Getting to Know Suns Broadcaster Steve Albert
Steve Albert may be new to the Valley and the Suns, but if you spend more than five minutes with him, you feel like you’ve known him for years. His nonchalant attitude, soothing cadence and brilliant ability to tell a story puts a person at ease. So much so that he makes you feel as if you’re long lost friends just catching up on what has happened in life.
The thing that stands out most while talking with Albert, however, is his quick witted sense of humor. With every story he tells, he finds a way to weave in a humorous anecdote or off-the-cuff comment like a combination of Harry Doyle and Jerry Seinfeld that leaves you laughing out loud. If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was destined to be a comedian but the fates, or his genetics, had other plans.
Albert’s path to the professional broadcast booth started in his childhood living room. It was a journey that he didn’t take alone. His two older brothers, Marv and Al, were along for the ride as well.
“When I was very young the three of us would call anything around the house,” Albert recalled with enthusiasm in his voice. “We would walk around doing play-by-play. We would sit at the dinner table and do play-by-play of the meal. It drove my parents crazy.”
In an attempt to keep their parents sane and gain a little experience, he and his brothers moved their play-by-play booth down the hall.
“We would go off in this little room off to the side of the dining room. There was a TV in there and we’d go in there, shut the door, turn on a baseball game and turn down the sound,” he reminisced. “Then we’d set up a little table in front of the TV, like a broadcast table, and we’d switch off. One would do the play-by-play of the game, the second would run a record player with a record that had the sound of a crowd and the third person would take two big marking pencils from my father’s grocery store and knock them together to simulate the crack of the bat. Then we’d just rotate. We got early experience doing that. Our parents had no idea what was going on behind that door. They thought we lost our minds, but I guess it worked out OK.”
It actually worked out more than okay for all three brothers. Marv would go on to national fame for his play-by-play calls on NBA games on NBC and TNT, and Al would hold broadcast jobs in numerous professional sports leagues. As for Steve, his path was quite unique.
After spending his formative days in that tiny room in Brooklyn, the younger brother would head to Kent State University in 1968 to pursue his dreams. While there, he found himself part of two historic moments.
“I was at Kent State when the shootings took place. A few days after they took place they dispersed the campus,” he said. “I went home to New York from Ohio and a few days later I was on the Knicks’ bench as a ball boy for that Willis Reid moment when he hobbled out on the floor. One of the great moments in NBA history. It was surreal, I went from a terrible tragic moment in American history to one of the most amazing and memorable moments in basketball history. Talk about mind boggling and drama.
It wasn’t the only time in his life and professional career that he’d find himself at the epicenter of a dramatic situation. As part of his illustrious 24-year career calling boxing, Steve was ringside for one of the most bizarre moments in sports. In 1997 he was the man saddled with the job of describing the grotesque scene of Mike Tyson biting off a portion of Evander Holyfield’s ear.
“To be that close to it – I was ringside calling it – was just something you never forget,” he said of the circus-esque scene that evening in Las Vegas. “I did go back to my hotel room and contemplated quitting, because it was just such a repulsive thing to not only watch but have to describe. It was basically cannibalism.”
After seeing a man-eat-man sporting event, the dog-eat-dog world of broadcasting couldn’t have seemed that cold anymore. That doesn’t mean he was complacent. As a matter of fact, at the age of 61, he didn’t expect to get another chance in the NBA after having previously called games for the Cavaliers, Nets, Hornets and Warriors.
“I had almost given up on the notion of getting back in the league,” he said providing an honest assessment of his career. “I had been doing boxing for 24 years with Showtime. I was knocking on the door of some teams the last few years and for whatever reason it didn’t materialize. Sometimes the stars are aligned correctly and it just works out. That’s what happened with Phoenix. It’s one of those things you can’t explain.”
Despite getting a second chance, Albert remains quite humble about his new job as the Suns’ television play-by-play announcer. He has a great deal of respect for the history of the franchise, and especially for the man who has provided the soundtrack for many of the team’s most memorable moments.
“Being an aficionado of broadcasting and the NBA for the many years, I know there is only and there will always only be one voice of the Phoenix Suns,” he said. “That of course is the ‘Real McCoy,’ Al McCoy. I was just happy to join the team.”
That doesn’t mean Albert won’t be able to add his own unique tone and perspective.
“I’m just happy to be back in a sport where I don’t have to cover up my drinks, because of the possibility of splattered blood,” he said of his return to the NBA from boxing. “Unless of course Al, sitting in front of me, cuts himself shaving (laughs). Then I have problems.”
Like we said, he’s got impeccable comedic timing and the ability to make you feel like you’ve known him for years. Don’t take our word for it. Experience it yourself by welcoming him into your living room on FOX Sports Arizona broadcasts this year. You bring the record player and table, he’ll bring the voice and the entertainment.