The Ringer has finally taken a break from breathless GoT coverage and put together a great piece on what might be the final days of Marv Albert's TNT tenure which doubles as a piece that identifies what makes a great PBP man. Will this dovetail into a post that will take swipes at Kevin Harlan? Reader, it will.
Here's the piece in full:https://www.theringer.com/nba/2019/5/24/18638275/marv-albert-tnt-playoffs-career-announcer
Marv used to be my favorite PBP. No less than Chuck D based his rapping cadence on Marv's delivery. Alas, Father Time is undefeated and Marv is varying degrees of serviceable at this point. Here's a rundown of what made him great:
A play-by-play announcer’s greatest talent is their ability to get the words out of their mouth before the rest of us can even think them—and have those words be correct and perfectly pitched and, once in a while, in an odd way, kind of beautiful.
Kevin Harlan is a frequent punching bag for me and his lack of dynamics is foremost among the reason he personally grates. If everything is dialed up to 11, where do you go when that moment requires something special? At his best, Marv could be musical. The screamers merely have one note.
Albert had earned the exclamation point, because he hadn’t over-called the pedestrian moments that had come before. He knew the difference, instinctively.
He does this subtle thing where he speaks in italics. “Giannis goes right to the rim. … Gasol from downtown. … Here’s Lowry—for three.” The trick allows him to underline a piece of action without doing the cheap thing of shouting into a microphone.
I've harped on Harlan working on canned spontaneity and whose feel for the game goes little further than matching up player with number of years in the league and/or alma mater. Whether fair or not, my impression of Harlan is he loves broadcasting. Basketball is but a vehicle that allows him to broadcast. As for Marv:
A lot of announcers become the official “voice” of a sport without actually seeming to love it. Albert loves basketball. At 16, he was a Knicks ball boy. His favorite compliment is beautiful: “Middleton, ah, beautifully done.” That non-phony affection for the game helped erase some of the distance between the announcer and the audience.
Anyway, it's really a great piece. Anderson deserves to be the national voice and he's tremendous. I love language, sound and basketball. When it all comes together, it's something else and Marv handled that intersection like no other.
“I went to Toronto, I went to Atlanta/I used to drink Pepsi, but now I like Fanta.”
-Hannibal Burress's impression of Canadian music figure Drake