On Wednesday, I got a chance to tune in to my first game of the 2020-21 NBA season. It was a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. Of course, there was no skin in the game for me considering it wasn’t the Raptors playing nor my beloved and stolen Seattle SuperSonics. It was actually a great game, with the Celtics winning it on a putback by Payton Pritchard with 0.2 seconds remaining. I didn’t care much for the NBA on ESPN presentation though. It lacked the sizzle that sucked in even the most casual viewer…even for an early-season tussle. It was basically just a handover from the pre-game show team to the play-by-play team. The intro sucked donkey balls. I remember a time where the intro to an NBA game were like this. Such a golden era of sports presentation. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the NBA on NBC.
How I first came across this moment? My earliest recollections of watching NBA on NBC games were back when I watched the 1991 NBA Finals with my uncle at my grandmother’s house. My uncle was a big-time Magic Johnson fan and I remember him going hard for the Lakers as they were getting dismantled by the Chicago Bulls.
What it meant to me then? For most of its run, the NBA on NBC really was my best chance to watch the NBA during the formative years of my life. I never really had the time to watch the NBA on TNT during the week. The presentations were always captivating. I always knew I’d either be seeing one of the best teams in the NBA or one of the game’s best players…sometimes both. I loved everything about the NBA on NBC presentation…from Marv Albert and The Czar calling the action to Steve “Snapper” Jones breaking down gameplay the way Kirk Herbstreit does on ESPN Saturday Night Football on ABC to the flashbacks of great moments in NBA history with the Miller Genuine Draft Miller Moments. I even liked the pregame stuff with Bob Costas and Hannah Storm: I learned a lot about the games ahead with the NBA Showtime setup. But the crown jewel of the NBA on NBC presentations was the game intro. Whether it was Marv Albert or Dick Enberg or Bob Costas delivering the voiceover, those intros were always full of drama and set the stage for the game…and they always ended with the signature “Roundball Rock” theme. It was always a great time watching the NBA on NBC.
What it means to me now? Much like everybody else, the last time I watched the NBA on NBC was Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals, where the Los Angeles Lakers completed their three-peat of NBA championships by sweeping the New Jersey Nets. ABC took over the next year and it hasn’t really been the same since. But one thing for sure is that for 12 years, I was privileged to see some great basketball presentations. Today, the NBA on NBC has a cult following and I’m glad to say that I was amongst those who saw it live. In hindsight, I think it was one of the best presentations of sports out there.