Hall Of Fame Game: The Contributors, led by Marv Albert

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a broadcasting wing. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame have contributors.

You know who these people are — they didn’t set the world on fire as players or coaches in terms of raw achievement, even though making it as a professional player or coach, if only for a moderate length of time, represents a considerable success relative to every other human being who has attempted to become a professional coach or athlete.

These people who occupy a portion of our various sports Halls of Fame in the United States have expanded the reach of the sport. They have touched millions of lives, making their sport more entertaining, more accessible, more enjoyable. Their inclusions in a Hall of Fame do not represent “stealing” a place from someone else who should be there as a player or coach. (Those are separate situations which should be resolved on their own merits.)

Perhaps most of all, contributors — especially the ones we know about (there are more obscure ones who made a crucial difference in more local contexts, either in the distant past, away from the cameras, or both) — are generally the kinds of people whose inclusions in a Hall of Fame are met with virtually no disagreement or opposition. (There are exceptions. Think of Billy Packer.)

A contributor — at least a popular one who has been in the public eye — should usually enter a Hall of Fame to widespread acclaim and approval. Hubie Brown, whom we saluted in August, is just such an example of someone who has given (and been himself) an enormous gift to basketball lovers over the decades and fully deserved his induction into the Basketball Hall.

Other contributors you’d easily recognize — and approve of — as Hall of Fame members: Chick Hearn of the Los Angeles Lakers, Meadowlark Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters, USA Basketball architect Jerry Colangelo, and college basketball administrator Dave Gavitt, who gave rise to the Big East Conference and the growth of the sport on television in the 1980s.

If you were to start with a list of people who should be added to the ranks of Hall of Fame contributors, you have many different options.

The place I’d start? Marv Albert.

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Yes, his ugly, ugly, ugly (did we say ugly?) scandal in 1997 — he pleaded guilty to a criminal act — cannot be denied or washed away from the record. You might therefore encounter a subsection of people who would (understandably, I might add) say that Albert should never be allowed inside the Hall of Fame’s doors.

Yet, unlike Pete Rose in baseball, Albert never did anything to directly put the integrity of basketball itself at risk. He has been living with that stain, and he’ll carry it to his grave one day, but in terms of adding to a nation’s enjoyment and appreciation of basketball, few figures currently outside the Hall of Fame’s doors have given more to basketball.

Albert was the voice, the heartbeat, of the city which breathes basketball more deeply than any other in the country: New York. (Mike Breen, that voice in the present day, is well on his way to being a Hall of Fame contributor in the future.)

Albert became the voice of the nation during Michael Jordan’s ascendant period. He and “The Czar of the Telestrator,” Mike Fratello, left a lasting mark on fans of all ages, as did Roundball Rock.  Albert’s signture cadence is one of the most enduring voices in sports. Even now, Albert smoothly calls a game — not with the unmatched polish of his heyday in the 1990s, but better than a lot of other broadcasters who have climbed into their 70s.

YES… AND IT COUNTS!

JORDAN WITH… THE FACIAL!

STARKS… BEHIND THE BACK… TO EWING!

Few people not currently in the Basketball Hall of Fame have made us love basketball (all over again) more than Marvelous Marv. He should be there.

Bill Raftery should be there, too.

Billy Packer — a man whose entry would be hated by a lot of people, thereby making him an exception rather than the rule — should be there. As much as you might dislike him, he helped grow college basketball in the late 1970s and very early 1980s with Al McGuire and Dick Enberg. They got Americans talking about basketball at a time when the sport revived and found a new platform at both the professional and collegiate levels, with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson being the on-court faces of said revival.

It’s not too early to say that Ernie Johnson of TNT and Inside the NBA should be in the Hall of Fame as well. Beloved as a person, Johnson’s work on Inside the NBA has won the respect of a whole new generation of fans. Keeping basketball fun, and enabling millions of Americans to properly decompress after exhausting yet exhilarating nights of professional playoff basketball, is no small contribution. It’s a Hall of Fame contribution to the sport.

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More players need to be brought into the Hall of Fame. More coaches need to come along, too, such as Bill Fitch and Dick Motta. 

Don’t forget the contributors in all this. Start with Marv Albert, and then include other people who have left a similar imprint on this game the Hall of Fame celebrates every September.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |

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