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'Voice of the Lakers' Was Team's Constant Throughout the Years

Chick Hearn: 1916-2002
Aug 5 2002 11:59PM
Three thousand, three hundred sixty-two.

At first glance, its a number that seems innocent enough, but when you actually find out what the number corresponds to, it almost boggles the mind. Thats because 3,362 represents the number of games that Lakers play-by-play announcing legend Chick Hearn broadcast over the last five decades.

Chick jokes with Shaquille O'Neal.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
He broadcast 3,338 of those games consecutively from Nov. 21, 1965 through Dec. 16, 2001.

When sharpshooter Jerry West scored 29 points for the Lakers during a 110-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on that November 1965 day at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, it appeared to be just another game on the grueling NBA schedule. For all practical purposes, it was. However, in this case, practical doesnt figure into the equation.

Since that night, the Lakers played more than 3,400 games, scored more than 360,000 points, utilized more than 230 different players, registered more than 2,100 wins and won nine NBA Championships. Although he missed 56 games this season when he had to undergo heart surgery to repair a blocked aortic valve, Hearn witnessed it all.

The lone play-by-play announcer in Los Angeles Lakers history, Hearn finished his 42nd season of providing NBA fans with his colorful and entertaining words-eye-view when the Lakers swept the Nets to win the 2002 NBA Finals in June.

Chick began the 2001-02 campaign with a string of 3,317 Lakers broadcasts (regular season and playoffs), having not missed a game since Nov. 20, 1965 (Lakers vs. San Francisco at Las Vegas). This unfathomable streak, which only the likes of a Cal Ripken or former Lakers ironman A.C. Green could truly appreciate, reached an amazing milestone on Jan. 19, 1998, when Chick announced his 3,000th consecutive contest against the Orlando Magic at the Great Western Forum.

Putting the streak in perspective, Jerry West was in the prime of his career, gasoline cost approximately 23 cents per gallon and guard Kobe Bryant was still 13 years away from being born when Chick's streak began.

Fortunately, Chicks work never went unnoticed.

On Nov. 30, 1995, The American Sportscasters Association bestowed Chick with yet another in a long list of honors, naming him as a member of the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame. With a short and distinctive list of inductees comprised of only 20 individuals including the likes of Mel Allen, Jack Buck and Curt Gowdy, Chick joined a group of all-time great sportscasters. He considered the induction as the highlight of a career filled with bright moments, simply because it was his peers other sportscasters who voted for his entry.

Having been blessed with good health for the first 84 years of his life, the Illinois native missed only two games, one due to a flight cancellation (inclement weather) and the other as a result of another assignment, prior to his illnesses this past season. However, it wasnt always easy. In March of 1994, he broadcast a game only hours after regaining his voice from a bout with laryngitis. On May 12, 1995, he announced the first half of the Lakers/Spurs playoff game before retiring for the night with another severe case of laryngitis. And on Feb, 21, 2001, again in San Antonio, Hearn broadcast the first half of the game before bowing out due to laryngitis.

Hearn served as master of ceremonies for many victory celebrations.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
On May 9, 1991, Chick became only the third broadcaster ever to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. During his career, he garnered a lifetime achievement Victor Award, three Golden Mike Awards, two National Sportscaster of the Year awards, seven California Sportscaster of the Year awards, the first-ever Cable Ace Award, the 1991 Cedars-Sinai Journalist of the Year, the 1965 Emmy Award for Excellence in Basketball coverage and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 50th Anniversary Award.

Born Francis Dayle Hearn, Chick grew up in Aurora, Ill., and attended Bradley University. He was given the nickname Chick when, as an AAU basketball player, he was handed a box of sneakers only to be surprised to find a chicken inside. Six years ago, Chicks hometown saluted its local hero for his outstanding accomplishments during a festive dinner, with the Mayor of Aurora proclaiming June 3 as Chick Hearn Day in the Illinois city from that point forward.

Chick first landed in Los Angeles in 1956 and developed a genuine love affair with Southern California Sports fans. He initially broadcast USC football and basketball, and later did a nightly radio sports show that earned him two Emmy Awards in the 1960s.

Although best known for his work with the Lakers, Chick broadcast an assortment of sporting events, including NCAA and NFL football, UNLV basketball, PGA golf tournaments, the first Ali-Frazier fight, the Rose Bowl, professional tennis and most recently, Los Angeles Sparks games. Overall, his voice graced the airways for over half a century.

Nationally known and respected, Chick spent part of the summer of 1992 providing the fans of North America with his unique commentary, broadcasting games on NBCs Triplecast for the gold-medal winning United States basketball team in Barcelona, Spain.

Chicks near-non-stop work schedule also included numerous commercials and movie appearances, while his lightning-quick wit made him a popular after-dinner speaker. A decade ago, he recorded a hit rap record, Wrap Around, and also helped create Chicks Dream Game fantasy tapes.

Included among Chicks other career highlights are Chick Hearn Night, which the team held in his honor on March 28, 1981, and the rainy day in the fall of 1986 when a star bearing his name was installed on Hollywood Boulevards Walk of Fame.

Chick is survived by his wife, Marge.