There may no sportscaster in history who has better combined all the necessary ingredients — voice, knowledge, presence, style, timing, wit, humor — than Marv Albert. The man is a national treasure, and he is still going strong.
Albert, 74, is entering his 18th season calling NBA games for TNT and nearing 50. The eight-time Emmy Award winner, Curt Gowdy Media Award winner (through the Basketball Hall of Fame) and National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Famer has done just about everything through his 50-year career, but his heart is with pro basketball.
The Brooklyn native recently stopped calling games for the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament — “had to drop something,” he says — but is doing one or two TNT games a week through the NBA season. Albert also is calling prime-time boxing for NBC once a month.
Marv isn’t the only Albert to make his mark in sportscasting. Brother Al has been television voice of the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers. Brother Steve is currently TV voice of the Phoenix Suns. Son Kenny works New York Rangers’ games on radio as well as play-by-play for FOX’s NFL and major league baseball coverage.
I caught up with Marv shortly before he boarded a plane in his native New York bound for Portland, where he will call the Trail Blazers’ Thursday night matchup with Memphis at Moda Center.
“From New York to Portland is like going to Czechoslovakia,” he cracks. “Portland is one of my favorite stops. I love the vibe of the city, but it’s such a long ride.”
Tribune: So many media personalities go by stage names. Your real given name is Marvin Philip Aufrichtig. When did you change it and why?
Albert: I changed it as I entered Syracuse. My brothers Al and Steve did, too. Aufrichtig was a little unwieldy. My parents agreed. An aunt of ours who I’m very close to — she’s still doing well in her 90s — convinced my father it would be a good idea.
Tribune: Your family owned a grocery story in Brooklyn when you were growing up. What led you into broadcasting?
Albert: That was all I wanted to do, for whatever reason. I was interested in writing, too, so it was either sportscasting or sportswriting. In high school, I’d turn the sound down on the TV and call the game. I was able to get access to college games at Madison Square Garden. I’d bring my tape recorder and get a spot in the high press box area and do the games.
Tribune: What’s it like to be part of sportscasting’s first family?
Albert: We all annoy each other, basically. Al and Steve got interested in it because they saw how much I was enjoying it. At first, they worked for me in writing and production. As they progressed, they became very good at it. Then my son, Kenny, picked it up. I have a daughter, Denise, who writes a mom’s blog that has led to lots of TV, and she has a radio show on Sirius.
Tribune: Where did your signature call “Yes!” come from?
Albert: From the great old referee Sid Borgia, who should be in the Hall of Fame and will be eventually. He was very theatrical, an animated official in the style of today’s Joe Crawford. A player would score and get fouled, and Sid would yell, “Yes, and it counts!” When I was growing up, a friend would use the phrase during our schoolyard games. After I started doing the Knicks, it just happened to seep in one day. I remember the play — a Dick Barnett fall-back baby jump shot that banked in during a playoff game vs. Philadelphia. For whatever reason, it caught on. I’m very judicial about using it. It has to be a certain type of shot. I make that judgment a split-second decision.
Tribune: You recently worked a pair of boxing matches on NBC with Bob Costas and Al Michaels. Wasn’t that a lot of gray matter to have in one room?
Albert: All three of us are from New York. Al and I have been very friendly over the years but had never worked together. It was fun. When I go to Los Angeles, my wife and I get together with Al and his wife. Bob lives a couple of blocks from me in New York, so we get together occasionally.
Tribune: What’s your favorite sport to work?
Albert: Easily the NBA. It’s not even close. I’ve always loved football and have done a lot of that and hockey over the years. But the NBA has always been my favorite, and it’s better than ever now.
Tribune: Greatest game you ever called?
Albert: I think more in moments. I was fortunate enough to be part of the era where NBC was calling Michael Jordan’s games. The move he made switching hands against the Lakers. The six 3’s against Portland in the playoffs. Doing the “Dream Team” in ’92. They were the greatest group ever assembled in a team sport. It was chilling to see that particular group of players. And very early in my career, the Willis Reed moment for the Knicks in Game 7 in 1970. The game itself was a blowout, but everything leading up to it for their first-ever championship was unforgettable. I did the Knicks broadcast on the radio. There was no live TV. We got one of the all-time highest radio ratings.
Tribune: What’s the assignment you’ve enjoyed the least?
Albert: At one point early in my career at NBC, they thought I should do track and field. I wasn’t really qualified. I gave it a shot, but I didn’t feel comfortable. It was a wonderful assignment, but it wasn’t for me. I always feel you have to know your limitations. I knew it early in track and field.
Tribune: You mentioned you like Portland. Why?
Albert: It is a terrific place to do games. The way the crowd is, particularly in the really good years … it’s unbelievable to sit there. It feels like a college atmosphere. The fans are so close to the court. And the people — everybody is so nice.
Tribune: When you get away from sports, what is your favorite pastime?
Albert: I read a lot. My wife and I are movie and theater goers. I used to play a lot of tennis, but I’ve pulled back on that. I still work out. You have to stay healthy. Being in New York, you have a lot of choices of things to do.
Tribune: How much longer do you want to keep broadcasting?
Albert: As long I feel I can stay at this level. I’ll know if I am ready to stop. The travel is still OK, because I read a lot on the plane. Usually when guys give it up, travel is the reason. I’m in good shape. I feel as long as you’re hearing the same broadcast you usually do, it’s fine.
To read the full article visit the Portland Tribune where it was originally published