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There are those of you, without question, who never saw him work. Some who might, at some level, wonder why so much of this sports weekend has been devoted to man who never played the game, never hit a jump shot, never caught a pass, hit a homerun or scored a goal.

Most of you know Jim McKay died yesterday. And if you're not lucky enough to know why it's a big deal, and why it matters here tonight, I'm truly sorry.


Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat... the human drama of athletic competition... This is "ABC's Wide World of Sports!"

- Wide World of Sports

Today, there's no more need to span the globe. It doesn't work that way anymore. The sports world is so much smaller than the one Jim McKay explored for us. Tonight, the world isn't cliff diving, or sled dog racing. Tonight, the globe is gathered around televisions...watching ABC...and the NBA Finals.

I wish he were here.

Can you ever imagine going out of your way, rushing home to watch wrist-wrestling, or demolition derby, or barrel rolling? Seems absurd now, doesn't it? Well, it was pretty absurd 45 years ago, too. But Jim McKay made you want to watch. He made you feel like you had to watch, like you were supposed to watch.

And he did it in the most beautifully simple, strikingly basic and most often forgotten way there is. By caring. By humanizing the participants. By being the master storyteller in a profession that at its very core, is storytelling. And you cared because you knew he cared. Victory was thrilling because of it, defeat was agonizing. It truly was.

It seems simple, because he made it seem that way. But it was a gift. And what better time and place for all of us to remember what he taught us. What better place, than this grandest of world sports stages.

The sports world isn't wide anymore.

We don't have to span the globe. We don't watch the world. The world, at least tonight, is watching us.

And if he were here tonight, you would I promise, know so much more about the people playing in this NBA Finals game. Not just their stats, not how many points they scored in the Conference Semifinals. Jim McKay gave us the good stuff.

He'd want you to know that Ronny Turiaf survived open heart surgery to be here tonight. That long before he returned from the locker room in Game One, Paul Pierce used to get up at 5 every morning to workout, and shoot hoops, to avoid the gang life in his neighborhood where often, it wasn't hoops that were being shot. About the kid who was brutally stabbed here in Boston eight years ago, and the man he's become, staying true to his team and himself through it all to the Finals. You'd hear not about the Lamar Odom that often frustrates fans with his inconsistent play, but rather the man who lost his infant son two years ago, yet somehow, found his will to go on.

How could the haters who chanted "Fire Doc" at the Celtics head coach 18 months ago, possibly affect the man whose home, and faith was destroyed by a real fire ten years earlier. A real fire, set out of hatred and ignorance and cowardice. If Jim McKay were here tonight, he'd ask that question of all us as well.

And if you close your eyes, you can hear Jim McKay telling the story of Leon Powe, surviving a broken family, surviving hardships, that no child should ever have to endure. You can envision the prose he would have used to talk about going from flea markets in the parking lot of Oakland Arena that helped make ends meet, to stepping on the floor inside that very same building years later as an NBA rookie. To the spot where all of us meet tonight, here in the NBA Finals.

He'd have done the impossible.

He would have made you care even more.


As I stood in the booth at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, I glanced down at the microphone I was holding. The "mike flag" as we like to call it, read "ABC Sports"

It was September 9, 2000.

There were a million thoughts going through my head that day, as I prepared for my network television debut.

But two were the most vivid.

One, was the part that ABC Sports played in my childhood. How many hours I must have spent watching Howard Cosell, and Frank Gifford and Keith Jackson and Chis Schenkel and Al Michaels and of course Jim McKay. With their yellow blazers and the ABC Sports logo and the theme music that always played in your head, daydreaming of one day being a part of it.

The other, is that my father, with whom I'd grown up watching Wide World of Sports every Saturday, and Monday Night Football. My father, with whom ABC Sports was a staple of our relationship, died on that very same day, September 9th sixteen years earlier.

It was a pretty powerful moment. I always wished he could have seen it.

The ABC Sports of my childhood wouldn't have existed without Wide World.

And Wide World would never have survived without Jim McKay.

He was what many of us will just aspire to be.

He was the very best at what he did.


Disingenuousness and disloyalty are a big part of this business, and I'm sure they're a part of most businesses. And it was a weight that debilitated Jim McKay in the middle of his life. It led him to depression, which threatened his career and his life. But his humanity wouldn't be broken by broadcasting, and eventually, that humanity would change it.

And while the first snapshot, the first image most will conjure will always be that horrible September morning, in the pre-dawn hours of Munich, when he told us that the Israeli hostages were, in a moment that still to this day bleeds of pain and compassion, "all gone".

I've always found irony in that fact it was his job was to deliver that unthinkable news to the world, when eight years later, his job was to bite his tongue and not report the news. Not give away the result of the tape-delayed game he had to introduce. Because despite the celebration going on out the window behind him, it wasn't his place to tell you the U.S. Hockey Team just beat the Soviets, he knew that story you'd rather watch for yourself.

But his legacy, his broadcasting immortality was made in Munich. And while "they're all gone" remain three of the most important words ever spoken on live television, the pre-cursor, his final words before facing the camera, and the world to break the news, were just as poignant. "My father always told me," he said at that moment. "That our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized."

And while he'll always be remembered for that instant, when our worst fears truly were, there seems no better time to remember where we all are tonight. The NBA, your Celtics, the Lakers. Back in the NBA Finals.

It's not just the worst fears that can be realized. And enjoying that is one final gift he gave us.

Life has a funny way of reminding you once in a while of the little things like that. Of the fact that tonight when I take my seat to call Game 3 of the NBA Finals, that I can think about Jim McKay, and ABC Sports and my father, and the fact that the last basketball game he and I watched together, was the final game of the Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals in 1984, the night the guy who'll take that seat next to me tonight, told his teammates to climb on his back.

An exceptionally inconsequential piece of human interest minutiae.

But I bet if Jim McKay was in charge of telling the stories tonight, he'd know it.

There are times I fear the way he told stories will become a lost art forever. There are times I fear the notion of actually caring about sports, being passionate about it, will just go out of style. And there are times, a lot of times really, I fear the humanity he epitomized, the very best part of sports, the reason we've devoted so much of our lives and our selves to it, will evaporate in the bile of soulless sportsradio, message-board snark.

But then I remember...our worst fears are seldom realized.

Jim McKay taught me that.

And tonight, as we're all immersed in this dream of an NBA Finals one year removed from a 24-win, lottery losing season?

I guess our greatest hopes sometimes are.