Tip-Off Timer: There Will Never Be a Greater Laker Than Chick Hearn
If you lived in Los Angeles at anytime from the time the Lakers moved to L.A. in the early 1960's to the last of the Shaq/Kobe championships in 2002, you are probably quite familiar with Francis "Chick" Hearn. And even if you aren't from L.A., you might still be familiar with Chick, as he was probably the greatest play-by-play man in the history of basketball.
Chick was most known for his famous catch phrases known as "Chick-isms". The most famous of those Chick-isms is probably "slaaaam dunk" (yes, he invented the word "slam dunk").
In all my years of watching basketball, Chick might be the only play-by-play man that was able to keep up with the pace of the game. Of course his rapid fire style was born out of his pre-television days. Without television, radio play-by-play announcers had to paint a picture of the game with their words. Chick called his play-by-play style his "words eye view", and it was most certainly that.
For a time my family didn't have cable television, so I had to listen to the radio to catch Lakers home games. Trust me when I say there wasn't much of a difference between watching the games on television with Chick Hearn calling them and hearing Chick call the game on Lakers radio. He was that good. In fact, Chick was such a prolific announcer that when the Lakers played national television games, I would mute the television and turn on the radio to hear Chick call the game. I know this was a common thing for most fans to do in Los Angeles.
Outside of being the best at what he did, Chick was great because he was a consummate professional. From all accounts he loved his job and was the first Lakers employee at the arena, always preparing for work several hours before tip off. Although he loved the Lakers, he did not allow that to cloud his judgment and never fell into the blatant homerism that is epidemic amongst today's local play-by-play men. In fact, he was probably the Lakers' harshest critic. If the Lakers were stinking it up, you would here about it. If the Lakers were playing a great player, Chick wasn't afraid to give that player the proper compliments.
Chick's biggest was probably "the streak". Chick was the Lakers play-by-play man from the 1961 season until the end of the 2002 season. Before the 2002 season, he only missed TWO Lakers games. The last game he missed was in 1965. He wouldn't miss another game for 36 straight years. So from the end of 1965 until the end of 2001 Chick didn't miss one single Lakers game, calling 3,338 consecutive games. That is a streak that almost certainly will never be broken.
When asked to name the greatest Laker of all-time, most fans would probably name Magic Johnson or Jerry West. I always think Chick Hearn. He's the one constant through every single Lakers season in Los Angeles prior to 2002. He's the thread that goes from Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, through Magic Johnson and Kareem, all the way to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. He's also the main reason I love basketball.
Below is a clip of Chick at work:
You can find more videos of Chick at the OldGoldenThroat Youtube page.