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The Cava-List: Rafa Hernandez-Brito's Top Calls


La Voz

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You didn’t think we’d make it the entire way through Hispanic Heritage Month without a Cava-List featuring some of the greatest calls by the incomparable Rafa Hernandez-Brito, did you?

Incomparable is just one of the plethora of adjectives suitable to describe Rafa. He’s also gregarious, talented, jocular, intelligent, dedicated, loyal and, at times, boisterous. You can hear and feel the man’s presence from a mile away. He’s a pro’s pro and also one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet.

Rafa joined the Cavaliers as the Spanish radio play-by-play man in the summer of 2014 after an illustrious broadcasting career that spanned Super Bowls, heavyweight championships, the Final Four, and the World Cup. If there’s a sporting event that’s been broadcast en Espanol, odds are that, at one time or another, the Mayor (El Alcalde) has called it.

”The way I see it, in Summer 2014,” explains Rafa. “Dan Gilbert went to Miami to make two acquisitions: LeBron James and myself – I’m not sure about the order.”

That’s the other thing about the swarthy Salvadorian. He ain’t shy.

Rafa has been immersed in Hispanic Heritage Month – which was originally introduced by Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and extends from September 15, a date when most Central American celebrate their independence, through October 16.

“Because it’s such a diverse culture, during that month even we get to learn about each other,” said Hernandez-Brito. “The Cavs are really concentrated on making sure that the relationship we have with the Hispanic community is not just transactional. It’s not about selling tickets; we really want to make an impact and create some change within the community. It’s something I’m really thrilled about.”

Only five NBA teams have Spanish broadcasters that travel aside from Hernandez-Brito: all three Texas teams and both Florida squads, both of whom have large Hispanic communities.

”Dan Gilbert has been so visionary about the game and the market and the business itself,” he recalls. “When LeBron came back, the Cavs decided to expand their reach – not just in Northeast Ohio, but everywhere, because the game is so global. I have fans that listen to my games in Chile, in Argentina, in Barcelona.”

If they’re listening out there, they’ve heard some of the spectacular calls that we have. So today, we present some of the best calls – as described in his own words – by the Spanish voice of the Cavaliers.

There’s nobody in the NBA like the notorious RHB and if you don’t believe me … read the story behind the call of Larry Nance Jr.’s game-winning tip-in two seasons ago against Indiana …



Boom Mic

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”So, this was the game after Derrick Rose won the Game 3 – banking home a three-pointer over Tristan Thompson.

”The legend of Delly was already growing, but he had a very big game in this one too. He’s the one who made the assist. Of course, the play was drawn up for him – but we all remember how that turned out.

”I was so pumped about the win and the fact that we tied the series. We would have been in big trouble coming home down, 3-1.

”I thought LeBron hit a three and, again, back to where we were located at the United Center, I’m in the hockey booth and the shot came in the opposite corner. So I thought it was a three. And it was the first time I’d ended a call with “BOOM!” because I was so pumped.

”That was probably the first call that got me some attention locally.”


Rocket Man

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”We had been watching him throughout the season, how he would have these amazing moments. And of course, we know about his athleticism.

”But that game, guarding Harden, that corner three he hit – I was so excited. Because just previous to that, he’d done a crossover on Harden that nearly put Harden on his backside, but he missed the shot. So, I saved some of the energy for that three.

”But I was so happy to see a young guy wanting the ball. We lost the game, but Kevin Porter said: “Here I am!” to everyone who loves the Cavs. He was on fire that night!

”We used that call for Kevin Porter on Noche Latina -- for him to impersonate it. All he got was the screaming part at the end.”


Dog in the Fight

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“That was a great game because obviously we were part of the rebuilding process then. And I have always loved how much Larry Nance Jr. has grown as a basketball player since he came back to Cleveland.

”We all know how hard it is to win Indiana. That game was, I think, the second leg of back-to-back, the Pacers had won seven in a row and we were not doing well – still rebuilding.

”But that night, my partner on the broadcast was Christian Stoinev – who’s the dude who does the halftime show with the chihuahua – Scooby. He was doing the game with me. So if you hear the play, it was right in front of us, you can hear him yell: ‘Larry Nance!’ before I said anything.

”That was the first game-winning bucket for Larry Nance Jr. and you could see and feel the emotion of the team. They really worked their butt off that night and that was one of my favorite calls.”


Double-Nickel

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“This was Kyrie’s second 50-point game that year. Everyone remembers when he had those 11 threes against Portland at home not long before. And I remember that vividly as well.

”San Antonio was such a hard place to play at. And whenever you hear about my calls, you have to hear about my angle, because as you know, the position we’re in for Spanish Broadcasts is not exactly prime.

”In San Antonio, we’re behind the basket at the bottom of the first level in a corner. So, I do get blind spots, but for this one I was right there. It was right in my sights. Kyrie took that shot and just splashed it.

”So we had the satisfaction of winning in a tough arena, Kyrie getting that double-nickel and beating Gregg Popovich – which is always fun.”


Toponazo!

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”You cant do a list of best plays without including these two, right?

”Everybody thinks of Game 7 – and with good reason – as one of the greatest games ever played. But those last four minutes, when they were tied at 89-apiece, it was some of the worst basketball ever played. The Warriors building houses one brick at a time and the Cavs couldn’t hit a shot either.

”The block originates with Kyrie shooting an air-ball on a floater. I don’t even remember what came out of my mouth on the play – I was just a fan with a microphone. But when I say “Toponazo!” – which means “huge block” – by LeBron, the next thing that came out of my mouth was “nobody is taking the title away from LeBron.” I don’t know what possessed me to say it!

"I swear I wasn’t sure we were going to win it until Golden State was inbounding the ball with six seconds left after another miss by Curry. But that’s what came out of my mouth on the block. But I really felt that way – that he wouldn’t be denied.

"I remember thinking if we win Game 5, there’s no way the Warriors can beat us at home in Game 6. And if there’s a Game 7, anything can happen – because we had LeBron and they didn’t.”


Say: "Tio!"

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“I remember it came after a timeout, and all series long, Ty Lue kept figuring out that we had to attack Curry.

”I don’t think that’s a secret to anybody watching those games now. But I set it up that way, and that’s why in my call, you hear me say whosever is being guarded by Curry has to set a screen. We knew the shot would be either Kyrie or LeBron – that was the luxury we had.

"So, J.R. sets the screen against Curry on the right side and I’m really just watching Kyrie doing his dance from right to left, really yo-yoing the ball. And when he puts it up, nothing other than that long “Siiiiiiiiii” and “Tio Drew” came out! That was just the natural reaction to what I was witnessing. And maybe because it was the first bucket in what seemed like a week.

"But when he made that, I swear it felt so good – and I’m glad my vocal chards didn’t rip because I was going with the long “Siiiiiiiiiii!!!!”

"And that has become my call and my license plate. People remember the call. I see people on the street, and they say that to me.”

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