THANK YOU, CHICK HEARN!
When I was growing up in Portland, Oregon, and working as a ball boy for the NBA Portland Trailblazers there were three people who inspired me to follow my career dream of becoming a sports reporter -- Bill Schonely and Steve Jones, who were the Blazers A team of Announcing and the late Francis Chick Hearn, legendary Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play announcer.
As you may know, Chick Hearn died on Monday at Northridge Medical Center Hospital after two operations without gaining consciousness. Apparently, Hearn fell and hit the back side of his head, which caused hemorrhaging in his brain. Ironically, the hospital where Hearn died is only about three miles from where I earned my bachelors degree in Radio Television-Film from California State University, Northridge.
In 1988 Chick Hearn was a guest speaker during a sportscasters seminar in Los Angeles, where a roomful of sports-reporter hopefuls including myself listened to the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster tell his story of how he got his first announcing job. And after digging and sifting through some of my sports memorabilia I found the tape where Chick describes his most highly coveted feeling as the Lakers announcer. We had lost the world championship so many times to Boston and New York. And finally in 1971-72 they (the Lakers) won their first world championship at the Forum, said Hearn. I think that was the greatest moment that I had ever felt.
Because Chick Hearn shared his dream of moving from Illinois across the country to Los Angeles for an opportunity to work in the business, many sports reporter hopefuls including myself were ready when our phones rang. Moreover, It was Hearns drive, motivation, preparation and personality in the broadcast booth that broke down the complexities of sportscasting.
His smooth delivery and sports history in the making provided the poetry of Lakers games which anybody tuning in would be hard-pressed not to enjoy while being entertained and, more importantly, informed.
When listening in to Chick Hearn call the action of the Lakers game before you knew a smile would light up your face as his sense of humor brought many NBA basketball fans laughter and joy. These basic but very fundamental qualities or subtleties are what made Chick Hearn an announcering dream and made a young kid like myself growing up as a sports fan want to pursue youthful daydreams of one day being able to build a career and a body of work in the world of sports journalism.
Chick was such a talented play-by-play announcer he coined several phrases which are all used on a daily basis by fans, sportscasters, and writers when articulating moves on the basketball courts. "Air ball and slam dunk are just two examples of how fundamentally solid Chicks descriptions were in calling and describing NBA games.
During 42 years as a Lakers Announcer Hearn described the action in 3,338 consecutive games. During the 2001-2002 season he missed 58 games due to heart surgery and returned to the broadcast booth in time to call the balance of the Lakers 3 peat regular season games, the playoffs, and the 2002 NBA Finals. In total Chick goes down in history as the only Lakers; announcer and his total amount of games called is a remarkable 3,362.
Hearn provided commentary for nine NBA Finals in which the Lakers won championships, including 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Despite free agent signings, and trades on NBA teams the most overwhelming topic in the basketball community across America is the passing of the late great Chick Hearn.
Jerry West, Memphis Grizzlies president of basketball operations, first met Hearn as a rookie shooting guard after being drafted by the Lakers out of West Virginia. West expressed the empty feeling inside millions of people who are crazy about Lakers basketball and particularly Chick Hearn.
The City of Los Angeles has lost an incredible icon, said West. For all of the years hes been around as the voice of the Lakers, he helped capture so many special moments for fans everywhere. It's still hard to believe Chick Hearn will not be coming to the Pyramid when the Lakers play the Grizzlies.