It begins tonight, the NBA title; Denver’s first shot in the ultimate series; Miami has won three

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It was a different time, 1988. Mark Jackson had won the NBA Rookie of Year with the New York Knicks, playing for Rick Pitino. He had played at St. John’s for the colorful Lou Carnesecca.

In all he played for seven clubs in 17 NBA seasons. He averaged 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 8.0 assists in 1,296 regular season games. He coached Golden State for three seasons before Steve Kerr took over and won four titles in the Bay Area.

He talks passionately and the consensus is that he would like another shot on the bench. The man knows the game and explains it simply and clearly.

Comments from MARK JACKSON at ESPN’s Conference:

“Well, I would say the thing that jumps out, and it’s not about the Miami Heat, anytime a team suffers the injuries that they’ve suffered and sustained their level of play. Not surprising that they would win a playoff series and compete moving forward, but no matter what their team looked like, losing key players, I wouldn’t pick that team to wind up as one of the last two standing.”

Mark Jackson (15 titles) and Jeff Van Gundy (17 titles) were asked about their seniorities and partnership for ESPN  and ABC

Reporter: “Jeff and Mark, with the longevity you guys have as analysts, did you guys think you would be in your positions for this long since there’s constant speculation about former coaches returning to the bench?”

MARK JACKSON: “It’s an incredible run, and it doesn’t happen without a great team, just like in the league. When you’re talking about Tim Corrigan and the job he’s done producing us all these years, incredible mind, incredible leader, and sets the tone for all of us. We have the best point guard in the business in Mike Breen and the job he’s done making history and being on a short list of the best ever to do it in all of sports. Having Lisa Salters and the job she continues to do, the GOAT in my opinion in her particular area.

“Then being alongside Jeff and his basketball genius, to me I would say I did not expect it, and when I say I did not expect it, it’s because I played for Jeff Van Gundy. He coached me, and I watched his genius. I didn’t expect him to still be calling NBA Finals 17 years later.

“I expected him to return to the sideline in his rightful position because I know the impact he had on me and he has on me on a daily just by spewing basketball knowledge on a sit-down at a table having lunch or dinner, or sitting alongside of him courtside for all of these years.

“That’s the one thing that I thought might stop it, but it’s been an incredible run and one that I truly don’t take for granted.”

JEFF VAN GUNDY: “Yeah, and I want to reiterate what Mark said about the great people that we work with. Man, just really a great team. And to be able to do it with friends makes it very rewarding.

“With all the upheaval that we have at times in TV, in management, to work with Tim and Mike, Mark and Lisa really makes it like it’s home.

“As Mark spoke about me not being in coaching, truly he took the words right out of my mouth because I can’t really believe after the great job he did at Golden State that he’s still with us. I’m honored that he is, because he’s one of the — obviously he was a great coach, but he was one of those visionary players that when I came into the NBA, he taught me a heck of a lot more when I was an assistant coach than I taught him, and I’ll be forever indebted to Mark, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley because when I came in the NBA at 27, they taught me far, far more about the NBA and really gave me a great jump start.

“I’ll forever be thankful for that.”

Reporter:  “This is your 15th year covering the Finals with Mike Breen. I wanted to know what’s your most iconic memory of his greatest ‘bang’ call.'”

MARK JACKSON: First of all, I will say it’s almost unfair to ask that question because you’re talking about Mike Breen, who we believe is the best to do it, and so many great, great calls. To narrow it down to one, which I can’t do, sitting beside him, watching him, not anticipate calling it, but time and time again, hit the right note, hit the right key, and hit it at the right time is like watching Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson or Nikola Jokić sitting alongside of us.

It’s something, like I said, I don’t take for granted. Unfortunately I can’t pick out one because there’s been so many great, great calls. I even find myself watching the Finals commercials and hearing call after call of Mike’s voice. It’s just a tremendous career and one that I hope continues for a long time to come.

JEFF VAN GUNDY: For me, the ones I remember are the Ray Allen corner three, Game 6, Miami-San Antonio; the chase-down block by LeBron James. It wasn’t a “bang,” but it was great play, great call. And then I think it was the double “bang” of Steph Curry against Oklahoma City. When you get a double “bang,” that’s something.

You know what I love, too? And Mark highlighted this. So many players now, if they hit a big shot, turn to the table and say “bang.” Mike can’t really catch it because he’s actually doing something. I’m spotting up in the corner and just watching a lot, and to see the respect they have for that call and what it takes to get a “bang,” and Jamal Murray I think was the last one, and Mark spotted it in Game 4 against LA, I think is pretty cool, too.



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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