For the uninitiated, a local Boston Celtics broadcast — which those of us outside of Beantown are privy to via NBA League Pass — can be tough enough to watch, what with color analyst/Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn‘s perpetual complaining. (At one point during Celtics/Jazz last night, Tommy took a break from ripping the refs when he thought Rajon Rondo had a three-point play, and was busy praising Rondo before he was cut off mid-sentence and informed the bucket didn’t count. “WHAT?!?” yelled a stunned Tommy, who promptly forgot what he was saying before and resumed ripping the refs.) But last night was an even bigger test on the ears, as Tommy was verbally abusing the poor guy filling in for regular play-by-play partner Mike Gorman. “I’ll send you back to the studio!” Tommy half-jokingly barked one time. And when the fill-in dropped an admittedly awkward, “Kendrick Perkins IS A MAN!!” war cry after a Perkins dunk, Tommy was all over him.
While Heinsohn and Gorman are probably the League’s most respected local announcing crew, whether or not you actually like them probably has a lot to do with how you feel about the Celtics as a team. No one questions the basketball insight Tommy and Mike bring to the table, but while their overt homer-ism can be fun and endearing, it’s often grating and sometimes just insufferable.
Me? I grew up spoiled. As a Sonics fan in Seattle, I got to listen to play-by-play man Kevin Calabro, one of the best in the business, a guy who will make any color analyst sound good. Calabro’s on-air partner during my formative years was Marques Johnson, the UCLA and NBA alum/actor, and they formed a microphone juggernaut during the height of the Shawn Kemp/Gary Payton era.
With the Sonics out of the picture and Calabro stuck doing college games in the area, my adopted new favorite team, the Pacers, has exposed me to Chris Denari on play-by-play and color analyst Quinn Buckner. While they’re not quite Calabro/Johnson, I like Denari and Buckner. They’re informative and entertaining as a team, Buckner’s pre-announcing basketball resume is legit (a key component for at least one member of every announce crew), and while they’re obviously pro-Pacers, they’re not crazy homers. Overall, they’re a solid B, maybe a B+.
Grade your team’s on-air announcers…