of the top analysts in the game for nearly 20 years.

    Fratello called games for NBC in the 1990s after a seven-year run as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. In 1993, Fratello was lured back into coaching, presided over the Cleveland Cavaliers for much of the 1990s and, after six years with the Cavs, bounced between TV and coaching—he coached just over two seasons' worth of games with the Memphis Grizzlies—working for the New Jersey Nets with Albert and Ian Eagle, as well as national games for Turner.

    Note: If you notice, we’ve run through many of the great play-by-play announcers (though a few still remain), while we’re really just getting to the top analysts in the game. Basketball is unlike other sports in this regard.

    When doing research for the NFL list, I found that most of the pundits I asked for assistance suggested that the most memorable announcers were those doing the play-by-play, with many color analysts serving as more of a distraction than a positive enhancement to the telecast. For every John Madden, there were a dozen analysts that turned fans off.

    The same was true for MLB, with most analysts working as a glorified sidekick to a memorable play-by-play announcer.

    In the NBA, it feels different. The color analyst plays a much more important role in the telecast and, perhaps because of that, has become much more memorable.

13. Mark Jackson

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    Like Doc Rivers, Mark Jackson proved to be a big loss to NBA broadcasting when he went into coaching. Unlike Rivers, it seemed like broadcasting—not coaching—was Jackson's post-playing-career calling.

    Jackson started in the NBA in 1987 with his hometown Knicks and played for seven franchises until his retirement in 2004.

    He then went to work for the YES Network, parlaying that into a network gig with ABC. There had been speculation for a few years that Jackson had the coaching itch, but he stayed in the booth until Golden State hired him in 2011.

    Jackson’s work for ABC with Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy was one of the few times a three-man booth actually worked. Jackson and Van Gundy complemented each other incredibly well, which is hard for two analysts in a three-man crew.

12. Steve “Snapper” Jones

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    Speaking of analysts in a three-man booth, Steve “Snapper” Jones spent much of his time in the national-analyst chair sharing time with his former Portland Trail Blazers teammate, Bill Walton.

    Jones played the perfect foil to Walton’s spacey exuberance, but there were times when the tension between the two seemed to go beyond friendly banter and into a strange realm of awkward animosity.

    His ability to shoot back at Walton during their time working together did elevate his analyst status. As a kid, I always found myself “rooting” for Jones in the arguments between the two. It seemed odd to have to pick sides between two game analysts, even though that was the schtick all along.

    Still, Jones seemed to star more when holding down the analyst role on his own. For 13 years, Jones worked for NBA on NBC while calling local telecasts for the Blazers and, more recently, NBA TV.

11. Doug Collins

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    Doug Collins was a very good NBA player, a very good NBA coach and a very, very good NBA announcer. The extra "very" unfortunately didn't keep him in the broadcast booth instead of leaving to coach the Sixers in 2010.

    While the Sixers made the playoffs more often than they didn’t under Collins, his tenure ended incredibly awkwardly, capped by one of the most odd, responsibility-shirking press conferences in recent memory. Especially for a guy with such media savvy.

    Wait...this isn’t about Collins as a coach; it’s about his ability as an announcer. He was a fantastic in-game analyst for NBC and Turner before going back into coaching, both working NBA games and basketball at the Olympics. In fact, Collins was so good that NBC hired him to work the 2012 Olympics while coaching the Sixers, which made the trade of Andre Iguodala during the Games a pretty amazing moment in basketball television.

    Now out of coaching, Collins is working with ESPN as a studio analyst, where he is very, very good.

10. Steve Kerr

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    I think if there's one player in NBA history whose career I would love to have, it’s Steve Kerr.

    Kerr was a second-round pick who won five NBA titles and is the most accurate three-point shooter in NBA history. That’s a career right there. Only, not for Kerr. He went into broadcasting the year after his career ended, immediately paired with Marv Albert, whom he worked with for years before taking over as general manager of the Phoenix Suns.

    Kerr provided color commentary for eight different video games in his career and not only is back in the booth, calling top NBA games for TNT, but also gets to call the NCAA Final Four.

    Yes, if there is one person’s career at Turner I’d like to have, from start to finish, it’s Kerr's.

    And Kerr is far from finished. He’s actually at the top of his game and, with the quality of his work in both NBA and college, at the top of the game of basketball in terms of in-game analysis.

9. Bill Raftery

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    Bill Raftery is the best basketball analyst in the history of the sport. His ability to combine insight with excitability and deep knowledge of the game with an honest and sincere delivery sets him apart from almost every other analyst in the game.

    The only reason Raf is not higher on this list is because, for some time, he has been better known for his work in college basketball. Raftery stepped aside from calling NBA games in the late aughts, and even when he was doing NBA games, it was mostly, if not exclusively, local telecasts covering the New Jersey Nets.

    Raftery is the king of the catchphrase; from “onions” after a big shot to “a little lingerie on the deck” after a move to get by a defender, his verbiage is engaging and wildly over-the-top, but in a good way.

    Everything about Raf is great. The NBA game surely misses him.

8. Bill Walton

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    Bill Walton is a basketball adventure. The audience has no idea what he might say next. The play-by-play announcer has no idea what he might say next.

    Walton, himself, has no idea what he might say next.

    That’s exactly how everyone likes it.

    In one breath, Walton might quote Socrates and in the very next, he might quote Jerry Garcia. Somehow, in his Walton-esque way, it all makes sense in a basketball context.

    Or, at least it makes enough sense. Walton is entitled to that.

7. Walt “Clyde” Frazier

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    Walt “Clyde” Frazier is the most styling and profiling man in the history of the NBA, both with his attire and his analysis. Clyde doesn’t just explain the game during Knicks telecasts; he explains it in the most prolific, eloquent and luxuriant way possible.

    Clyde is a true character of the game, but his standout career as a player—a two-time NBA champion and seven-time All-Star—gives his vociferous exuberance the verisimilitude needed to be a top analyst.

6. Jack Ramsay

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    Dr. Jack Ramsay is the quintessential radio analyst and one of the most respected men in the history of the NBA.

    A Hall of Fame coach, most notably for the Portland Trail Blazers, Ramsay mentored four teams in his more than 20 years as a professional coach.

    After leaving the coaching ranks, Ramsay worked as an analyst for the Sixers and Heat before moving to ESPN.

    Ramsay has never been short on words, which sometimes takes vital time away from the play-by-play announcer, especially on radio. But his in-depth knowledge of the game is nearly unparalleled.

    At 88 years old, he is still calling games for the Worldwide Leader.

5. Hubie Brown

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    I never thought that of all the people named on the list, Hubie Brown would be the most polarizing figure, but of the people I asked for assistance in creating this compilation, none of them had much to say about Brown in terms of positivity.

    And that, right there, is a Hubie Brown sentence—about eight words too long for no reason whatsoever. Brown is an amazing wealth of basketball knowledge. He just talks so much that he can wind down a 24-second clock while still talking about the previous possession.

    Why, then, is he so high on the list when most people think he’s past his prime? It’s because of all that knowledge.

    I had the chance to sit in on a coaches clinic with Brown and I was paralyzed with intrigue. He knows everything about the game. The only sound you could hear in the gym full of high school coaches was the turning of notebook pages being filled with insight and history.

    Sometimes, Brown can be a bit long-winded, but he knows the game as well as anyone.

4. Jeff Van Gundy

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    True story: On July 3, 1999, my brother got married at a hotel in Tarrytown, N.Y. After the reception, a few of us went back to the hotel bar. Stumbling out of the bar, I ran into then-Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy. Days removed from losing the NBA Finals and, from what I recall at the time, dealing with rampant speculation about his job security, Van Gundy seemed to want no part of an exchange with a drunken buffoon in a hotel lobby.

    So I said the first thing that popped into my head as we passed each other. “Didn’t you used to work at Rutgers?”

    Ice. Broken.

    We shared a brief moment laughing about Rutgers—I worked there at the time—and some of the people we both knew, and then we each went about our evenings. Of all the “I’ll never forget moments” in my life, that was the most random for me and, I presume, for him as well.

    I always liked Van Gundy as a coach, but I love him as an analyst. He is not afraid to speak his mind, even if he is calling out the top players in the game. The video above is of his epic rant on Dwight Howard last season, but his rant about flopping in the game is nearly as epic and his recent rant about light penalties for off-the-court offenses is just as poignant.

    All his rants are must-listen, but he shares those thoughts within the context of the game and within the confines of the league’s issues. Van Gundy doesn’t seem to have an agenda, other than calling out hypocrisy and, frankly, idiocy.

    Forget basketball, the entire sports world needs more analysts like Van Gundy.

3. Chick Hearn

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    Chick Hearn was a broadcasting innovator. He called more than 3,300 consecutive Lakers games, starting in late 1965 and ending midway through the 2001-02 season, when he needed cardiac bypass surgery.

    He retired after the 2002 season, with his final Lakers call coming in the NBA Finals, and died two months later.

    Hearn is in every Hall of Fame imaginable and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is credited with coining an amazing list of basketball terms we take for granted in today’s game. Ever hear of a "slam dunk"? That was Hearn.

    In a city with some of the most illustrious stars in the history of the NBA, Hearn certainly earned his place among them.

2. Marv Albert

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    We all know Marv Albert’s voice, the excitability and the catchphrases. We all know Marv is the best in the business, and there is no national announcer more synonymous with a sport than Marv is with the NBA. The branches of the announcing family tree that extend beneath Marv are incredible.

    Marv is tops in the game. But there’s one person who deserves greater recognition. If it wasn’t for this man, there may have been no Albert, or Bob Costas, or any of the names who came after them...

1. Marty Glickman

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    If I could post HBO’s entire documentary about Marty Glickman, I would.

    Glickman was a standout athlete—good enough to compete in the Olympics—who then entered broadcasting in 1939 with a job in radio. Seven years later, he was the radio announcer for the New York Knickerbockers, a post he maintained for decades. He was also the voice of the New York Giants and the NBA’s first TV announcer.

    If that wasn’t enough, he was the first announcer for the New York Nets in the ABA as well. Oh, and he did horse racing, the New York Jets for 11 years and work for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees for more than 20 years.

    Glickman was a mentor to both Marv Albert and Bob Costas, as well as a host of other top broadcasters. From the 2001 obituary by Richard Sandomir of the New York Times:

    There are still other big play-by-play voices—Al Michaels, Dick Enberg, Joe Buck, Jon Miller and Marv Albert, the staccato soundtrack of pro basketball who learned how to call the sport and use its geography by listening to Glickman.

    In his autobiography, Glickman wrote that he so influenced Albert ''that he would talk like me around his house, when he answered the phone. His parents thought he was nuts.'' He advised Albert to define himself, not be a Glickman clone.

    Albert recently reclaimed his role as NBC's lead voice for National Basketball Association games after it was ceded by Bob Costas, who years ago sought Glickman's counsel on how to sound more mature.

    ''Bob, have you ever heard an old man talk rapidly?'' Glickman asked. No, Costas said, they speak slowly. ''Then speak slowly,'' Glickman said.

    It wasn’t just Albert and Costas whom Glickman influenced. He mentored the likes of Bob Papa, Ian Eagle and Chris Carrino as well. Hell, it was all of us.

    "And I always remind young people how those basketball terms used today—lane, key, midcourt stripe, swish—they were invented by one man," Papa was quoted as saying in an NJ.com story promoting the documentary. "Marty came up with all of them in the 1950s. He literally wrote the NBA dictionary."

    What would basketball be like on radio and TV without the lane, the key, the midcourt stripe? What would the sport be without all the announcers inspired by Glickman? Again from the NJ.com story, quoting Eagle:

    He’s the one who set the bar. Just consider Syracuse alone: Without Marty, there is no Marv. Without Marv, there is no Dick Stockton. Without Stockton, there is no Bob Costas. Without Costas there is no Mike Tirico. And it goes on and on. Marty started it all. He is the one who created the craft we all make a living from today.

    When put that way, there’s only one top choice.