NBA commentary has been an integral part of the game for decades. The best commentators have the ability to elevate the viewing experience, making even the most mundane moments feel electric. Their voices become synonymous with the game’s most iconic moments, and their insights provide a deeper understanding of the sport.
In this article, we rank the top 13 NBA commentators who have left an indelible mark on the game.
13. Dick Stockton
Dick Stockton stands out as one of the top NBA announcers, with a career that spans several decades, beginning in 1974. Stockton has lent his voice to various networks, including Boston Celtics TV, New York Knicks TV, NBA on CBS, and NBA on TNT.
During his tenure at CBS from 1981 to 1990, he called nine NBA Finals, showcasing his expertise and passion for the game. In recognition of his contributions, Stockton was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster in 2001.
12. Ian Eagle
Ian Eagle, while known for his commendable work in calling games for the NFL and college basketball, has also established himself as one of the premier NBA commentators. He embarked on his NBA broadcasting journey in 1994 as the radio voice for the Brooklyn Nets and later transitioned to television commentary for the team.
Currently, besides calling Nets games on the YES Network, Eagle also serves as a play-by-play announcer for the NBA playoffs on TNT.
11. Mike Fratello
Mike Fratello, apart from being an outstanding NBA commentator, has also made significant contributions as an NBA coach. He clinched the Coach of the Year title in the 1985-86 season with the Atlanta Hawks. Fratello’s dual experience in coaching and commentating has given him a unique perspective on the game.
He has collaborated with top NBA commentators like Steve Kerr, Marv Albert, and Kevin Harlan. Over the years, he has been associated with several networks, including NBC, TNT, NBA TV, and the YES Network.
10. Kevin Harlan
Kevin Harlan’s voice is synonymous with some of the most iconic moments in NBA history. His memorable calls, such as the one after LeBron James’ emphatic dunk in 2008, showcase his passion and love for the game.
Harlan’s contributions to NBA broadcasting were recognized when he was named National Sportscaster of the Year in 2017 and 2019.
9. Steve Kerr
Before becoming the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr was an accomplished NBA commentator. Starting in 2003, Kerr provided insightful commentary for TNT alongside Marv Albert.
He also lent his voice for in-game commentary for NBA Live and NBA 2K, further showcasing his deep understanding of the game.
8. Walt “Clyde” Frazier
A New York Knicks legend both as a player and commentator, Walt “Clyde” Frazier has been calling Knicks games since 1987. His stylish commentary and deep connection with the Knicks make him a beloved figure in New York.
In 2022, Frazier received the Curt Gowdy Award, solidifying his place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and broadcaster.
7. Doug Collins
Doug Collins began his broadcasting career in 1985 with CBS, covering playoff games. Over the years, he has worked for various networks, including NBC, TNT, and ABC/ESPN.
Collins’ deep understanding of the game, combined with his coaching experiences, provides a unique perspective that few can match.
6. Mike Breen
Mike Breen’s iconic “Bang!” after a player hits a crucial shot is one of the most recognizable calls in NBA broadcasting. With a career spanning 30 years, Breen has been the voice behind many memorable NBA moments.
He has been calling the NBA Finals on ABC since 2006 and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021 for his outstanding contributions to the sport.
5. Hubie Brown
Starting his broadcasting journey in 1982, Hubie Brown quickly rose to prominence as one of the best NBA analysts. He transitioned to full-time broadcasting with CBS in 1986 after a stint as the Atlanta Hawks’ head coach.
Currently, Brown serves as an analyst for ABC and ESPN. His vast knowledge and ability to break down complex plays make him a favorite among fans.
4. Chick Hearn
Chick Hearn is a name that resonates deeply with Los Angeles Lakers fans. From 1965 to 2001, Hearn broadcasted an astounding 3,338 consecutive Lakers games.
He introduced several basketball phrases that are now staples in NBA commentary, such as “slam dunk” and “air ball.” Even though he hasn’t called a game in over two decades, Hearn’s influence on NBA broadcasting remains unparalleled.
3. Jeff Van Gundy
Starting his broadcasting career in 2007, Jeff Van Gundy quickly established himself as one of the best NBA commentators for ESPN. Known for his candid and straightforward style, Van Gundy never shied away from critiquing players, referees, or even the NBA’s rules.
His honesty and sharp insights, combined with his coaching background, made him a valuable voice in the commentary booth.
2. Jack Ramsay
Jack Ramsay’s profound basketball knowledge, stemming from his experiences as a player, coach, and general manager, positioned him as one of the premier NBA commentators. Ramsay, during his tenure with ESPN Radio from 1996 to 2012, called 15 NBA Finals.
He also served as a color commentator for teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. His insights and deep understanding of the game made him a favorite among fans and players alike.
1. Marv Albert
Marv Albert, often referred to as “the voice of basketball,” has been a cornerstone of NBA broadcasting since the early 1960s. Over a career spanning more than half a century, Albert has worked with numerous networks, including MSG Network, NBC Sports, TNT, and YES Network.
His iconic voice and memorable calls have made him a beloved figure in the NBA community. Albert retired from broadcasting in 2021, leaving behind a legacy that will be hard to match.
Why is the role of an NBA commentator so crucial during games?
NBA commentators play a pivotal role in enhancing the viewing experience for fans. They provide real-time analysis, background information, and insights that help viewers understand the nuances of the game.
Their commentary can elevate significant moments, making them more memorable and engaging for the audience.
How do NBA commentators prepare for games?
NBA commentators typically prepare for games by researching team statistics, player backgrounds, recent performances, and historical context. They often attend pre-game practices, interview players and coaches, and stay updated with the latest news and trends in the league.
Are there any specific qualifications required to become an NBA commentator?
While there are no strict qualification criteria, many NBA commentators have a background in journalism, broadcasting, or communications.
Experience in playing or coaching basketball can also be beneficial. However, the most successful commentators often possess a deep passion for the game, excellent communication skills, and a unique voice or style.
How has the role of NBA commentators evolved over the years?
The role of NBA commentators has evolved with advancements in technology and changes in viewer preferences. Earlier, the focus was primarily on play-by-play descriptions.
Now, with multiple camera angles and instant replays, commentators also provide in-depth analysis, discuss strategies, and share anecdotes. The rise of social media has also influenced commentary, with commentators often addressing real-time fan reactions and trending topics.
Are there any notable female NBA commentators?
Yes, there are several accomplished female NBA commentators. One of the most prominent is Doris Burke, who has been a significant figure in ESPN’s NBA coverage. She became the first woman to call a New York Knicks broadcast in 2000 and has since continued to break barriers in the industry.
Do NBA commentators work exclusively for one network or team?
While some NBA commentators work exclusively for a specific network or team, others may work for multiple networks throughout their careers.
For instance, commentators might start with local broadcasts for a particular team and later transition to national broadcasts on major networks. Flexibility and adaptability are key traits in this dynamic profession.
These commentators, with their unique styles and deep understanding of the game, have significantly shaped the NBA broadcasting landscape. Their voices have become synonymous with some of the most iconic moments in basketball history, and their insights have enriched the viewing experience for fans worldwide.
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