It’s a Wednesday night, you’re sitting down after a long day, and you’re exhausted. You flip on League Pass and find 13 games to choose from. Sometimes the sheer number of options can be overwhelming, but this is where League Pass gives you a choice: Which teams do you want to watch?
For many fans, this isn’t a dilemma. They only watch their favorite team and all they want to listen to are the familiar voices that call their squad’s games. However, for many more NBA fans, they just want to watch basketball game that won’t lead to them muting the TV. Lucky for them, we’re in an age where the majority of local broadcasts are pretty good, but there are some that stand out as exceptional for more casual fans.
I tried to look for broadcasts that have as little bias as possible. I, of course, expect team broadcasts to have a little hometown cooking, but pep rallies from the broadcast booth are usually irritating for a fan that’s just trying to watch the game. I also really placed an emphasis on broadcasts that have fun. Professionalism is important, but when it’s Game 65 and you’re just looking for a reason to stick around, good energy from the broadcast can keep you engaged. Finally, I’m a sucker for when a broadcast makes it clear it they value teaching me something. I don’t need hardcore Xs and Os being broken down, but the booths that clearly do their research get brownie points.
Again, to one extent or another, everyone checks these boxes. But still, these Top 8 do that better than anyone.
1.) Brooklyn Nets
PBP: Ian Eagle
Analysts: Sarah Kustok, Richard Jefferson
The Nets feel like they’re cheating because they have national TV-caliber broadcasters working for them. Eagle does NFL games on Sundays, and his backup Ryan Ruocco is a Swiss army knife seemingly capable of calling any game in any sport well. Jefferson has had a successful podcast and always has interesting stories to tell, and is a secret weapon on “The Jump.” Kustok legitimately has a case for being mentioned among the best and most insightful analysts in the league. When you sit down to watch a Nets game, you’re going to get the best experience possible.
The group seem to really enjoy hosting a broadcast. There’s never a feeling of boredom, something that has persisted throughout the years. No matter how bad the Nets got, the broadcast team was always going to have fun. They’ll play trivia and keep score throughout the season. It’s surprisingly cutthroat with the winner having bragging rights. Then there’s Eagle never taking anything too seriously because he remembers the key to all of this: Basketball is fun.
2.) New York Knicks
PBP: Mike Breen
Analyst: Walt “Clyde” Frazier
It’s pretty incredible that, despite years of losing, the Knicks have continued to have a top class broadcast team. Like their friends in Brooklyn, the Knicks also have the advantage of a national caliber broadcaster in Breen. It’s hard to not be excited about having ESPN’s No. 1 on your TV for a regular season contest. Of course, when Breen is off serving his ESPN duties, another national broadcaster in Albert fills the role. On many broadcasts, there’s a noticeable difference when the main broadcasters are sitting out, but the Knicks don’t miss a beat and have an embarrassment of riches in talent.
Bringing it all together is Frazier, who brings more to the table than incredible suits. He has a way of delivering analysis that leaves you entranced. He gets excited when a fun play happens and will point out some of the smaller parts of the game that you might overlook. He’s beloved by everyone in New York, and of course, his rhymes are untouchable.
3.) New Orleans Pelicans
PBP: Joel Meyers
Analyst: Antonio Daniels
The Pelicans have quietly had one of the best broadcasts in the NBA for years and it’s all thanks to Meyers, a legend with a silky smooth voice and style that takes you on an exciting journey every single broadcast. He was consistently touted as the best local play-by-play man in the league when he was on the Lakers, but New Orleans was lucky enough to get him before the 2012-13 season.
Daniels is in the middle of his first year as color analyst for the team. I was always a big fan of David Wesley, but Daniels has done a great job of taking that role and filling in without missing a beat. Sideline reporter Jennifer Hale (who does a great job on Fox NFL broadcasts) also deserves praise for being among the best in the business.
4.) Dallas Mavericks
PBP: Mark Followill
Analysts: Derek Harper, Jeff Wade
The Mavericks use a three-person booth. While trios have taken over national broadcasts, they’re still a little uncommon at the local level. By tuning into Dallas, you get a unique situation that also brings one of the best broadcasts available. Followill, Harper, and Wade have a rapport with one another and their calling of games feels really conversational.
My favorite thing with this booth is how they approach games from an intelligent perspective. The common fan can tune into the Dallas broadcast and come away feeling like they learned something about someone on the other team. They’re typically pretty accurate in how they speak about players and there’s never a case of them feeding the listener false information. They clearly do research and avoid falling into the trap of telling hometown fans that everyone on the other team is hot garbage. Followill is also just incredible during key moments of a game.
5.) Philadelphia 76ers
PBP: Marc Zumoff
Analyst: Alaa Abdelnaby
A lot of broadcasts find ways to have fun when a team is bad — they let loose and don’t get too worked up over losses. Then, when the team gets good, that switch flips and they lose some of their charm. That has not happened with the 76ers. Zumoff and Abdelnaby (who took over for Malik Rose in 2015) sat through some brutal years during The Process and came out the other side smelling like roses.
Zumoff really drives these broadcasts, he always strikes the correct tone regardless of how important the game is. I guess that’s what happens when you witness teams so incredibly bad that you have to figure out ways to keep viewers engaged. He’s also been around so long that he just knows what to say and when to say it, and there isn’t much better than his trademark “YeeeeeeeeSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS” when someone on the Sixers hits a clutch shot.
6.) Orlando Magic
PBP: David Steele
Analyst: Jeff Turner
As someone who grew up in central Florida, I’ve probably listened to Steele more than any other broadcaster. I just assumed that all local play-by-play folks called games the same way as him. He’s as professional as it gets and his knack for knowing the right quip to say in a big moment is untouchable, in my eyes.
Turner had some big shoes to fill when he took over for Matt Guokas. Orlando’s broadcast grew a reputation nationally as one that any fan could listen to and Guokas was a huge reason why. Turner, a former Magic player, brought both the same kind of analysis as Guokas and his own style. They’re not afraid of being silly — like when Turner pokes fun at Steele over whether the factoids he’ll drop during games have any meaning or not — but they’re consummate professionals.
7.) Minnesota Timberwolves
PBP: Dave Benz
Analyst: Jim Petersen
The Wolves’ broadcast has become one of the smartest local teams out there. They have a tendency to side with the home team a little too much, but that’s pretty normal considering what most local broadcasts are like. If you ignore that, you’ll find yourself tweeting out stats you hear on TV instead of highlights.
Petersen is the gold standard for how smart a local team can be. There’s doing research on an opponent, and then there’s coming to the game with what feels like expertise on the other guys. Petersen is the latter, arming himself with arguably more knowledge than any other local analyst. He also has a great rapport with Benz, as evidenced by his giggling at “General soreness.”
8.) Miami Heat
PBP: Eric Reid
Analyst: John Crotty
The Heat broadcast takes a lot of flack from when LeBron James was in town. It’s easy to overlook them, but Miami has one of the most consistent broadcasts in the NBA. To be honest, there’s nothing that wows me personally, but every time I watch a game, I come away impressed with their consistency. There’s rarely a slip, a negative moment, or something that makes me roll my eyes.
Reid is also one of the more under-appreciated play-by-play guys in the league. He’s energetic and hits the big moments well. He recently got a new partner in Crotty during the 2018-19 season, which hasn’t slowed Reid down at all and you can tell there’s a good rapport already between the pair. Just like the team they cover, Heat broadcasts are rarely boring.