Sunday, July 4, 2021

Was Marv Albert the greatest announcer ever? YES!

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Watching the end of the Bucks-Hawks game last night made me a little sad. Not because I'm a Hawks fan, but because I've been admiring the work of Marv Albert for nearly 5 decades, and that was his last event as an announcer.

NBAE via Getty Images
When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut, I was a huge Knicks fan, and I used to keep score of Knicks games as I listened to Marv's radio calls. (OK, I was a nerd; whatever!)

I'd check the box score in the paper the next day, and it was amazing how accurate not only the point totals were but also the rebounds and assists. Because Marv made it possible for me to "see" the game while listening to his radio call.

And even as he was accurate, he did add little flourishes that made games more enjoyable. Walt Frazier wasn't just fouled, he was "run into." Earl Monroe didn't just make a layup, "He drives and hits." Phil Jackson didn't just defend an inbounds pass, he used his long arms for "the windmill effect." And of course, there was Marv's trademark, "YES!" (And, as an occasional bonus, "YES ... AND IT COUNTS! He was fouled on the play!")

Marv Albert was no homer. When opposing players made great plays, he'd say so. And when the Knicks sucked, he'd say so. To this day, I have trouble listening to over-the-top homer announcers.

His dedication to objectivity and accuracy made him a natural to make the jump from local to national announcing.

Being a sportswriter, the Knicks fan got "beaten out" of me pretty early into my career. Indeed, as an AP guy, I -- like Marv -- strongly valued objectivity and accuracy. I didn't root for the teams I covered (nor did I root against them).

But even after I stopped being a Knicks fan, I never stopped being a Marv Albert fan. He was the best chronicler of live basketball games I've ever heard ... and I've heard a bazillion of them during the 55 years that Marv plied his trade.

Oh, and he was a gifted hockey announcer, too, and darn good at football and boxing.

So yes, last night was bittersweet. I'm glad I got to hear Marv one last time. But I'm sad it was the last time.
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