The rich growth of the NBA and its broadcasts: In 1970, game #7, Wilt vs. Reed for title; Not close!


In 1953, the NBA’s eighth season through many franchises, the league finally reached its first national TV contract. The league got something like $40,000 per game from a fledgling broadcaster, DuMont. Soon after  the network altered and failed.

After Marty Glickman did the only DuMount season, in 1952-53, he moved to NBC for 1953-54, hoping to call it home. Marty didn’t labor with basketball, he flourished with it. Jack Buck and others told me he was best at it, certainly in his day. He was the league’s lead voice.

But the following season, the network relieved him and brought in Lindsey Nelson, an NBC staff-member. In his autobiography, Marty insinuated that he, Marty, wasn’t renewed because of his Jewish faith. On TV, Lindsey Nelson would resign on NBC, 1954-61. Golf and other events could take precedence. 

Doing a Mets broadcast in 1970, he was asked to share a Knicks’ game score in the playoffs. “It’s the New York Knicks, 8 and the Baltimore Bullets, 2. I can assure you that the score will definitely change.” Nelson concluded with his typical confidence and character.

TV scheduling was dictated by the Peacock. As such, there were years when the NBA Finals were truncated mightily. It wasn’t until 1971 that every game was called live on TV. Even the finals. The brackets were expanded too.

For the Knicks-Lakers Finals in 1970, New Yorkers, in essence, could only hear the home games on radio. Marv Albert proved he could draw pictures and express emotion from the heart. The Brooklynite was only 27 on the night of May 8th. 

This first NBC/NBA package ended in 1962. The paucity of games then were little better than nothing. After NBC dropped the NBA package completely, CBS had no interest in the NBA and neither did ABC. Fox was a sea away.

Dumont went bankrupt quickly and today half a is nothing more  after NBC ran from the NBA telecasts from

  • The first NBA game on radio was played November 7, 1946 in St. Louis. Hoping to attract women to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks hired Sarah Palfree Cooke, a woman with a tennis background. Glickman told me that on the train from New York, “Sarah asked how many points are earned when a ball goes through the bucket.” At that point, Marty knew he was in trouble. Sarah didn’t last long.
  • Marty remembers entering the St. Louis Arena and there was Harry Caray prepped too, to do his first ever NBA game in 1946. Earl Gillespie, the longtime Braves’ announcer in Milwaukee, also did The NBA team in Milwaukee for only four seasons, from 1951 to 1955.
  • The early years of the league began as the BAA (Basketball Association of American) in 1946 and merged into the NBA in 1949.
  • Marty recommended his assistant Johnny Most for the Celtics and in the mid to the late 1950s, Johnny took the chair in Boston and developed a tight relationship with the club and coach Red Auerbach
  • Well respected too was Hilliard Gates who spent virtually all his career in Fort Wayne before the club      moved to Detroit. Marty Glickman and Gates did the first All-Star Game in Boston in 1951. Marty told me that he very impressed with Hilliard.
  • More stability arrived in the 1960s: Ed Kennedy and later Dom Valentino in Cincinnati, Andy Musser in Philadelphia, Jim Karvellas in Chicago and later in Baltimore.
  • By the mid to late 1960s, Marv Albert began to preside over Knicks’ radio and growing. The club’s improvement didn’t hurt. The shiny look at the New Garden from the decrepit Old One ones at the new, from the old  at the Old Garden   What Chick Hearn had done for the Lakers and Bill King for the Warriors,  Marv started to do in New York. Albert started as an assistant for Marty in New York and used his own blessed talent to thicken his his own career. For three or four decades he dominated local sports; Giants football, Rangers and Knicks.


  • Wilt, West and the Lakers couldn’t do it. The Knicks won it, they earned it. 113-99.
  • The Hard Hat Riot occurred on May 8, 1970, in New York City, the same day the Knicks won their first-ever tile. It started around noon when around 400 construction workers and around 800 office workers attacked around 1,000 demonstrators affiliated with the student strike of 1970. America was turning politically active and among them, sports fans. Extremes on both ends. Riots on the streets. Joyed, overjoyed and over-torn. But in New York, the battles down near Wall Street -included students protesting the Kent State shooting. Still, near the Garden, Knicks’ fans were elated by the Knicks first ever title. The league was celebrating its 25th year. Celebratory but sadly day in New York.
  • We never saw anything like it; It disrupted a country. A once-popular player, a sometimes actor and excellent running back was evading caps. The Knicks-Houston Finals in June, 1984. Many were forced to watch from just a piece of the set. You go with your viewers. The NBA and NBC had the two bosses talking constantly through the game, David Stern and Dick Ebersol. If you’re wondering, the players too told us later that they too were wondering what was happening.
  • In 1994, Before the game, with O. J.’s whereabouts unclear, NBA commissioner David Stern asked NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol to stick with coverage of the game. Ebersol though watched the game on a an early-generation cell phone pinned to his ear. He was on with NBC News president, Tom Lack.
  • Into from the late 1960s through the increasing national NBA TV revenue since, the league has turned into a goldmine. More telecasts and the advent of Michael Jordan, would expect this great success since. These broadcasters contributed tons.
  • Nationally, these fellows on the networks in the 60s and 70s included Dick Stockton, Marv Albert, Bob Costas and one with the longest seniority, 20, Mike Breen. 
  • Early NBA Hall of Fame Broadcasters, The top ten in chronology: Curt Gowdy, Marty Glickman, Chick Hearn, Johnny Most, Marv Albert, Hot Rod Hundley, Al McCoy, Joe Tait, Jim Durham and Bill Schonely.
  • Mike Breen was comfortable, assuming for the top NBA sports gig in 2006, Al Michaels on ABC. He finished his 18th straight Finals, 17 with Jeff Van Gundy and 16 with Mark Jackson. The current voices are the longest running trios. They will always have  LeBron and Charles Barkley as the longest names.
  • The 1990s, NBC and the NBA were best expressed together by Michael Jordan and what he brought to the game. Marv Albert’s tone was always distinct, recognizable and a staccato. Bob Costas talks flawlessly, cogently and had no hesitation of uttering his opinion. Bob will always remain a master, no matter what he does. 
  •  Vin Scully and Chick Hearn in Los Angeles  and Bill King in San Francisco  were huge hoops names and. No American market had a better one-two punch than Hearn and Scully did in SoCal. King was a renaissance man and as comfortable in the Russian Tea Room in New York than Bill  clling a brutal Raiders game in the Bay Area.
  • In 1974, Football man on CBS, Pat Summerall kept his words to himself as a minimalist. Hot Rod Hundley, his analyst, was in character. He was more a play-by-player on radio for the Jazz and quite popular by it.
  • The 1970 NBA championship game was called by Chris Schenkel and Jack Twyman – on ABC; Marty Glickman on Manhattan Cable; Marv Albert on WHN Radio; Chick Hern on Lakers Network
  • People of our youths honored for calling basketball nationally
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
11 months ago

If I am correct, Vin did college basketball in New York in his early days–not just at Fordham. Jack Buck also did it in the Midwest. The funny thing is, while Bud Blattner was nationally known for his baseball work with Dizzy Dean and well known in southern California and Kansas City, I think a lot of St. Louis folks thought of him as the Hawks announcer! By the way, Blattner and Don Wells doing the Angels remind me of Jim Murray’s great line about the problem the San Diego Padres faced: He said they were bounded by desert to… Read more »

Barry Kipnis
11 months ago

You can guarantee that if the topic is the NBA and/or the Knicks, then Dave is going to pull out a reference to the legendary Marty Glickman. BTW, in the 1970 series Knicks-Lakers, I recall Jim Gordon called the play by play for one game in that series on radio, I think in LA – not sure why Marv missed that one – but I do remember Gordon did a great job.

Michael Green
11 months ago
Reply to  Barry Kipnis

And I don’t think anyone doubts Marty will be worth mentioning! I didn’t get to hear him much until late in his career, when he was doing the Jets on radio. And he still had it.