Marv Albert is retiring after this season. For years, he was the best basketball announcer on TV, and he was the voice of the NBA on NBC, my favorite era of basketball TV. When I think of classic basketball moments from my childhood, Marv’s voice is the one I hear. He’s lost his fastball for a few years now, but when he was at the top of his game, he was arguably the best ever. Combine that with being the voice for a generation, and that’s quite a legacy.
That’s not what I liked most about Marv though. What made him especially great in my eyes is how he elevated the people he worked with. It didn’t matter who was in the booth with him – he made them better. He and Mike Fratello had particularly great chemistry, and subtle things Marv did like nicknaming him the “Czar of the Telestrator” both elevated him and made him more accessible. In truth, he displayed great chemistry with everyone he worked with, which is an incredible feat, and if you observed closely, he always did subtle things to make his partners feel more comfortable (with disarming jokes) and perform better (with a deferential conversational style). It was particularly notable with Boomer Esiason. Boomer and Al Michaels famously didn’t get along when they worked together doing Monday Night Football TV broadcasts, and you could feel the discomfort when watching. When Boomer moved to the MNF radio broadcasts with Marv, they became an incredible team – so good that I’d frequently listen to the radio instead of the TV. Boomer didn’t really change. The difference was entirely in how well Marv worked with others.
That Marv / Boomer radio combination has long been a lesson I’ve taken to heart. It’s one thing to be awesome at what you do. But it’s another level when you make every single person around you better, and in my life, that’s what I’ve aspired to do. It’s a lesson I learned by observing Marv. He’ll be missed.