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The Men Behind the Mic: Steele & Neumann

Throughout their respective careers broadcasting NBA games, play-by-play announcers David Steele and Dennis Neumann have pretty much seen it all. They were both, for instance, a part of the Orlando Magic’s two NBA Finals appearances in 1995 and 2009, traveled to China for exhibition games and witnessed firsthand the opening of the dazzling new Amway Center.

Recently, Steele and Neumann responded to five questions that help express their fondest memories and experiences in their NBA broadcasting careers thus far.


1) What is your most memorable basketball-related moment in your days announcing NBA games (ex. specific game, play, performance you called)?

RESPONSE

David Steele
There have been many memorable moments through the years, but one that still stands out occurred in February of 1993. It was a Sunday afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona, midway through Shaquille O'Neal's rookie season. The big fella followed up a missed shot by Anthony Bowie with a powerful dunk. The basket rocked forward, then backwards, then began a gradual descent, like a deflating balloon, resting finally with the rim several feet above the floor. The seemingly impossible had happened. Shaq had broken an NBA basket! At that time I was doing radio play-by-play (without a color commentator), and recall having to fill over a half-hour of time while Suns personnel scrambled to set up a replacement basket.

The shock factor was less, but still significant, two and a half months in game number 81, when Shaq reprieved his breath taking, basket-breaking skills in New Jersey. After receiving a pass from Bowie, Shaq threw down a vicious dunk over Dwayne Schintzius. This time the basket came down fast and hard, prompting Shaq and Schintzuis to dart out of the way of the rapidly descending rim. (Sidenote- Nick Anderson, who was ill and not expected to play, came off the bench to score a career high 50 points).

Dennis Neumann
There is no question that calling NBA Finals games has been the highlight of my thirteen years of doing radio play by play for the Magic. In 1995, as the radio host for the Magic, I sat alongside David Steele and had an incredible experience watching and listening to the Magic's first trip to the NBA Finals. Although disappointing in the outcome, the memory of that first taste of what the NBA Finals was all about will always be special.

In 2009 I had my first opportunity to call Finals games and that experience will always be a cherished one in my career, especially calling the Magic's first ever NBA Finals victory! (Game #3 vs. the Lakers, June 9, 2009). I must admit that there was a big difference in my appreciation of the two Finals experiences. In '95, it was new, it was our first trip there and we felt like we would be going back many times in the coming years. In '09, with the benefit of experience and the realization that it had been fourteen years since we last had been to the Finals, I was overcome with an appreciation of just how difficult it it to get to an NBA Finals series and how even more difficult it is to win an NBA Championship. It is a rare and special accomplishment and each moment should be savored.




2) What is your most memorable NON-basketball-related moment in your days announcing NBA games (ex. event you attended, a certain humorous travel experience, dinner you had with a legend)?

RESPONSE

David Steele
Easily the most memorable, bizarre non-basketball related event in my 22 years of announcing Magic games occurred in early January of 1996. The team played a game in Cleveland on a Saturday night, and afterwards boarded a plane to Philadelphia for a game Monday against the Sixers. The team never made it to Philly. A big winter storm hit the east coast while the plane was en route, forcing a landing in Allentown, Pa. The Magic team and traveling party spent the next two days in a downtown Allentown hotel, snowed in with the strangest combination of random hotel guests imaginable. As it turned out, Shaq, Penny and the rest of the Magic team were not the only celebrities who were snow-bound in Allentown during the great storm of '96. The rock group "Marilyn Manson" was in the hotel too. So was the cast of "Sesame Street on Ice," a wedding party, and Johnny Unitas' niece. The stories that emerged from those 48 hours in Allentown are too numerous to get into here. Suffice it to say that the event brought new meaning to Billy Joel's lyrics, "well we're waiting here in Allentown."

Dennis Neumann
Although so many funny moments with Richie Adubato out on the NBA road beg to be told, I would have to say that my experience traveling to China with the Magic in 2009 was one I will never forget, and one that left a lasting impression. To watch Chinese fans react to the NBA game in Shanghai and Macao was a once in a lifetime experience. Add to that the unforgettable memories of getting a snapshot glimpse of the Chinese people and the burgeoning growth of their beautiful country was life changing.




3) What specific call that you or a colleague of yours said on air lives in your memory the most?

RESPONSE

David Steele
The single most memorable play I have had as a broadcaster occurred during game one of the second round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls in 1995. Michael Jordan had made his return to the NBA in March after a failed attempt in professional baseball. Most observers expected Jordan and the Bulls to defeat the up and coming young Magic in the best of seven series, and the Bulls appeared to have game one locked up, leading by one with time ticking down. As Jordan dribbled into the frontcourt, Nick Anderson poked the ball away from behind, into the arms of Penny Hardaway who lobbed a pass to Horace Grant for a game-winning dunk. The Orlando Magic crowd has never been louder than on that monumental play which paved the way for the Magic to advance to the NBA finals in just their 6th season in the league. "Nick Anderson stole the ball from Michael Jordan" is still arguably the most memorable moment in Magic history.

Dennis Neumann
The radio call that always remains most clear in my memory is from June of 1977. Growing up in Portland, Oregon I was an avid fan of the Portland Trailblazers and a huge admirer of Blazers longtime radio announcer Bill Schonley. On June 5, 1977 I listened to Bill call the final seconds of NBA Finals game #6 vs the Philadelphia 76ers, hanging on every word, and I can remember Bill's words as clearly as if I had heard them an hour ago, "The game is over! The game is over! The Portland Trailblazers have won the NBA Championship!" I am looking forward to one day soon having the opportunity to make a similar call as the Magic win their first NBA title.




4) What is the best part of being an NBA broadcaster?

RESPONSE

David Steele
The best part of being an NBA announcer is having the privilege of watching the world's greatest athletes perform at an incredibly high level throughout the course of a season, with the knowledge and anticipation that something special, something that people could be talking about 20 years later, could happen at any moment.

Dennis Neumann
Just having the opportunity to watch the finest athletes in the world compete on a nightly basis. To have the inside vantage point that I am afforded; to watch the preparation, hard work, sacrifice, determination, and competitive spirit, all come together for forty-eight minutes on the court.




5) What advice would you give to aspiring sportscasters who want to one day be an on-air announcer?

RESPONSE

David Steele
My best advice to aspiring sportscasters is- be a reader, a learner, becoming as well rounded in as many different areas as possible. Obviously, a knowledge of sports is a necessity, but the better your vocabulary, writing skills and broad based knowledge, the better communicator you will be.

Dennis Neumann
Look up the meaning of perseverance in the dictionary and never ever forget it! Make a detailed plan to get to your goal and start working your way there. Take the first step! Don't give up, keep striving, you will get there, though there may be some distractions, maybe even some reworking of the plan along the way, just don't ever give up on your dream.