Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Marvelous Marv Albert

I sort of knew it was coming but I’m bummed out that Marv Albert is retiring at the end of this basketball season.  He’s almost 80 so it’s understandable, but the NBA won’t be the same without Marv. 

For those unfamiliar, Marv has been the voice of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Monday Night Football on the radio, local TV sports in New York, and national NBA play-by-play guy for any network that broadcast the NBA.  He has announced countless NBA Finals.  

How good is Marv?  If there’s a Mt. Rushmore of sportscasters, he’s on it.

I know I’ll get no argument from New York sports fans.  His calls on the radio have thrilled Gotham listeners for decades.  But I’m a huge fan, and I grew up in Los Angeles.  You don’t have to be from Vienna to appreciate Mozart.  

Marv has (and I love being able to still refer to the present tense) a tremendous presence on the air.  He commands your attention.  Blessed with the perfect voice for play-by-play, he rises to dramatic moments, has a keen knowledge of any sport he calls, is immaculately prepared, and (my favorite part) has a sense of humor.  He works well with partners, and has a style all his own (now much copied).  

As a young man, when I would visit New York, I so looked forward to being able to hear Marv Albert on the radio.  I don’t know how he coordinated both the Rangers and Knicks, but he was always on with one game or another.   I wasn’t well versed on the players (especially the Rangers — I know shit about hockey), yet his pulsating narrative always enthralled me.   I was thrilled when he became recognized nationally.  I was able to hear him wherever I was.  

I wish him well in retirement and thank him for providing me such pleasure my entire life.   Is Marv Albert one of the greatest sportscasters ever?



Brian said...

...and it counts!

I'm glad to read that he is retiring, not passed on. I'll miss him, but it's nicer to step down than to fall off one's throne.

Mike Barer said...


benson said...


Take a note from your pal Al Michaels. Learn to love hockey. It's the best. This year's playoffs being just another example of why.

And if it's any consolation, word is Marv's son Kenny will be moving over to TNT to be the lead NHL play by play voice, in the fall, with the new TV contract.

And how you feel about Marv, I feel about Doc Emrick. Thank goodness he's still with us, and hopefully enjoying retirement.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I never really liked him. Maybe it's my anti-New York bias. Maybe it's because I don't like toupee wearers. Maybe it's the sexual assault charges and conviction from 1997. I could never lose the visual images of him that his victim described at trial.


brian t said...

I'm not American, nor into basketball, so you can imagine my bemusement when I first heard Denis Leary saying Marv, Marv, Marv ...!

purplepenquin said...

"By the way, did you know that a submarine captain earns 200,000 dollars a year?"
"That's less tax, Marv"
"Yeah, less tax, thank you, Edward"

cd1515 said...

Of course Marv is a legend, the voice of the NBA in my mind.
But I have to be honest, watching him struggle in last night’s Celtics game was painful, repeatedly calling players by the wrong name (he actually called 4 different guys “Marcus Smart”), didn’t seem to know what was going on half the time.
I get that he’s 80 but I guess that leads to my Friday question: where do you stand on broadcasters as they start to lose it, even the legends? Should they be allowed to stay on forever or should someone nudge them to the door at some point, and if so, how do you do that respectfully?

Mike Bloodworth said...

I too am an Angeleno, yet I feel as if I grew up with Marv Albert. Back when basketball/the NBA was good I'd watch almost any game and it seemed as if Marv was always on. Over the past few years however, I haven't seen or heard him anywhere. He must be another one who is only on cable.
I wish him well in his retirement.

Hey Ken. Maybe you could trick him into being a guest on your podcast. That is since he has nothing else to do now.


Unknown said...

Always enjoyed him on Letterman. The Wild AND the Wacky sports clips.

Mike Chimeri said...

I'm a native Long Islander, turning 40 in November. I remember listening to WFAN on the night of June 14, 1994, as Marv called the last ten minutes or so of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. If I recall, he repeatedly counted down those minutes. It wasn't until afterward that I saw Sam Rosen's call on MSG Network. He's another legendary broadcaster, but that's a story for another time.

Later in '94, on NBC, Marv called the Jets-Dolphins game (which my dad and his friends attended) where Dan Marino led the Dolphins back from a 24-6 deficit, culminating in a fake spike for a go-ahead touchdown.

Marv is one of many broadcasters trained by Marty Glickman, including Bob Costas, and Marv's Knicks play-by-play successor, Mike Breen, currently ESPN/ABC's lead NBA announcer. Like Bob, Marv initially sounded like Marty.

By Ken Levine said...

Add me to the list of sportscasters mentored by the great and gracious Marty Glickman.

Mike Chimeri said...

Oh, wow, I had no idea. That's fantastic.

Mike Schryver said...

I grew up in New York and remember hearing Marv call Knicks games when I was a kid in the '60s. In recent years I've been very impressed that someone who was calling games when I was a kid all those years ago was still doing it. People who grew up with Vin Scully must have felt the same way. I hope Marv has a happy retirement.

Michael said...

When I went to New York for grad school, Marv was doing Knicks and Rangers radio, and when I heard him on the Rangers, I could not believe how good he was: fast and clear. Not that Bob Miller, who I grew up with, was any slouch, but Marv was amazing.

He did a terrible thing, paid his debt, got a second chance, and made the most of it.

There's also a story that Bob Costas tells about him that may or may not be true. I don't recall the name involved, so I'll use Ken's. Costas likes to say that Marv has one speed, and it's a great speed, but sometimes it doesn't work. Marv did a Knicks game at the Garden and ran back to Channel 4 to do his 11:00 sportscast. Marv hated working from a script and preferred to make notes and coordinate with the footage, then wing the tell stories.

Since it was an exciting game, Marv was worked up, and it showed when he began the highlights, with all of his Marvisms: "Knicks and Bulls at the Garden. Ewing going glass ... YES! ... Jordan ... NOT ABLE to make the shot. NOT what he had in mind." Then he gets to the next item, looks at his notes, looks at the camera, and says, "On a sadder note, sportscaster and writer Ken Levine NOT ABLE to squeeze out another day on this planet."

Bum said...

Well, that really bites!

Ere I Saw Elba said...

Shout out to Marv being on SNL in its first season in 1975, covering Paul Simon playing (and winning) a one-on-one basketball contest with NBA player Connie Hawkins. Simon hilariously calls him "Howard" during the post-game interview.

Matt said...

Friday question,

Who is on your Mt Rushmore of announcers. I know you will say Vin Scully (who wouldn’t) and you have just said Marc Albert. Who are the other two?

You only get four, but please give your honorable mentions.

Mine would be Vin Scully, Keith Jackson, Dick Enberg (Oh My) and Howard Cosell. Honorable mentions to Al Michael’s and the Spanish soccer announcer who yells GGGOOOAAALLL. He would likely be higher if I followed Spanish soccer.

Mike Schryver said...

Regarding Marv on SNL - I believe Marv also announced the "Little Chocolate Donuts" spot with Belushi as a decathalon competitor.

j gillespie said...

Aside from his Letterman appearances- Marv also had the distinction of being the v.o.on John Belushi's "Little Chocolate Donuts" ad on "SNL"

SummitCityScribe said...

I liked Marv too until he was accused of sexual assault and fired by NBC back in '97. According to the reports at the time, he's a biter. Good broadcaster, though.

Jeff said...

Whoa! That toupee!

Derek said...

This reads like you wrote it 10 years ago, Ken. I'm not the first person here to mention that Marv is off his game. Particularly lately: he's calling everyone by the wrong name, is sluggish with the calls, and the audio of his game calls is horrendous. That last part might be on the production staff or the network or whatever, but hearing Marv licking his lips like his mouth is dry does not make me want to keep watching. It puts me off the experience altogether. If that's presence, I'd hate to see it in a stage production where you could actually see the person's face.

Look, he had a great run and DOES belong on the Rushmore of American sports commentators (along with Michaels and Scully...I don't know who gets #4...Madden?). I don't envy whoever has to try to fill his shoes next season; short term they will be a revelation just by sounding like they're alive, but long term it's hard to bring that enthusiasm every night and not end up sounding contrived and obnoxious as all hell (something Marv avoided for 30+ years, in my opinion). He's ancient, he's been doing this forever and to call a game with quick bursts of play like basketball requires being VERY sharp.

I tried calling a couple basketball games for my tiny DII college and failed. Then again, I wasn't being paid, and it was the first time I'd ever done it!

jcs said...

Fun fact: Marv Albert's original last name (Aufrichtig) is the German word for "earnest".

Jahn Ghalt said...

Marv Albert ("Marvelous" according to Cheryl Miller's younger brother) had some colorful coinages that stuck in the mind.

Going back to the early ninties Marvelous dubbed Mike Fratello "The Czar of the Telestrator". This stuck so well that all Albert had to say was "The Czar" - and you knew who that was.

(now I see that they teamed up for last night's Wiz-Pacers blowout - glad that I have that on DVR)

Another coinage, which at first had a hollow ring (to us math kids) was "differential" to mean a simple difference. Of course this has a actual ring as an announcer's "term of art". And this is not "as bad" as the misused "ground rule double" to denote a fair ball which bounces into the stands (see "automatic double"). The automatic double is in the rule book and applies to all ball parks. An actual "ground rule double" is part of the ground rule specific to the particular ball park.

Best Wishes to Marvelous Marv Albert

Jahn Ghalt said...

LET me call out a second on the motion - theFriday question:

where do you stand on broadcasters as they start to lose it, even the legends? Should they be allowed to stay on forever or should someone nudge them to the door at some point, and if so, how do you do that respectfully?

MikeN said...

Once great, but he's clearly lost it now.

Gary West said...

You couldn't have said it better. Grew up with Marv doing the Rangers and Knicks... "Yes!!!" "Kick Save And A Bute!" Like Vin Scully - it ends one day. And, it's never the same.