The NBA is missing something — Marv Albert
There’s definitely something missing.
If mustard goes with hot dogs; and beer with pretzels – well, Marv Albert goes with the NBA.
And he’s missed.
Marv Albert called 25 NBA All-Star Games, 13 NBA finals, the 1992 gold medal men’s basketball victory for the United States and dozens of other major sporting events for several networks in a career that placed him in several halls of fame.
Although he called a variety of sports including pro football, hockey and baseball, he is most recognized for his work in basketball.
In particular, the Knicks.
Starting in 1967 he was their voice for close to 40 years, the NBA voice for NBC Sports in 1990 – where he worked from 1977 to 1997 – and from 2002 to 2002.
He worked for Turner Sports for 22 years, 19 of them as an NBA play-by-play announcer.
“On-air,” said David Halberstam, publisher of Sports Broadcast Journal, “he was as warm as they come.”
Marv Albert called it quits at the end of last season after 55 years calling sports.
That’s pretty good for a kid out of Lincoln High School, Class of 1959.
“I had a wonderful high school experience,” Albert told the Eagle. “I wrote for the school paper, The Lincoln Log, and was Sports Editor for The Landmark, our senior yearbook.”
He said he was involved in sports.
“I had a decent jump shot,” he joked, “but couldn’t go to my left.”
Albert attended the athletic events at Lincoln – in fact, he said he had his own newspaper and distributed it at the games.
“Our principal – Abe Lass – was wonderful,” he recalled. “He used to write for the New York Post, and one of my highlights was when he asked me to give Helen Keller a tour of our school when she visited.”
One other visitor to Lincoln made a longer, lasting impression to the young Albert. That would be famed broadcaster Marty Glickman, who hosted the football Game of the Week on (WPIX-TV) Channel 11.
“Marty and the staff asked for some help with game preparations,” Albert said, “and our football coach, Vince Gargano gave him my name.”
Little did he know at the time, that introduction would change his life. It was a match of hall of fame voices that will never be equaled.
Marty – the teacher – Marv – the student. The relationship never ended, and when the famous broadcaster – Glickman – called the Knicks’ game for WCBS (880-AM) Radio, sometimes he’d hand Albert the microphone to announce statistics.
“Marty was the voice of the Knicks back then,” Albert said. “I was the visiting team ballboy and later the Knicks’ ballboy while in high school.”
In fact, Albert remembers Mr. Kratzen — his Spanish teacher.
“He was very special to me,” he said. “He was a fanatical basketball fan. When there was a wet spot on the floor at Madison Square Garden, I’d run onto the court to wipe it.
“And the next day at school Mr. Kratzen said he saw me on TV.”
Albert attended Syracuse University – at the urging of Glickman, a Syracuse grad. “I did Syracuse basketball play-by-play in college on the school station – WAER-FM (88.3) Syracuse also had the NBA Nationals at the time, and I’d go to their games with a tape recorder to practice play-by-play.”
Why the fascination with sports?
“It wasn’t really in the family,” he said. “My dad owned a grocery store on Brighten Beach Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets. And as for my mom, all she’d say is, ‘He sounds good.’”
But it was through TV and radio – mostly radio – according to Albert, his love of sports grew.
“We’d go to Manhattan Beach, watch the games on Court 1 and see Connie Hawkins and Roger Brown play.”
And his love went to foreign lands.
“I had a short-wave radio as a kid,” he said, “and was able to listen to Toronto Maple Leaf games called by Foster Hewitt, and Doug Gallivan’s calls with the Montreal Canadians.”
“Marv called the game with such a great flair and such great descriptiveness that he had learned from Glickman, and it was riveting and gripping,” Halberstam added. “You’d never want to turn that radio off.”
He said he misses the game preparation, but not the travel.
A typical day in the life consists of his workout – which he does five-times-a-week – once with a trainer; much reading and, of course TV Binging, and watching basketball, “to stay current.”
He plans on teaching sports journalism classes at Earl Monroe’s new charter school, in The Bronx.
Looking back, he said broadcasting the 1992 Dream Team may be near the top of his career highlights.
“I remember doing their qualifying game in Portland,” he said. “When I saw Magic (Johnson), (Larry) Bird, (Patrick) Ewing and (Michael) Jordan walk onto the court, I got the chills.
“It was the greatest group of athletes ever assembled,” he said.
The Jordan years in the NBA followed by boxing events, the 69-70 Knicks Championship and the Rangers Stanley Cup title (1994).
The NBA has changed since Marv Albert called his first game on January 27, 1963 filling in for Glickman as the Boston Celtics beat the Knicks. He was 21.
“They’re calling more fouls now,” he said, “there’s not as much physical play; and of course, the introduction of the three-point shot.”
Yet Albert feels players from the ‘70s and ‘80s would and could play in the league today.
Which brings us to the all-Marv Knick Team:
“I love that ’69-’70 Knicks team,” he said. “But I’d have Bernard King and Dave DeBusschere at forward; Walter Frazier and Earl Monroe at guard and Willis Reed at center.”
He was quick to add Bill Bradley as a possible forward and Walt Frazier and his former radio partner Richie Guerin at guard.
But there’s one no doubter.
Marv Albert behind the mic – Yesssssss!
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR
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