Jordan Kent Gets The Call As Trail Blazers' New TV Play-By-Play Announcer
If you’ve lived in the northwest and paid any attention to sports at any point in the last 20 years, you're likely familiar with Jordan Kent. From winning track and basketball championships in the early 2000s at Churchill High School in Eugene to playing football, basketball and track at the University of Oregon to being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, to running his own youth skills camps to working in a number of capacities for NBC Sports Northwest, Kent is truly invested in northwest sports culture.
And now, that investment is paying off.
The Trail Blazers announced Monday that Kent will become the team’s full-time television play-by-play broadcaster once the 2020-21 season starts (reportedly some time in late December). After assuming play-by-play duties on a temporary basis when Kevin Calabro decided to step away from the mic prior to the Trail Blazers’ run in the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Kent will now move into the role permanently.
“Extremely humbled, extremely excited,” said Kent. “This is such a prestigious position and something that I’m just so grateful that I get a chance to now do. I’m so grateful that the team and the franchise gave me this opportunity in the bubble and felt that my performance was worthy of holding this role moving forward.”
While the majority of Kent’s play-by-play experience prior to the NBA Bubble came in the realm of esports, specifically for Nintendo, his performance calling games remotely alongside Lamar Hurd, the team’s television analyst, proved that despite relative inexperience, he was more than up to the task.
“I was very pleased with how things went in the bubble and that was because I had a tremendous amount of help and assistance from a variety of people,” said Kent. “Going into it I spoke with several people that have done play-by-play before and picked their brains as far as tools of the trade and things to keep in mind and how to prepare myself going in. And then throughout the process and throughout the game, just getting some really constructive feedback from (Trail Blazers broadcast producer) Dan Hyatt and (Trail Blazers director of broadcasting) Jeff Curtin and everyone involved really helped me shape my performances and ability during the bubble. And when I reflect on it, number one, we had some terrific games so kudos to the team for giving us some really fantastic games to cover. But number two, I felt like I got better with each game and I left that feeling like this is something I absolutely feel more than capable of doing.”
Listening to Kent on the broadcast in the bubble, one would have figured he had been calling NBA games for years, which speaks to both the extensive preparation he put in and natural talent he possesses as a broadcaster. But he’s also still building his own style as a play-by-play announcer even as he looks to those who have come before him for pointers.
“As I was preparing for this role, I’ve paid attention to a lot of play-by-play guys throughout the years, but obviously when something like this lands on your plate, you start to pay even closer attention as you prepare,” said Kent. “So for me, a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Barrett and what he was able to do for his years here and the impact and connection he had with the fans. Kevin Calabro over the last four years, what he was able to do with his excitement and his passion, that made a huge impact on me.
“And the national guys, I really like both Mike Breen and Ian Eagle, I really like their delivery. You look at the individuals that are at the top of this industry and then you assess what they do and then you realize that you are your own individual also. You’re never going to be a carbon copy of somebody else, but you want to be genuine to who you are and, with some experience, like I had in the bubble, you then find your voice.”
And part of finding that voice if figuring out a balance between being enthusiastic about the team while also trying to retain some level of objectivity. In that, Kent feels like he falls somewhere in between Barrett and Calabro, Portland’s most recent television play-by-play announcers.
“I’m a fan of Trail Blazers basketball -- the first NBA game I ever went to back in 1991 was a Trail Blazers game with my uncle,” said Kent. “I’ve been around this team, whether it’s been working for the broadcasting department or covering it through my work with NBC Sports for the last seven years, And I think, being a native Oregonian also and just understanding the uniqueness of the Portland market in the NBA world and the history of this franchise, that, I think, is critical to bring into the broadcast. Just touches of that, whether it’s our state pride and you have a call like ‘sweeter than a Hermiston melon’ or you touch on the things that have happened over the last few years and the growth of this team.
“You want to be professional to where you don’t let the emotions sway too much in the game, if that makes sense, you want to be professional with touches of local flavor, local flair. Kind of those fun expressions that you might not necessarily get on every national broadcast, it makes it feel like these are your hometown guys. I think it’s critical to strike a balance between those two because then I think you’re really complimentary to the game. And that’s the goal: to compliment the action we’re seeing on TV.”
Kent is joined in that charge by Hurd, who is entering his fifth season as the Trail Blazers television analyst. The duo, who faced off against each other in college, with Kent playing for the Ducks and Hurd running point for the Beavers, were quick to build chemistry during the bubble broadcasts, giving the two a head start on their new working relationship.
“Working with Lamar is like someone throwing you the perfect lob: it’s too easy,” said Kent who, along with Hurd, now comprises one of the few all African-American television broadcast duos in the NBA. “He’s just so good, so professional, but the information he brings and the insights he’s able to recognize during a game are just incredible. As a play-by-play guy, being able to just toss to him and then have him point out so many things that we can then build upon in that moment or throughout the broadcast is fantastic. I love his energy, I love his perspective.
“I think it’s really cool that we’re both, to be honest, on the younger end when it comes to the broadcast and color analyst position in the NBA, I think that relates really well with the average NBA fans, who is the youngest in the four major professional sports. So I think being able to be paired with him, somebody that I played against in college, we’re of the same generation, we played against the same guys who are in the league, have the same perspective and grew up with the league at the same time, it’s just awesome. He was so encouraging and so helpful during this whole process. I have to give him a tremendous amount of credit for the success that we had because he’s just one of the best there is. I’m absolutely ecstatic to be working with him.”
That work will hopefully start sooner rather than later, as the NBA and the Players Association are reportedly close to hammering out the details regarding 2020-21 season. It’s a trying time to start a new role, but Kent, whose wife just recently gave birth to their second child, is ready for the challenge.
“For me, it’s something that I’m just so incredibly grateful for and really excited for just because this team is so fun to follow -- we have such great individuals on this team,” said Kent. “But then also just our broadcasting team is such a joy to be with as well. Just being a part of this collective effort to bring Trail Blazers basketball to our fans and be in the position of being able to do the play-by-play for that is just something that’s beyond any of my wildest professional dreams in this industry.
“The fact that we went through that experience and handled the uniqueness and challenges of it as a broadcast team so well has me very confident that whenever the season starts and whatever it looks like, we’re going to continue to bring tremendous quality to our fans. That’s the one thing that’s really special about this whole group, from Michael (Holton) to Brooke (Olzendam) to Travis (Demers), Lamar, myself, Jeff Curtin, everybody behind the scenes, everybody really worked their tails off... I’m 100 percent confident we’ll be able to handle whatever comes our way.”