Marv Albert called his first NBA game as a 21-year-old fill-in for Marty Glickman on Knicks radio in 1963. He will call his last shortly after he turns 80 on June 12, whenever the last game of the Eastern Conference finals is played.
"My 55 years of broadcasting the NBA has just flown by, and I’ve been fortunate to work with so many wonderful and talented people," Albert said in a news release from Turner Sports on Monday morning announcing his retirement. "Now, I’ll have the opportunity to hone my gardening skills and work on my ballroom dancing."
Albert is in the final year of his contract and widely was expected to make this season his last, a notion all but confirmed last week when Turner interviewed people for a 30-minute tribute to air during the conference final.
"There is no voice more closely associated with NBA basketball than Marv Albert’s," commissioner Adam Silver said in the release. He called Albert "the soundtrack for basketball fans for nearly 60 years."
Albert has called 25 NBA All-Star Games and 13 NBA Finals. He has been the lead NBA play-by-play man both for NBC and Turner, and has worked a variety of other sports, including the NFL.
But his greatest professional impact has been on the Baby Boomer generation of New York-area announcers who listened to him on Knicks and Rangers games in their youths. Mets radio announcer Howie Rose posted on Twitter, "Marv Albert has been the single biggest influence on my career. He has been a role model, a mentor, a friend and I would not have had whatever success I’ve had if not for him. In 1967 I became the president of his fan club, an office I still hold today. Happy retirement, GOAT."
Mike Breen, the Knicks’ television play-by-play man and ESPN’s lead NBA voice, told Newsday, "If you were in New York and you loved sports and you listened to him call a game, it had to impact you.
"Now, you add to that someone who might think about doing this for a living, I mean, he was the perfect soundtrack for somebody like that. You learned so much just by listening to him, how he controlled the game, how he called the game, how he brought the excitement, how he brought the humor, how he brought the analysis.
"For somebody like me and so many others who even had the slightest thought of going into the business, he was the perfect soundtrack to listen to to figure out the right way to do it, and he has been and will always be the gold standard."
Breen’s analyst partner, Walt Frazier, was the biggest star of the Knicks teams whose two championships Albert called in the early 1970s, and he later learned a lesson in broadcasting from him.
"I’ll never forget, I came in the office and he was studying [before a game]," Frazier told Newsday. "I said, ‘Marv Albert’s studying?’
"It’s like when kids assume we’re professional players, you don’t practice, you just go to the Garden and you’re great. So that was a revelation for me, this guy, the time that he put in studying to know all this stuff. Obviously, that helped me to have a good work ethic."
Said Breen: "Marv was so heavily influenced by Marty Glickman and took what Marty did and raised it another level, and all of us now, we’re all trying to reach that level.
"We’ll all fail and fall short, but at least it gives us something to shoot for."