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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.