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Marv Albert reflects on his long and successful career as a broadcaster

Sportscaster Marv Albert is honored during a timeout

Sportscaster Marv Albert is honored during a timeout in Game 5 of the Second Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs between the Nets and the Bucks at Barclays Center on Tuesday. Credit: Steven Ryan

Marv Albert figures he will have a familiar basketball jones come autumn, when he normally would be doing what he has done for more than half a century — getting ready for a new season.

But not this fall. Arguably the sport’s most famous play-by-play voice is turning off his microphone after he calls the NBA Eastern Conference finals between the Bucks and Hawks for Turner Sports.

Why leave now?

"I felt 55 years of broadcasting NBA, I thought that’s about it," he said last week on a call with a small group of reporters.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic acted as "kind of a rehearsal for retirement" in that it allowed him to enjoy life off the road and to focus on other things, from reading to working out to becoming a "TV binger."

"I’m ready to call it quits," he said. "I may have some feelings when the season starts in late October, early November, when it’s ‘gee, I’ll miss this.’ I will miss the preparation. That’s what I really enjoy the most. I’ll miss the people I work with."

Albert, who turned 80 on June 12, announced last month that he would retire after the conference finals. The news was not a surprise, given that his contract was up.

He said his friend and fellow Brooklyn native, NBC’s Al Michaels, who is 76, asked him why he would retire and reminded him that the late Keith Jackson twice retired and then unretired.

"I don’t see myself coming back," Albert said. "I think I’ll revert to doing it off the television set for my wife, as we’ve been doing during [the pandemic]."

His finale will be a sportscasting milestone no matter when and where it happens, but had the Nets advanced by defeating the Bucks in the second round, doing games in his home borough would have added to the drama.

"That would be intriguing if that is the final game; it definitely would be," he said before Game 6 of Nets-Bucks. "I never thought when I was a kid that there would be an NBA franchise in Brooklyn that has been so successful.

"That would be a fitting conclusion. Not to say that I’m rooting in any way, but yeah, it would be kind of interesting."

Albert has a long and deep resume, calling a variety of sports locally and nationally, including doing the Rangers on radio for many years.

But it is basketball with which he is most associated — and with one team in particular. He first called a Knicks game on radio in January 1963, when he was 21 and a fill-in for his mentor, Marty Glickman.

Albert had a falling out with Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan in the mid-2000s. When he did his final game at the Garden in the Hawks-Knicks playoff series, he was not acknowledged publicly by the arena.

"I’ve had so many great memories with the Knicks, but I don’t think that will ever happen," he said of a possible rapprochement. "At this point it doesn’t matter."

Albert recalled many memorable moments at the Garden, including Reggie Miller’s feud with the Knicks and their fans in the mid-1990s and the NBA Finals game in 1994 that was distracted by a police chase of O.J. Simpson.

But No. 1 on his list was, is and always will be an injured Willis Reed limping onto the floor during warm-ups of Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers.

"That was the loudest I ever heard a crowd in Madison Square Garden," he said.

Albert resigned from MSG Network — and was fired by NBC — after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in a sensational sexual assault case in 1997. MSG hired him back in 1998 and he rebuilt his career from there.

Just as Glickman mentored Albert, Albert served as an inspiration to a generation of Baby Boomer-aged New York sports voices, including Knicks play-by-play man Mike Breen and the Mets’ Howie Rose.

"I appreciate that he mentions I was an influence on him," Albert said of Rose. "I get a kick out of it when I hear it from other people, Ian Eagle, Mike Breen, who also grew up listening to me.

"It’s a wonderful feeling to know that. They’re terrific broadcasters, obviously."

Albert also has influenced generations of pickup players who have made Albert imitations their soundtracks, from the distinctive sound of his voice to his pet phrases.

Most notable among them is "Yes! And it counts!" That originated with Sid Borgia, an NBA referee in Albert’s youth.

Albert struggled at times calling games remotely during the pandemic but sounded reinvigorated when he got back into the arena during that Hawks-Knicks game.

"It felt so great to see all these people so happy and rooting for their teams," he said.

He enjoyed watching the Knicks thrive in their first season under coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Albert legacy at TNT will continue next season with his son, Kenny, becoming the lead voice of the NHL in its first season on that network. He will call the Stanley Cup Final for NBC this season and for Turner in 2023.

Marv said he told Turner executives, "If he gives you any trouble at all, I’m a phone call away." More seriously, he added, "I’m really proud of Kenny, and he did it by himself."

Albert recalled a moment from the mid-1960s when he got word of a new Garden gig and took a walk around Central Park to process the information. "I wanted to jump up and down," he said. "I couldn’t believe it."

Now it is time to step down, nearly six decades later.

"You’ve got to be a little lucky," he said, "and I feel that I’m very, very fortunate."

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