BASKETBALL

Can Denver win its first ever NBA title tonight? Last ABA game ever in 1976 was also Al vs. Steve Albert

 

The NBA Finals might end Monday night or it can extend further. ABC has the broadcasts:

  • A quiet fellow, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is beginning to get some well deserved attention. He’s been with Miami for 15 seasons and won two titles. Michael Malone has also bounced around, four assistantships and one prior head coaching job, Sacramento.
  • Steve Albert and I have communicated. I’ve known him for eons. His New York roots are generally redolent of a relaxed wit. Steve is generally chilled. Middle-brother Al Albert also called ABA games beginning in New York during the 1971-72 season and later for roughly two decades with Denver, where it transitioned from the ABA to the NBA in 1976.
  • After Marv Albert, Al was the next to use Albert in his new family name. He also did the Nets and Islanders and then trekked to Denver for some twenty years in all. Steve is also happy, funny and never feels uncomfortable. In all, Steve covered the Nets, Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns before retiring. Through his career, Steve hopped around in various roles, liked wherever he was.
  • Steve Albert was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2018. Brother Al won the Sam Taub Award for excellence in boxing broadcast journalism. Oldest brother Marv did boxing all around the world for NBC.
  • On paper, Kenny Albert has done just about everything. Still very consumed  with the NHL and deservedly so! Very reliable, humble and warm.

A Little History:

  • Born in 1967 into the freshly created ABA (American Basketball Association) as the Denver Rockets, they merged into the NBA in 1976. Of the four ABA clubs that survived, only the San Antonio Spurs earned any titles, five for that matter.
  • In their 56 years to date in the Mile High City, they were first the Rockets, in 1967. In 1974, the team’s nickname was converted to the Nuggets. From what I can establish, Dick Carlson was the team’s first announcer. He also did the Kansas City Chiefs before managing multiple radio stations in Minneapolis, including WCCO. 
  • Other ABA voices included Bob Costas (The Spirit of St. Louis), Jack Fleming (Pittsburgh Pipers), Jerry Baker (Indiana Pacers). Marty Brennaman (Virginia Squires) and Spencer Ross (the New Jersey Americans, now Brooklyn Nets).
  • CBS-TV did some ABA games with Don Criqui on play-by-play. HBO did as well, when sports pay TV was in a nascent state.
  • No local Denver team will ever steal the thunder of the Broncos, Nuggets radio announcer, Jason Kosmicki admits so. Dave Logan, the football team’s radio voice, signed a new 10 year contract on powerhouse KOA in 2019 at age 65! He’s guaranteed through age 75. Bob Martin, died a young man at 57, in 1990. He once told me that uniform numbers are meaningless on radio. Martin also did color on a chunk of the Nuggets broadcasts. Martin partnered with Al Albert over KOA, a powerhouse of a signal at 850 on the AM dial.

More from Steve Albert:

The youngest of the three shared the story of what happened on May 13, 1976, at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. “The Nuggets lost to the Nets in the title game which turned out to be the final game in ABA history! I happened to be on television play-by-play for the Nets and my older brother Al called the games on TV for the Nuggets. We were dueling announcers. It was brother against brother,” Steve said.

Steve tells us what happened when Al did play-by-play against him on the opposite side of the court. It was for the last ABA Final ever. In other words, the last game was played with a red, white and blue ball, 47 years ago. 

It felt like yesterday, reminiscent of calling ping-pong matches in the basement of our house in Brooklyn. Turn the sound down on TV to practice play-by-play into a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Along with my brothers, Marv and Al, we created our own little broadcasting school. Here we were, Al and I, announcing on opposite sides in the ABA Championship series. It seemed improbable.

I was on the far left side of the broadcast table, next to the Nets bench while Al was on the far right side, adjacent to the Nuggets bench.

Remember this:

Steve Albert also shared this with us. “The series appeared destined to head back to Denver for game seven, but the Nets, who trailed the Nuggets by 22 points in the third quarter of game #6, staged a furious comeback, led by Super John Williamson, who scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half, and Julius Erving, who finished with 31 points, 19 rebounds and 5 steals. The Nets rallied to beat Denver, 112-106 to win the title in six games.

When the horn sounded to end the game, Nets fans stormed onto the court to celebrate. Perhaps out of respect for their hometown announcer, they circumvented Steve’s end of the broadcast table. Meanwhile, down at the other end, jubilant fans stampeded through, completely obliterating my brother Al’s broadcast, back to Denver, ripping off his headset microphone, severing all the lines and dragging his TV monitor to the floor. I saw Al standing on top of the table with a helpless look on his face!”

Al never even had the chance to sign off to all the heartbroken Nuggets fans in the last game in ABA history! Meanwhile, I was able to toss it to my broadcast partner the late Bob Goldsholl in the victorious Nets locker room. I’ll never forget it.

My broadcast of game six was seen on a cable station known back then as Home Box Office, better known these days simply as HBO.

Ironically, I had replaced Al with the Nets that season while Al was in his first year as voice of the Nuggets.

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
1 year ago

And it’s interesting that Marv Albert did Mets pre-game shows (that’s where he met his first wife, Kenny’s mother), and Steve later did the Mets, succeeding Lindsey Nelson in the booth though not as #1 announcer. Great to see these reminiscences. Doug Harvey, the greatest umpire of his generation, also refereed in the ABA, and told some stories about it in his autobiography.