Considered by many to be the greatest sports announcer of his generation, Marv Albert has been broadcasting NBA games for more than 30 years with NBC and now TNT. In light of LeBron James' transcendent performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we asked the five-time Emmy Award winning announcer for his take on that game along with his other most memorable games behind the microphone. John Hareas spoke to Marv who went down the playoff memory lane and presented them in chronological order.
"Here Comes Willis!" Game 7, 1970 NBA Finals, Lakers vs. Knicks
This is going back to my radio days, but I would say Game 7 against the Lakers in '70 at the Garden when Willis hit the two early jumpers was truly one of the special moments in NBA history. Some fans say Willis' entrance and quick baskets determined the game, and while the game is never decided in the first quarter, his unexpected presence provided great inspiration.
I'll never forget that moment when Willis hobbled onto the court late during warm-ups. The Lakers were stunned and just stopped and stared. What many people forget is that Walt Frazier had one of the most memorable games on the grandest of stages – 36 points and 19 assists. It was a combination of DeBusschere, Bradley and Barnett and the whole crew doing the job to get the Knicks their first championship.
Bernard vs. Isiah, Game 5, 1984 Eastern Conference First Round, Knicks vs. Pistons
It was a first round game between the Pistons and the Knicks in 1984. It was played at Joe Louis Arena because at the time the Silverdome had problems with leaks in the roof. It was the fifth and deciding game and it was an incredible duel between Isiah Thomas and Bernard King, a game that is played over many times on NBA TV and ESPN Classic. Isiah had 16 points in the final 94 seconds and Bernard finished with 46. Not to be overlooked, King played with both of his middle fingers dislocated and with a touch of the flu.
Bird-Person Showdown, Game 5, 1991 First Round, Pacers vs. Celtics
It didn't have the epic proportions as some of the other moments since it was an early round game against the Pacers, still, it's an underrated classic playoff game because it was towards the end of Larry's career.
This was a very good series between Indiana and Boston with Chuck Person on a tear with his long-range shooting. Late in the second quarter, Bird dove for a loose ball and his head bounced hard off the parquet. He was down for awhile and when he finally left the floor, it appeared he would be out the entire game. In the third quarter, with the Pacers up 82-79, Bird, unexpectedly, returned to the game. When he emerged from the locker room, Boston Garden went crazy.
Not to put it in the same context of what Willis Reed did, but he was kind of pulling a Willis. Bird made a dramatic return finishing with 32 points – 17 after he came back – to lead the Celtics to victory.
A Host of Moments Involving Michael Jordan
There have been a long list of special moments involving Michael Jordan, who thrived under the glare of the Playoff spotlight. Many of Michael Jordan's highlights that reflect his greatness weren't solely limited to game-winning shots. The two best examples were John Paxson in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals and Steve Kerr in Game 6 of the 1997 Finals.
That is one of the similarities between Michael and LeBron. Both players will find their teammates. LeBron was criticized in Game 1 of the Conference Finals this year because he opted to pass to a wide open Donyell Marshall. Now Michael might have taken it to the rim and you can make an argument that LeBron should have, but had Marshall hit that three-pointer, it would have been an enormous win for the Cavaliers in the final seconds and LeBron would have had a triple double because that would have been his 10th assist.
"A Spectacular Move By Michael Jordan!," Game 2, 1991 NBA Finals, Lakers vs. Bulls
Michael's switching hands in mid-air in Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals was a stunner. You rarely see players switch hands in mid-air. I remember as a kid watching Dolph Schayes of the Syracuse Nationals pull it off.
The words just came out when Michael made that play. To me, there was no other way to describe it. In broadcasting dramatic moments or incredible moves, I try to couch it where you don't go over the top in terms of superlatives, but in that instance, it just came out. It was a spectacular move.
M.J.'s Record Six 3's in the First Half & The Shrug, Chicago vs. Portland, Game 1, 1992 NBA Finals, Trail Blazers-Bulls
I was fortunate to broadcast that game with "The Czar" Mike Fratello and Magic Johnson and we all came to the arena a little earlier that day to pre-tape interviews with the coaches. It was very unusual to see Michael out on the floor several hours before the game. For the most part he was focusing on shooting threes, and he certainly had a good touch from three-point range, but it was not a primary part of his repertoire. Surprisingly he went on a roll from three-point territory. He hit six threes en route to 35 first-half points, both Finals records. What I remember most vividly about the game was he gave that shrug over to the broadcast area of, 'I can't believe I'm doing this.'
LeBron's Playoff Coming Out Party, Game 5, 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, Cavaliers vs. Pistons
Going into the Detroit-Cleveland series, my broadcast partners, Doug Collins, Steve Kerr, and I, didn't have high expectations in terms of the excitement level because we thought it would be a grind-out type of series. But even Game 2, a final score of 79-76, had several compelling moments and the series turned out to be one of the more entertaining Conference Finals in years.
During the telecast of Game 5, as it was evolving, I decided to hold off before saying that LeBron's 48-point explosion had to be considered one of the greatest performances in NBA history. You don't want to come out and say something like that until you are certain. The fact that he scored 29 of the final 30 points for Cleveland, including the last 25, on that stage against one of the NBA's best defensive teams, put his performance at another level.
What has it meant to me to be able to broadcast NBA playoff basketball? Everything. When I do a game, whether it's the playoffs or the Finals, and when I'm out on center court holding a microphone, I look around, and the crowd is at a very high energy … and then you look at the players and there is tenseness that is evident … and I say to myself that there is no other place I would rather be.