In a conference call this week, ESPN analyst Bill Walton said he’s not surprised the Sonics are leaving Seattle because the business model didn’t work. Walton returned to the network Thursday night after being sidelined 15 weeks with a painful back and neck injury.
“It’s sad for me because I love Seattle. I played my best basketball in my life as a Portland Trail Blazer. The rivalry we had with the Sonics and the great times we had in the wonderful city, to me it’s just sad. It’s also a business.
“The business had not been happening in Seattle. This is very much like the rules that govern the sport of basketball that everyone wants to change because of a poorly played game, or somebody can’t make free throws. If the business model is not working, you have to change the business model, and that appears to be what’s happening in Seattle. So while on a personal level it’s sad for me, I can certainly understand that the nature of the NBA is a business to make money. That has not been a productive model of late. But I remember when that was one of the truly great franchises in the league. And boy what a great city they have there!”
Walton spoke also highly of Oklahoma City as an NBA site after attending several Hornets’ games in the two seasons the team played at Ford Center.
“I was at their first game and I was at a number of other games and I had a tremendous time. It’s a great facility and you have tremendous local support, not only fans but the business community as well.”
I had an opportunity to meet ABC sportscaster Jim McKay while on an ABC press trip to Sarajevo,
I had grown up listening to McKay as the voice of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and the Olympics. I fondly remember his “spanning the globe” intro for “Wide World of Sports,” with the ski jumper crashing out of control. His professionalism was unparalled. His coverage of the massacre at the Munich Olympics showed he could handle hard news with the same ease as a sports event. He set the standard for sports news coverage. Many sportscasters today strive to be another Jim McKay.
Here are comments on McKay from two others who rank among the best in sportscasting:
Al Michaels: He was the personification of class and style. There has never been a more respected individual in the business and deservedly so. His love for life could only be matched by his love for Margaret. His enthusiasm permeated every event he covered and thus always made it far more interesting. I always thought of him as a favorite teacher. He was so into whatever it was he was doing that he drew you into every event he covered.
Bob Costas: Jim McKay was a singular broadcaster. He brought a reporter’s eye, a literate touch, and above all a personal humanity to every assignment. He had a combination of qualities seldom seen in the history of the medium, not just sports.
ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy not only is predicting the L.A. Lakers will defeat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, he says the purple-and-gold are on the verge of a dynasty. Van Gundy, the former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach, will be joined by play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, analyst Mark Jackson and reporter Michele Tafoya for ABC’s coverage of the NBA Finals.
Speaking on a conference call Monday, Van Gundy said the Lakers are too powerful offensively for the Celtics.
“My pick, I think the Lakers are the most talented team in the league, and they’re missing their third or fourth best player in (Andrew) Bynum. So when they get him back next year, I think they can be a dynasty. The Lakers will win it this year over a very good Celtic team.”
Van Gundy said LA will win in six or seven games.
“The Lakers have the best offense. They’ve ratcheted up their defense in the playoffs and they have the ultimate closer in Kobe Bryant.”
“It’s a great contrast. It should be a compelling series. Defensively, Boston has quite a number of challenges. I think you have to guard all five spots of the Lakers. They don’t put anyone out there who can’t shoot or pass.”
The Lakers lost both times to Boston this season but the meetings came in 2007 before the Paul Gasol trade. Van Gundy called it “a steal” for the Lakers, who sent Kwame Brown, rookie Javaris Crittenton and two first-round draft picks to the Grizzlies. “I don’t use the word ‘trade’ because that implies equal value, and there was no equal value going on there.”
Memphis donated Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers for whatever reason; I’m not sure what the Grizzlies’ reasons were. Maybe they wanted out from under his contract.”
ABC executives are hopeful of strong ratings for the finals. Last year, when the Spurs swept the Cavaliers, it produced a record-low 6.2 rating. This year should be much higher.