NBA / Dec 16, 2008 / 9:00 am

Grade Your Team’s Announcers


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…

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  • Mitch

    Totally biased but I have to give an A+ to George Blaha and “Special K” Greg Kelser in Detroit…”Rip with the turn and gun…it’s good!”

  • tuff juice

    Got to give Wiz man Steve Buckhantz high marks for revolutionizing the Dagger Call. I’ll give Phil Chenier an incomplete because i’m not sure he actually watches the games when he is calling them.

  • s.bucketz

    nobody in the L touches walt “clyde” frazier…his outfits are always fresh to death and he makes rhymes that would put Dr. Suess to shame…resounding and astounding

  • s.bucketz

    ooh yea hes wit the knicks if u aren’t lucky enough to kno that

  • http://www.kikaayacollegeschool.net smity far away

    living far away from the chi right now but still missing johnny kerr and tom doer team up of the recent years past (which was definitely better than stacey king’s garbage self)


    The Nets announcers have two of the best with Marv Albert, Ian Eagle and Marv Sparnakell. Marv belongs with broadcast stations like ESPN or ABC.

  • Ric Hardwood

    good call on Tom Heinson… he’s very biased but that’s how it should be… support the team that cuts your check… Johnny Most was probably hated by anyone not rooting for the Celtics…

    I actually liked Chuck Swirsky previously for the Raptors. He gave up some memorable lines… (pass the salami and cheese, Onions baby onions!, etc…)

  • MSkittle

    Marv and Fratello= A+

  • Kevin

    They all suck.

  • vinny

    Marv and Kelly t.-a Mike Breen and Clyde-a
    I dont care for the celtics but listening to Tommy is funny. The guy who does the suns games-not Eddie Johnson- he sucks!!! sometimes you wonder what game he’s watching!

  • Scott

    As an NYC transplant, I love Frazier. Slamming and jamming indeed. In fact both the NJN and NYK have great broadcast teams.

  • Wake

    Stacey King & Neal Funk. They suck so much. But I have to give props to Stacey for comparing Pecherov to Stewie from Family Guy. That was hilarious and quite accurate.

  • Mitcht2323

    Gil McGregor and Bob Licht are really biased but good announcers for the Hornets. Theyre real clever and entertaining

  • goonther

    austin carr aint bad in cleveland …. he rambles alot though

  • B

    Raptor Commentators are biased and hyper on the wrong plays they shud just watch the game and not say a word.

  • Thundersucks

    A long long time ago when there was this team called the Seattle Supersonics… They had an announcer named Kevin Calabro, the best ever. Good golly Ms. Molly!

  • marcus

    Celtics TV – A

    Celtics Radio – A+

  • QQ

    The best is Eric Reid – Miami.

  • Ross

    The Houston announcers are horribly biased. Its more the other guy (forget his name), then it is Drexler. He whines about every call against the Rockets, and complains when the other team doesn’t get called for a foul, on pretty much every play. I have to watch their games on mute.
    The San Antonio announcers can be homers, but Sean Elliot always has something funny to say. Back when it was him and Steve Kerr doing the commentary was probably the best they’ve ever been.

  • jl90

    apparently eric reid and tony fiorentino call the heat games… i have no clue who either one is but they’re not bad. reid sounds like he went to the marv albert school of exclamations and gasps. i like them because they arent total homers but praise the heat in a homey kind of way. a solid B

    best one in the league? i love dominique doing color for the hawks

  • http://nerditry.com nerditry

    I grew up in South Florida listening to Eric Reid and am a big fan of the way that he called games. Definitely enthusiastic without being too much of a homer.

    Now, living in Orlando we’ve got former coach Matt Guokas and David Steele. Matty G is the biggest, most homerific hater on the face of the earth which makes the games that much more fun to watch. He will crap on any and everything the other team is doing, give the Magic every benefit of the doubt and never, ever misses a chance to cut on former players like Grant Hill and McGrady.

  • http://dimemag.com/ Aron

    I’m sorry, but Heinsohn and Gorman are my dudes. Growing up in MA/VT, a Celtics game just isn’t the same without someone getting a Tommy Point!

  • chalklounge

    1. Breen and Frazier: A, Breen is a little cynical, but that’s why we love him. Frazier is a little cartoonish, but that’s why we love him.

    2. Marv and Fratello: A+, as a Knick fan it pains me to say they’re just better, but I’ll take Breeny over any one play-by-play announcer not named Marv Albert.

  • srb

    I just hate it when Mike Gorman has to carry Donny Marshall or Cedric Maxwell during road games. And does anyone remember before they hired Marshall when they actually had Donnie Wahlberg on for a few games on the road trips? I guess they had a panic attack when Tommy couldn’t travel any more and they had no backup.

  • AMS

    Cant stand Bob Fitzgerald on the warrior games, such a homer, Jim Barnett though is ok. He tells it like it is and isn’t biased to the team.

  • weezy f

    “If you dont like that you dont like NBA basketball!!”

  • Steve A

    Portland TV Announcers, Mike Barrett and Mike Rice:
    Not as overly biased as they used to be. The only player they are openly critical of (which is saying a lot) is Travis Outlaw for his terrible (insert any basketball fundamental here). They seem to have gotten better as the team has improved. They are a solid B.

  • dano

    grew up in so cal with the greatest of all time- Chick Hearn- whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Stu Lantz was/is a little annoying, but Chick Hearn, who pioneered timeless basketball slang like “slam dunk”, “airball”, “charity strip”, and “finger roll”, as well as countless others, and never missed a game for about 345 years in a row, is hands down the greatest to ever hold the mic.

  • Big V

    Nobody is messing with my boy Clyde and Breen, and even Gus and Kenny are cool.

    The worst have got to be the Celts and the Spurs (Sean Eliott is the worst homer I’ve ever heard).

    Breen is the second best play-by-play guy after Marv.

  • Delonte West

    The LLLLLLL-Train!!!!!!!!!

  • j from la


  • Celts Fan

    Tommy may not be the most credible and certainly isn’t unbiased, but he’s entertaining as hell. It’s like watching Ron Burgundy for two and a half hours.

  • vINNY

    Ok i know this is going to piss some people off- but as a jersey transplant who grew up listening to Marvelous Marv- Chick Hern was annoying as hell!! and while we are talking about announcers-how the F. is dick v. in any hall of fame!!!! thank god for the mute button when i’m watching any college game hes doing!

  • http://www.mrgarylee.com Gary

    Hands Down – Chick Hearn is the best there ever will be! He invented terms like “Slam Dunk” and “(fill in the blank) footer” and brought a city as diverse as Los Angeles a Words Eye View Every night! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6nmKmDip_k

  • Netstar882211

    The nets announcers on YES are some of the funniest, and most entertaining that I have ever heard. Up until this season, they had both Mark Jackson and Marv Albert, which kept the game interesting, even when it was slow or a blowout. Unfortunatley, Jackson left, but Marv keeps it fun for a full 48!

  • Clip

    I cant stand the clipper announcers at all, especially Ralph Lawler. Is there some rule that if you team';s announcer has to be as bad as the team? I mean this guy is horrible. He is always fighting and clowning his partner (nobody is interested. In a recent loss, in which the clippers were up in the 4th quarter, and the other team was making a come back (Memphis or Houston) he keep on asking if we were nervous yet. Over and over and over again. I have never been so annoyed at an announcer in my life. I have now resorted to watching the games on TV on mute. As the clips continue to improve, I pray that they decide to improve the announcers as well. Lawler’s gotta GO!

  • Gerard

    Back when Calvin Murphy used to do the Rockets games it was incredible, now it’s weak. Other bad ones: Spurs, Pistons, Cavs, Mavs. Good ones: Clippers, Magic.

  • star_bury

    I’m a Raptors fan and I just watch the game on mute. ‘Nuf said.

  • J Tok

    Clyde is easily the best. He has the freshest gear, and vocabulary. Slicin’ and Dicin’

  • brad

    I really don’t enjoy the Cavalier’s Austin Carr. First off, his is not a voice I’d want to listen to for very long no matter what he’s saying… it sounds like he’s mumbling while eating peanut butter.

    And please come up with a new phrase for the inevitable LeBron dunk. Yes, I did see that “The L-Train threw the hammer down!”

  • bdk23

    Chuck Swirsky, former raptor announcer was one of the most colourful announcer’s in sports. Always brought life to the raptor arena even when we were down…wayyyyyy down . Sadly he left us, used us like an old rug, S.O.B. come back chuck we miss you.

  • God’s Son

    It’s gonna be a sad day when Blaha retires from Piston’s basketball

  • Detroit Dave

    BLAHA!!! “off the high glass and hits”,

    “count that baby and the foul”

  • Detroit Dave

    how about, “with no regard for human life”

  • JD

    Mike Gorman is the best play by play guy ever. Knows what he’s talking about, rarely gets information wrong, and has a smooth voice, whereas many play by play guys have annoying, jumpy voices.
    Tommy Heinson, meanwhile, is probably the biggest homer out there. But he knows what he’s talking about too, and if you’re a Celtics fan, he’s entertaining. But I can understand why non-Celtic fans would hate to listen to him.

  • frenchbk

    Sean elliot = the worst guy ever

  • Yao Fan

    I hate the Lakers but Chick Hearns was the GOAT.

  • Grissy

    The Swirsk was the King in T.O…It was sad to see him bounce town…now we got f’n Matt Devlin who I just can’t get used to…and if he calls Jason Kapono “J-Killa” one more time I’m gonna watch Raps via the opposing squads broadcast…

    The best thing about Chuck was the “salami and cheese” which he busted out whenever he felt the Raps had the game wrapped up…one time he brought it out in the 3rd quarter…then Kobe dropped 81…

  • Holden

    blaha for the detrooooiiit pistons “COUNT THAT BABY AND A FOUL” “RIP WITH THE TURN AND GUN… GOOD!”

  • Jeff Tuttle

    How could you pick anyone other than the Detroit Pistons George Blaha!?!?

  • S D

    Gotta go with George Blaha and Special K. They’re not very homerish, even though you can tell they love the Pistons, and they have a high basketball IQ between them, always have interesting things to say, and are highly quotable. Count that baby and a foul, anyone?

    Also, Breen is a good commentator all around, and who can forget about Marv “with the facial!” Albert?

  • s

    Knicks fans get Breen & the splendiferous & precocious Frazier? Nice…..

  • Sweet English

    Count yourselves lucky, we get one strange old guy who does ALL the American sports coverage here and John Amaiechi.

  • http://myspace.com/scoobwondah Sccob

    Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Mike Breen are pretty good. But When Marv was rocking with Clyde, now that was commentating. Swishing and dishing, Matador D…really it’s just Clyde that makes the show.

    As for your boy Tommy. I cannot stand that dude. Even despite my hatred for anything Boston sports related (Yeah, I’m a typical NYer. I droppped Rajon Rondo off my my fantasy squad just off the strength that I do not like the Celtics. Even though he’s playing well, homie can kick rocks for all I care), Tommy’s consistent meat riding is disgusting. I wish he would use Paul Pierce’s jock strap for a muzzle and shut up and let me enjoy the game in peace.

  • http://www.wtfdetroit.com BigSwami

    I’m not ashamed to admit my love for another man, when that man is GEORGE BLAHA.

    Blaha owns.

  • JACK

    It’s a bit amazing to me that Blaha is still at it after all these years. The guy is fun, even if he’s a bit of a homer (although not compared to many in the league for whom the only thing they will admit in favor of the opponent is the score). He’s not your typical announcer voice but he’s got some great lines that are legendary now. He’s so overlooked and underrated.

  • DanDan

    I’m a Detroit fan living in Boston for the last 8 years, and I’d definitely give Blaha an A++. As for Tommy… I don’t think that you have to be a complete homer to do the job professionally. It’s obvious who Blaha is rooting for, but he knows facts and has intelligent insight about whatever team is playing. I feel like Tommy isn’t watching the same game I am, regardless of who’s playing against the Celtics. For a drunk townie at a bar, that’s alright and even good, but for a professional commentator? I award him no points, and may god have mercy on his soul.

  • Wild_Wookiee

    Kevin Harlan is one of my favorites.

  • James B.

    There is no greater play-by-play announcer than George Blaha. And no greater pair than Blaha and Kelser. Of course a lot of what makes these guys so great is the Detroit FSN Channel.

    Being an avid watcher of NBA League Pass since I am out of market (live in Seattle), I get to experience just about every team’s local broadcasters at some point during the season.

    I can tell you that Boston and New York are two of my least favorite local broadcast locations. I don’t see how you can argue that Boston’s Tommy Heinsohn is respected for his knowledge of the game when he constantly complains rather than analyzing the game and as far as I know never provides any kind of positive analysis for the other team.

    So he’s a homer, okay, I get that. George Blaha has been the voice of the Pistons for close to 30 years if not more, and he’s a homer too. But that doesn’t stop the Pistons broadcast from putting together highlight packages of the opposing team’s players if those players deserve it.

    At the same time, no one spits the spoken word on the sidelines better than Blaha. His naturally smooth alliterative and rhyming tendencies (“scoops it and scores it” or “Rip stops and pops…and it drops.” to name just a few of his favorite phrases) combined with Kelser’s ability to analyze the game and find some of the lesser noticed key factors to winning create one of the most enjoyable, knowledgable, and entertaining broadcast experiences in the NBA.

  • Matt R

    Blaha is by far the best announcer around the league, and the combo with special K cannot be beat

  • Allie

    Greg Kelser and George Blaha fo sho!

  • Yahtzee

    George Blaha is the best in the business.

    Classy, fair, and intelligent, Blaha makes Pistons games all the more entertaining. He knows his stuff, and doesn’t get caught up in momentum swings like other announcers. He keeps his cool and points out the strengths and weaknesses of players on both teams. Blaha gets an A8 from me.

  • Team Mom – Darlene

    Mr. George Blaha and “Special K” are the reason I signed up for League Pass. Living in Pennsylvania and being a long-time Piston fan make League Pass a special treat. It is awesome to listen to them call the game. They are knowledgable about Basketball but also very personal to listen to. I try to catch every game, just to hear “count that baby and the foul!” There is just no comparison! By far the VERY best! A+++

  • rick773

    I live all the way in Germany but the rare bulls game I do get I must say that while neil funk is decent Stacey King stinks worst at announcing than he does at basketball and thats saying a lot. Bring back Johnny Red Kerr and Tom Dore. I’ve heard some good things about Chuck Swirsky coming over from Tdot but I haven’t gottrn an opportunity to hear a game he’s called

  • Marsha

    I loathe the wizards announcers steve buckhand and phil cenier,they need to get new ones and start fresh.They are the worst without a doubt.

  • Vaughn

    GEORGE BLAHA AND SPECIAL K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    no one can beat their class and style and respect for the game!