Brooklyn Nets Welcome John Sterling for Sunday Broadcast vs. Atlanta Hawks
Yankees radio man broadcast Nets games from 1975 to 1980
The Nets are welcoming a famous voice and an old friend for Sunday afternoon's game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Longtime New York Yankees radio play-by-play man John Sterling will broadcast the game in a special guest appearance on YES Network, teaming with analyst Sarah Kustok and courtside reporter Michael Grady.
Sterling has become synonymous with the Yankees over his three decades in the radio booth, but 10 years earlier, he was in the middle of a five-year run doing play-by-play for Nets television broadcasts.
YES Network executive producer John Filippelli invited Sterling back for an encore, with the game featuring another franchise that Sterling had an extended run with, the Atlanta Hawks.
Sterling's first season broadcasting the Nets was a historic one. It was the final season of the ABA, and ended with the Nets and Julius Erving claiming their second championship in three seasons.
"All those players that came over from the ABA, they became NBA All-Stars," said Sterling. "So in the last year of the league, the Nets won without the best team. San Antonio, and Denver and St. Louis, they were loaded with players.
"In reality they had the best players and they had great coaches. Kevin Loughery and Hubie Brown and Slick Leonard and Al Bianchi. The coaches were great. Very colorful."
Sterling made the transition from the ABA to the NBA with the franchise, although the Nets lost Erving along the way, dealing him to the Philadelphia 76ers on the eve of the season to raise the money they needed to enter the league. And after a final season at Nassau Coliseum during that inaugural NBA year, the Nets were off to New Jersey and a run at the Rutgers Athletic Center before their new arena was built at the Meadowlands.
Sterling left the Nets after the 1979-80 season, and called Hawks games from 1981 to 1989. In Atlanta he announced the exploits of another high-flying scorer, Dominique Wilkins. He calls the legendary 1988 playoff duel between Wilkins and Boston's Larry Bird the greatest game he's ever called.
"They both were sensational players," said Sterling of Erving and Wilkins. "Doc had a great all-around game. He would block shots, rebound, draw people, pass off. Doc Rivers told me something once which I loved. Since Dominique was a boy, 9 or 10 or 11, he's been told by every coach, 'score!' and so that was his job."
Sterling moved on from the Hawks to the Yankees in 1989, but he's taken the occasional basketball assignment over the years, including some Nets games and some college games. He knows he's visiting an NBA that is very different from the last time he was regularly on the call.
"Well, they don't run a lot of plays," said Sterling. "It's all high pick and roll and 3-pointers. Guys take shots now that they would be yanked off the court. I love the speed of the game, but sometimes some of the shots, you look at and it's, 'oh my goodness.'
"They can't stop great athletes from coming to the NBA. The rewards are so great. You couldn't count all the terrific young players now. So where I loved the old players and looked up to them, there are so many young stars in the NBA."
He's also made several visits to Barclays Center this season to check out the Nets in person in addition to watching their games on YES to get a feel for the team.
"They're a very young, well-coached team," said Sterling. "They play very hard. They lost their go-to scorer Caris LeVert, and that hurt them because they've lost a lot of games late when you need a go-to guy. They have a deep team and Kenny Atkinson can play a lot of different groups.
"They have a strength and what they need to do is just what they're doing -- play unselfish and rebound the ball."