The NBA Playoffs proceed; Big markets alive: NY, LA, SF, Philly, Boston, Denver, Phoenix and Miami

Basketball’s Top Markets alive

Two NBA games tonight and two tomorrow

Their pursuits began with their ancestors. NBA franchises formed one by one. Conceptually, from a handful to thirty today  It was a struggle at first. No mammoth undertaking ever is.

The NBA was born in 1946, just after the war ended. Announcer Marty Glickman of WHN Radio returned to our wonderful land from the lousy Pacific. Off the New York shores he began to call basketball games at Madison Square Garden in the late 1930s. After his absence, he picked up pro-ball immediately with the first Knicks team in ’46.

Basketball on radio was called only limitedly. Yet Marty put his early stamp on the game, using colorful  descriptions just as his later colleague Chick Hearn would do a decade or so later in Southern California with blazing speed.

MSG made a deal with WHN for both the pro and college schedules. In 1950, MSG hosted both the NIT and the NCAA Tournament. City College won both an the city felt an electricity. It needed WHN for play-by-play. The New York radio biggies’, baseball’s Mel Allen tried and failed and Red Barber was disinterested. He was a bit haughty anyhow.  

This was all uprooted again when I looked early yesterday at the NBA playoff schedule. The NBA was a combination yesterday of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League. Not to challenge our own brains, but Sacramento’s official start is actually a year before than the Knicks. The Rochester Royals, now officially the Kings began officially in 1945 and the Knicks in in ’46. The Royals wouldn’t bolt for Cincinnati until 1957.

They originated in Rochester, New York as the Seagrams (a semi-professional team) in 1923 and joined the National Basketball League in 1945 as the “Rochester Royals.

Take a quick look:

1923 – 1957 / Rochester Royals

1957 – 1972 / Cincinnati Royals

1972 – 1975 / Kansas City-Omaha Kings

1975 – 1985 / Kansas City Kings

1985 – Present / Sacramento Kings

Throw this list at a few of today’s key players, they’d be rubbing their eyes in confusion. But so it was then. Until 1954 when the 24 second shot clock game was installed in the NBA was brutally slow. Rochester won two NBA titles in the 1950s, none since. The first in 1951 against George Mikan’s Minneapolis Lakers and then again in 1955 against the Fort Wayne Pistons, now in Detroit. 

  • Jack Buck, father of Joe, the fellow who presided over 23 World Series on Fox, called Rochester Royals games too. He then proceeded to Columbus for some time and forever to St. Louis.
  • The Kings-Warriors promising matchup turned into a yawner late yesterday, just after the Knicks collapsed in front of their fans’ faces. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra continues to excel in front of his own mentor, Pat Riley. Erik, like his dad Jon, keeps his eyeballs on his own mission, coaching his ballclub to another title. In the late 70s, dad Jon  was considered Superman of NBA marketing and sponsorship sales, first with The Blazers in Portland and later running the business operation for the New Jersey Sets.
  • It’s been some 38 years since the Kings arrived in California’s capital city. Gary Gerould was hired on day one as the club’s announcer. His every word is well calculated. If you like his mellow sound, Gary is enjoyable. He is Midwest in origin and and placid in style. When the Kings came calling from Kansas City in 1985, I don’t believe Gerould had ever done an NBA Radio broadcast anywhere. He learned the game slowly and figured it out. At this point, 82 and beloved by the the local fanhood, Gary has a professorial and trim look to him
  • LeBron honored by Shula, Riley at Reid & Fiorentino Call of the Game dinner | FOX SportsErik Spoelstra keeps his business inside the team’s rails. I’d say that his look is inscrutable. The results show it. To date, two NBA titles and three additional trips to the Finals. This is his 15th go-around as the head man on the Heat bench. He can be firm and straight faced. He’s only 52. I’d bet that taskmaster Riley taught him the ropes. He interprets hints on the court and off pretty well. When the team’s popular TV analyst Tony Fiorintino was let go after years of sticktoitive dedication, fanes weren’t happy. He had been an assistant coach, summer mentor in the neighborhood and always wearing his emotion on his sleeve, it was revealed that Spoelstra was supposedly not told when the news broke internally. Sports can be a killer. (Tony, left, near LeBron and Eric Reid, the club’s voice since day one in 1988). Fiorintino was a cogent high school coach and influential teacher, brought to Miami from Westchester County as an assistant to incoming Heat’s first coach, Ron Rothstein.
  • Yesterday. the first matchup revived the entertaining and fiercely competitive Knicks-Heat rivalry of the 90s. The national play-by-play telecasters Sunday probably felt that they should be on opposite sides of the coasts. Mike Breen, the Knicks TV voice, was in Sacramento for the Warriors’ game and Mark Jones, the Kings’ TV voice, was in New York for the Heat game. Strange how things happen. Breen is the longtime Knicks announcer and Jones does telecasts for the Kings.
  • Doris Burke was quoted politely with remarks how she’s determined to be elevated to a number one role on NBA playoff telcasts. She is getting a better. I still question the Hoops’ Hall for giving her the Gowdy Award before Brent Musburger. Politics, friends!
  • Switching channels on SiriusXM, the Yankees were playing in Texas. Guess who graced our presence? Yes. John Sterling. He turns 85 on July 4th. We were told that the station and team management had a plan in place to which Sterling agreed that he would cut back on his schedule; just home games, plus a few road games. If so, what’s he doing wandering around the country?
  • Most ridiculous television occurs when an NBA game is parked at Madison Square Garden. ESPN/ABC cameras won’s stop flashing photos of the stars, from Pat Riley to Alex Rodriguez now Jets’ QB Aaron Rodgers and a plethora of others. Viewers and talent have to study and memorize the stars in the stands. The craziness of spring in New York!
(2) BOSTON CELTICS VS. (3) PHILADELPHIA 76ERSMonday, May 1- 7:30 PM- at Boston
TNT: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Allie LaForce
Monday, May 1- 10 PM- at Denver

TNT: Spero Dedes, Grant Hill, Stephanie Ready


Tuesday, May 2- 7:30 PM- at New York

TNT: Ian Eagle, Jim Jackson, Jared Greenberg
ESPN Radio: Sean Kelley, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude: 


Tuesday, May 2- 10 PM- at San Francisco
TNT: Brian Anderson, Stan Van Gundy, Chris Haynes
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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