OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Mike Breen recalls the riveting Game 7s, still marvels at some memorable performances.
It’s a lot of NBA Finals basketball to think about — more than anyone else who has sat in his center court seat.
While Stephen Curry and LeBron James are squaring off for the title, the guy describing the action on ABC is making history of his own.
Breen is calling his 10th NBA Finals, a record for a TV play-by-play announcer.
“It’s such an honor and it’s such a privilege to be able to call the finals and the number is, it’s incomprehensible to me,” Breen said.
Dick Stockton and Marv Albert shared the old record for a TV lead announcer by working nine finals, according to information provided by ESPN.
Breen said he always considers Albert the voice of the NBA. But when it comes to the championship round, the title now belongs to Breen.
“We are so fortunate to have Mike as the voice of the finals,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “His incredible desire to understand every aspect of the NBA and his passion for the game make him truly one of the very best in the industry.”
One of five brothers from Yonkers, New York, Breen began considering broadcasting as a teenager as a way to stay in sports at the recommendation of a neighborhood friend who worked at a college radio station.
He graduated from Fordham, moved on to local radio and television stations around New York and ended up at MSG Network, where he has spent 23 seasons calling Knicks games, first on the radio and then TV.
He joined ESPN in 2003, began working the NBA Finals in 2006 and now calls more than 100 games per season between networks.
In an era where TV personalities and their voices are getting louder, Breen doesn’t scream or talk your ear off. He doesn’t know how to describe his style, but whatever it is clearly works for ESPN.
“Our play-by-play commentators are tasked with telling the story of the game in an entertaining and informative fashion, and no one does that better than Mike Breen,” ESPN President John Skipper said. “He has his finger on the pulse of the NBA and of the viewer, and he’s able to take you on an emotional journey through an NBA game. I’m personally very proud of Mike’s milestone 10th season as the voice of one of the biggest events in sports.”
Breen, 54, said doing the Knicks games for MSG has helped his national work, because it allows him more time building relationships with players and coaches. Chris Paul once told Breen that his young son was imitating Breen’s “Bang!” that he yells after a 3-pointer.
“He’s really a New Yorker at heart. Only thing the guy likes more than Knicks basketball is Mets baseball. Had to hear about it all the damn time,” said Warriors forward David Lee, who played five seasons with the Knicks.
“He also does a good job of keeping it honest like, ‘Hey, the Knicks are really struggling right now, this player needs to pick it up,’ but at the same time doesn’t kill the home team, which is no fun either. He does a great mix and I think fans appreciate that.”
The Knicks won just 17 games this season, and team President Phil Jackson acknowledged that even the media was bored. But Breen said that wasn’t the case for him.
“I love the game so much and you just never know on any given night,” he said. “Sometimes the nights you don’t expect anything, they turn out to be the most exciting game, whether it’s a competitive battle or whether it’s an individual performance that’s off the charts. So I just love it so much because of the unpredictability of it and I’ve always loved the sport since I was little, so I don’t really get that way.”
Especially not at the NBA Finals. Game 7s in 2010 and 2013 stood out to Breen, as did the performances by the Spurs in 2014, Dwyane Wade in 2006 and Dirk Nowitzki in 2011.
And even if this series doesn’t live up to those, Breen will treat it like it does.
“I just try and work hard and make sure I’m really prepared every time I go on the air and really sounds like there’s no place I’d rather be than calling that particular game,” he said.
This story has been corrected to state that Marv Albert has called nine finals as TV lead announcer, not eight.
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