NBA Games on Radio: Venturing Down the Rabbit Hole

For many, radio is a dying medium. We have all moved on to internet-based means of entertainment, leaving behind the means by which our grandparents consumed content. The radio these days consists mostly of prerecorded segments and advertisements mixed in amongst rigid playlists of particular genres of music. Major corporations purchased a lot of the smaller stations, so even though your favorite station might seem local, it’s owned by a company that has very little to do with the town in which you live. In radio, I do not see a medium that has passed its prime. I see rich subject matter.

I enjoy visual content as much as the next guy; however, I feel like radio was a wondrous thing when it was done right. I would love to write a lot of content on the topic, touching on various aspects that intrigue me along the way. The first thing I wanted to look at was NBA games on the radio. Basketball games are so easy to access that we take them for granted. There was a time when we did not have several different ways to watch the same game. We had to tune in to our local radio station and listen to whatever seasoned announcer our favorite team hired.

The first two teams I’m going to touch on are the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. I picked these two teams because their most noteworthy announcers, Johnny Most and Chick Hearn, served in their position for many years and are the first two people that popped into my head when I thought of this topic. In order for me to get the information I need for this topic, I will reach out to each team as well as the radio stations that aired the games during their heyday. I am hoping that I find a lead on a resource for old games in one of these places.

I will not limit my search to these two teams though. I am interested to see what each team has to offer in terms of their older radio broadcasts. The idea of each classic game being covered by two sets of announcers with differing styles is intriguing to me. I would love to listen to two different versions of the same game to see what makes each of them unique. For this reason, I will also extend my search to all the other teams in the league. I look forward to seeing what results I might get taking that approach.

During my research, it has come to my attention that most things NBA related are the property of NBA Entertainment. Many years ago I thought about writing my own basketball encyclopedia. To facilitate this process, I wrote a letter to NBA Entertainment, which was done in haste on substandard stationery with my terrible handwriting. I waited for a response to my letter for the longest time. I did not receive one. I hope an email might get me a much different result.

In the past, when I have glanced at older radio broadcasts, I’ve noticed that there’s an ample collector market for these things. I have yet to dip my toes into this world. I would love to find some sort of gathering place where I can communicate with people who have been at this a while and get more leads in the process. Whenever I find myself face to face with this kind of individuals I feel like I am out of my comfort zone. They have their own vernacular and are often not fond of outsiders. I am up to the challenge though.

I am well aware of the fact that every team still broadcasts their games on the radio. I don’t want these broadcasts because they’re too glossy. Call me a hipster for saying that I want older audio, but it’s the truth. Older audio has charm to it that’s not present on its modern equivalent. In the older games, announcers often got so excited that you could not understand them or the crowd became so rowdy that you couldn’t hear them. Current broadcasters are much more mundane and the technology exists to cut out excessive crowd noise. I prefer a different type of broadcast.

This series of content could have a lot of momentum behind or it could fall apart before it has a chance to get off the ground. I will never know unless I take the first step to get the process started. I like the idea of people going into dusty archives and digging up tapes that have neither seen the light of day or been heard in a number of years. I think that the work that broadcasters put into creating their broadcasts shouldn’t be forgotten. If I were in their position, the last thing I would want is for my decades of excellence to slip through the cracks.

I don’t want people who have their hands on these broadcasts to try and nickel and dime me into oblivion. I believe that anything that has aged considerably and deteriorated in condition has very little value, especially if the thing in question receives very little interest. I understand that some expenses might be incurred along the way; however, the value that the audience might get from learning about it is much more profound. If you have no record of the major things that have happened, your sense of history will forever remain incomplete.

It boggles my mind how much useless stuff is sitting in archives deteriorating and gathering dust. What is the point of archiving it if you’re only going to let it rot? Bring it out of mothballs and digitize it before it crumbles into dust and you have nothing left. I wish that more people would be interested in the preservation of all media rather than just bits and pieces. We all stand to benefit the more content from which we have to draw. Keeping history intact is a sound investment regardless of what it takes to make it happen.

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