NBA on NBC

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For the video game of the same name, see NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC.
The NBA on NBC
The NBA on NBC logo
Logo used from 2000 to 2002
Format Sports (basketball)
live action
Starring Marv Albert
Bob Costas
Bill Walton
Ahmad Rashad
Hannah Storm
Theme music composer John Tesh[1]
Opening theme Roundball Rock [2]
Country of origin United States
Production
Running time 150 minutes+
Broadcast
Original channel NBC (19541962, 19902002)
Original run October 30, 1954 (1954-10-30)–April 7, 1962 (1962-04-07)
November 3, 1990 (1990-11-03)-June 14, 1998 (1998-06-14)
February 5, 1999 (1999-02-05) – June 12, 2002 (2002-06-12)

The NBA on NBC is the former weekly presentation of National Basketball Association games on the National Broadcasting Company television network from 1955 to 1962, and again from 1990 to 2002. The NBA on NBC succeeded The NBA on CBS. During NBC's partnership with the NBA in the 1990s, the league rose to unprecedented popularity for the sport, with ratings surpassing the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the mid-eighties.

Overview[edit]

Background[edit]

The program started on November 9, 1989[3] when the NBA and NBC reached an agreement on a four-year, US$600 million contract. On April 28, 1993, NBC extended their exclusive broadcast rights to the NBA with a four-year, $750 million contract.

Coverage[edit]

NBC's coverage of the NBA[4] began on Christmas Day each season, with the exception of their inaugural season (which featured a November game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs), the 1998–99 season (no Christmas games played due to the lockout) and their final season (which included two early season games featuring the return of Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards). NBC aired the NBA All-Star Game every year (with the exception of 1999, when the game was canceled due to a lockout), usually at 6:00 pm, Eastern Time. In 2002, NBC aired the game an hour earlier (at 5:00 pm, Eastern) due to the Winter Olympics later that evening. Starting in 2000, during the NBA Playoffs, NBC would air tripleheaders on Saturdays and Sundays for the first two weeks of the playoffs. Prior to 2000, NBC would air a doubleheader on Saturday, followed by a tripleheader on Sunday.

On Saturday, December 30, 2000, NBC aired a rare second December game. It was the only time that NBC aired a game between Christmas Day and the start of the regular run of games. In 2001, NBC was scheduled to air an October preseason game involving an NBA team playing an international team; that game was canceled due to 9/11. During the 2001-02 NBA season, NBC added a significant number of Washington Wizards games to its schedule (due to the aforementioned return of Michael Jordan). When Jordan became injured during the middle of the season, the network replaced the added Wizards games with the games that had been originally on the schedule (for example, a March 2002 game between the Wizards and Orlando Magic was replaced at the last minute with an Indiana Pacers-Sacramento Kings game).

Music[edit]

Logo used from 1990 to 2000.

NBC's theme music, "Roundball Rock" was composed by New Ager John Tesh.[5] The song, which NBC used for every telecast in the network's twelve-year history with the NBA, is today often used by NBA TV for their live game coverage. After briefly considering using the theme for its NBA coverage, ABC decided against it, and has used several theme songs in its first four years of covering the NBA. In the early days of the WNBA, NBC used a variant of the theme music for the new league's games.

In 1991, "The Dream is Still Alive" by Wilson Phillips was played during the end of the season montage. Afterwards, until 1996, NBC would play the rock song "Winning It All", by The Outfield[6] during its end of the season montage. From 1997 to 2001, several contemporary music pieces were used for the end of season montage (including, in 1997, R. Kelly's song "I Believe I Can Fly", which coincidentally came from a basketball film — Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan and in 19992001 with Pat Benatar's song "All Fired Up"). After the 1999 Finals, NBC used Roundball Rock for their montage. In 2002, after NBC's final broadcast, the network aired a montage of memorable moments from every year of coverage, using music from "Titans Spirit" (from the film Remember the Titans) to "Winning It All" and most notably, "To The Flemish Cap" from the 2000 film The Perfect Storm. The song composed by James Horner is played at the beginning of the montage as well as the end featuring footage from the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty era. This theme song has made a brief comeback as part of NBC's Olympic basketball coverage in 2008.

Segments[edit]

NBC's pregame show was known as The NBA Showtime from 1990 to 2000. Starting in 2000, NBC scrapped the title of the pregame show. From 1990 to 1996, Showtime was hosted by Bob Costas. After 1996, Hannah Storm hosted, and replaced by Ahmad Rashad in 2001 when Storm went on Maternity Leave. The video game NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, by Midway, was named after this pregame show. An animated version of then-Los Angeles Lakers Center Shaquille O'Neal was on the cover.

During the NBA Finals, additional coverage would be immediately available on CNBC, where the panelists would discuss the game more in-depth for half an hour extra, after going off the air on the main NBC network.

The halftime show was sponsored by Prudential Financial (Prudential Halftime Show), NetZero (NetZero at the Half) and Verizon Wireless (Verizon Wireless at the Half). The NBA on NBC also had a segment during the live games called Miller Genuine Moments, which briefly looked back on a particular historically significant and/or dramatic moment in NBA history. This segment was discontinued towards the end of NBC's coverage. For a brief period in 2001–02, NBC aired a studio segment called 24, where each analyst (at that time, Pat Croce, Jayson Williams or Mike Fratello) would have twenty-four seconds to talk about issues concerning the NBA. After Williams was arrested for murder in February 2002, NBC (in conjunction with completely revamping the pregame show) discontinued the segment.

Ratings[edit]

During its twelve-year run, the NBA on NBC experienced ratings highs and lows for the NBA. In the 1990s, the NBA Finals ratings were stellar, with the exception of 1999 finals. In 1998, the NBA set a record for Finals ratings, with an 18.7 for the second Chicago Bulls-Utah Jazz series, the last championship run by Michael Jordan's Bulls. The very next year (after a lockout which erased part of the season), the ratings for the Finals plummeted, and the NBA's ratings have been lower ever since.[7] In 2002, NBC set a record for highest rated Western Conference Final, including a 14.2 for Game 7 of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings.

NBC's highest rated regular season game was Michael Jordan's first game back from playing minor league baseball; the March 1995 game between the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers scored a 10.9 rating (higher than all but three NBA telecasts on ABC). As a comparison, the first game in Jordan's second comeback (a game against the New York Knicks that aired on TBS opposite the 2001 World Series) scored a rating between a 3.0 and 4.0. NBC's first game of Jordan's second comeback scored ratings similar to that number.

Memorable moments[edit]

During the NBA on NBC, the NBA experienced some of its most memorable moments. Multiple Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller game winners were televised by NBC, as well as some of the great comebacks and upsets in NBA history (the Rockets eliminating four 50-win teams including a finals sweep as the 6th seed, the Los Angeles Lakers comebacks in 2000 and 2002, and the Boston Celtics comeback in 2002). While NBC only televised one Game 7 of the NBA Finals, in 1994, seven of the Finals it televised went at least six games (the 1991, 1995, 1999, 2001, and 2002 Finals did not).

Criticisms[edit]

For more details on NBA on NBC accusations of bias, see National Basketball Association criticisms and controversies.

Several NBA observers accused NBC and the NBA of being biased with certain teams and individual players. NBC benefited from having all of the Finals it televised involve the popular Chicago Bulls or the large-market Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks or Houston Rockets; however, smaller market teams such as those in San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Utah, Indiana, Orlando and Miami all made regular appearances on NBC games during its run.

The end of The NBA on NBC[edit]

At the conclusion of Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals, the credits rolled to a final. Shown were highlights of the twelve years of NBC broadcasts; the Chicago Bulls' dynasty led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the retirement of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers' new Shaq/Kobe reign. The final image was an empty gym, showing a basketball bouncing into the background and the message "Thanks for The Memories."

Okay, Marv. Thanks very much. And as Marv himself would say, it should be pointed out that Marv is celebrating his forty-ninth birthday tonight for a record twelfth consecutive year. Well, another season is in the books. The Lakers title run continues with perhaps no end in sight. But as Marv said, we have reached the end of our run with the NBA. NBC's twelve years televising the league had been filled with indelible moments. And so, as we say good night, here's an appreciative look back. And for one last time, you've been watching the NBA on NBC.

—Bob Costas, on the network's last broadcast in 2002.

[8]

When NBC Sports' contract with the NBA expired in 2002, the broadcast rights were passed to ABC, which began airing games the next season. NBC had made a four-year, US$1.3 billion bid in the spring of 2002 to renew its NBA coverage, but the league instead made six-year deals worth $4 billion with ESPN, ABC and TNT.[9]

Whereas NBC normally televised 33 regular games a year, ABC would generally air fewer than twenty regular season games a year. According to Commissioner David Stern, the reduced number of network telecasts was at the NBA's own request since the NBA believed that they would get a higher audience for a single game (in contrast to NBC's tripleheaders). From 2002 to 2006, the NBA's ratings on broadcast television (ABC) have dropped almost a full ratings point (from nearly a 3.0 average rating to just above a 2.0 rating). NBC averaged a 5.5 average rating during the 2002 NBA Playoffs. ABC averaged a 3.3 average rating for the 2005 NBA Playoffs.

In response to the impending loss of NBA coverage, NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker said:

We lost football two years ago, and we stayed a strong No. 1. We lost baseball, and we stayed a strong No. 1. Now we're about to lose basketball, and I believe we'll stay a strong No. 1. The fact is, it's had no impact on our prime time strength. . . NBC can now program all of Sunday nights without going around basketball. I think that's a huge advantage for us. We haven't been able for the last several years to put a program at 8 o'clock (such as American Dreams) because we've had the NBA.

Not long after Zucker said this, NBC dropped to fourth place in the primetime television rankings for the first time in its history.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol[10] had this to say:

The definition of winning has become distorted. If winning the rights to a property brings with it hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, what have you won? When faced with the prospect of heavy financial losses, we have consistently walked away and have done so again. ... We wish the NBA all the best. We have really enjoyed working with them for more than a decade to build the NBA brand.[11]

NBC Sports replaced the Sunday afternoon single games and doubleheaders of the NBA on NBC with games of the AFL on NBC in February 2003, which lasted until the conclusion of their contract in 2006. NBC would acquire broadcasting rights for NFL games on Sunday nights that same year thus returning National Football League coverage to the network for the first time since Super Bowl XXXIII in 1998 in which NBC had previously held telecast rights to the league's AFC package from 1970-1997 before losing those rights to CBS in 1998 in which they previously held telecast rights to the league's NFC package from 1970-1993.

Future[edit]

After NBC signed a contract with the PGA Tour, which involved the network significantly increasing the amount of golf it televised, as well as their contract with the NHL closing off most Sunday afternoon times in the winter and the acquisition of Golf Channel which brought with it additional golf events, it became increasingly unlikely that the NBA would return to NBC for the foreseeable future. In May 2007, the NBA renewed its television contract with ESPN, making ABC the broadcast home of the NBA through 2016.[12]

Announcers[edit]

1954–1962[edit]

NBC Sports first broadcast the NBA from the 1954–55 through 1961–62 seasons. The announcers during this period[13] included:

The 1959 NBA All-Star Game marked the first time that the game was nationally televised. However, NBC only broadcast the second half at 10:00 pm Eastern Time, in lieu of their Friday Night Fights telecast.

1990–1997[edit]

NBC's first broadcast team of the 1990s–2000s (decade) era was made up of Marv Albert and Mike Fratello, with Ahmad Rashad as its sideline reporter. Other broadcasters at the time included Dick Enberg and Steve "Snapper" Jones. Aside from Rashad, Jim Gray and Hannah Storm also handled sideline reporting duties, and before becoming the television voice of the Spurs, Lakers and Pelicans, Joel Meyers started as a sideline reporter for NBC. Bob Costas had hosting duties for the pregame show, NBA Showtime. In 1992, basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson became a top game analyst (alongside the likes of Enberg, Albert and Fratello) for the NBA on NBC. Johnson's performance was heavily criticized.[14] Among the complaints were his apparently poor diction skills, knack for "stating the obvious", habit of referring back to his playing days, and overall lackluster chemistry with his broadcasting partners. Johnson would ultimately be slowly phased out of the NBA on NBC after helping commentate the 1993 NBA Finals. In 1994, Mike Fratello left the booth (in order to become the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers) and was replaced with Matt Guokas. Albert and Guokas broadcast the 1994 NBA Finals and were joined for the 1995 NBA Finals by Bill Walton. Albert, Guokas and Walton, while not working regular season games together (Walton usually worked games with Steve "Snapper" Jones and play-by-play men Dick Enberg, Tom Hammond or Greg Gumbel), broadcast the next two Finals (1996 and 1997) together in a three-man booth.

1998–2000[edit]

1997 was the last time Marv Albert would call the NBA Finals for NBC during the decade. An embarrassing sex scandal forced NBC to fire Albert before the start of the 1997–1998 season. To replace Albert, NBC tapped studio host Bob Costas for play-by-play. Matt Guokas did not return to his post as main color commentator, and was replaced by NBA legend Isiah Thomas. Costas was replaced on the pregame show by Hannah Storm. Midway through the season, Costas and Thomas were joined by recently fired Detroit Pistons coach Doug Collins. Collins served to take some weight off Thomas, who was considered by some to be uncomfortable in the role of lead analyst. Thomas, in particular, was singled out for his soft voice and often stammered analysis.[15] The team of Costas, Thomas and Collins worked the big games that season including the 1998 NBA Finals (which set an all-time ratings record for the NBA). Mike Breen, who played second fiddle to Albert on the MSG Network's New York Knicks broadcasts, was hired to do select playoff games that year and was later promoted to backup announcer status. For the 1998–99 season, Thomas was moved to the studio, while Costas and Collins made up the lead team. The 1998–1999 season, which was marred by a lengthy lockout (which resulted in the regular season being shortened to 50 games) included the low-rated 1999 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks. In the 1999–2000 season, Marv Albert was brought back, making a return which included calling that year's lead Christmas Day game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers from Staples Center.

2000–2001[edit]

The 2000–2001 season brought to an end Bob Costas' direct role with the NBA on NBC (although Costas would work playoff games for the next two seasons and would return to host NBC's coverage for the 2002 NBA Finals). Costas deferred to Marv Albert, allowing Albert to once again be the lead broadcaster for the NBA, and stayed on only to deliver interviews and special features. On the studio front, Hannah Storm left her position as studio host due to maternity leave and Ahmad Rashad took over for Storm. While Isiah Thomas left NBC to become coach of the Indiana Pacers. Joining Ahmad Rashad were former Phoenix Suns player Kevin Johnson and former NBA coach P. J. Carlesimo. Marv Albert joined Doug Collins as the number one broadcast team, and the two broadcast the 2001 NBA Finals, which had the highest ratings since 1998. After the season, Collins was hired away from NBC by the Washington Wizards, which forced the network to move the long-time secondary color duo of Steve "Snapper" Jones and Bill Walton to the lead broadcast team with Albert.

During the 2001 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers, NBC decided to cross-promote with their then-hot quiz show The Weakest Link. During halftime of Games 2 and 3, two 10-minute editions of The Weakest Link aired. The contestants were Bob Costas, Bill Walton, and Steve "Snapper" Jones along with Charlotte Hornets guard Baron Davis and Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie.

2001–2002[edit]

The 2001–2002 season featured several anomalies, as NBC started their coverage on the first Saturday of the season, for the first time since 1991. The reason for this was NBA legend Michael Jordan's return to playing, this time for the Washington Wizards. NBC covered an early December game featuring Jordan's Wizards as well, which marked the first time an over-the-air network aired more than one pre-Christmas NBA game since CBS in the 1980s.

That year also marked the return of Hannah Storm from maternity leave. This meant that Storm and Ahmad Rashad would alternate as studio hosts throughout the 2002 season. That year, NBC's studio team consisted of Rashad and Storm with former Philadelphia 76ers owner Pat Croce, the returning Mike Fratello, and former player Jayson Williams. The tandem stayed together through the 2002 NBA All-Star Game. During the week between the All-Star Game and NBC's next scheduled telecast, Williams was arrested after shooting and killing his limousine driver. He was promptly dropped from NBC, which also did not return Croce or Fratello to studio coverage. Instead, the network brought in Tom Tolbert, who had only recently been added to the network as a third-string analyst paired with Mike Breen. Tolbert stayed on as the lone studio analyst through the end of the season, and won acclaim by several in the media, including USA Today's Rudy Martzke. Hannah Storm wasn't able to anchor the 2002 NBA All-Star Game as she was on assignment at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City serving as daytime studio host. Rashad anchored it solo.

Ahmad Rashad had told The Los Angeles Times before the 2002 NBA Finals began that he would be ending his 20-year run on NBC Sports with Game 3 of the NBA Finals on the pre-game show.[16] Hannah Storm, meanwhile, covered the 2002 NBA Finals by hosting the CNBC post-game show.

Two days before NBC was to begin its playoff coverage, both Marv Albert and Mike Fratello, returning from working a Philadelphia 76ersIndiana Pacers game on TNT, were seriously injured in a limo accident. That week, NBC juggled its announcing teams, which resulted in Bob Costas and Paul Sunderland working some early-round playoff games. Fratello would return to TNT after several days, and Albert returned to NBC for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings.

The season would also turn out to be NBC's last with the NBA. The league, in January 2002, announced a six-year agreement with The Walt Disney Company and AOL-Time Warner, which gave over-the-air broadcast rights to ABC. That year, NBC's playoff ratings were much higher than previous years, including record-high ratings for the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Those high ratings did not translate to the Finals, which scored their lowest ratings in over two decades.

List of broadcasters[edit]

Voice over artists[edit]

Jim Fagan's voice was heard in nearly every single NBA on NBC telecast. Fagan, the voice behind "This is the NBA on NBC", also did several commercial voice-over promotions for the NBA on NBC, along with "arena announcer" duties in EA Sports's NBA Live videogame series. Mitch Phillips also did voice over work for The NBA on NBC, primarily in commercials.[17]

NBC NBA Finals broadcast teams
Year Play-by-Play Color Sideline
2002 Marv Albert Bill Walton
Steve Jones
Jim Gray
Lewis Johnson
2001 Marv Albert Doug Collins Jim Gray
Lewis Johnson
2000 Bob Costas Doug Collins Ahmad Rashad
Jim Gray
1999 Bob Costas Doug Collins Ahmad Rashad
Jim Gray
1998 Bob Costas Doug Collins
Isiah Thomas
Ahmad Rashad
Jim Gray
1997 Marv Albert Matt Guokas
Bill Walton
Ahmad Rashad
Jim Gray
1996 Marv Albert Matt Guokas
Bill Walton
Ahmad Rashad
Hannah Storm
Jim Gray
1995 Marv Albert Matt Guokas
Bill Walton
Ahmad Rashad
Hannah Storm
Jim Gray
1994 Marv Albert Matt Guokas Ahmad Rashad
Hannah Storm
1993 Marv Albert Mike Fratello
Magic Johnson
Ahmad Rashad
Hannah Storm
1992 Marv Albert Mike Fratello
Magic Johnson
Ahmad Rashad
1991 Marv Albert Mike Fratello Ahmad Rashad
Steve Jones

Statistics[edit]

Games televised / television contracts per season (NBC)
Season 1990–91 1991–92 1992–93 1993–94 1994–95 1995–96 1996–97 1997–98 1999 1999–2000 2000–01 2001–02
Games 46 52 55 55 54 54 54 54 58 71 69 69
Contracts $601 million/4 years $892 million/4 years $1.616 billion/4 years

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Tesh's Facebook page
  2. ^ NBA on NBC Theme on YouTube
  3. ^ November 9, 1989: The NBA signs a lucrative 4-year television deal with NBC.
  4. ^ "NBA on NBC" Regular Season TV Schedules – 1990–2002
  5. ^ John Tesh's Facebook Page
  6. ^ Welcome to THEOUTFIELD.com
  7. ^ Carter, Bill (March 20, 2000). "Basketball Ratings Hit a Slump at NBC And That Is Costly". The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  8. ^ The Final Closing Credits To The NBA on NBC on YouTube
  9. ^ Sandomir, Richard (January 9, 2002). "Cable Is Said to Muscle Out NBC for N.B.A. Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  10. ^ Ziller, Tom (May 19, 2011). "Dick Ebersol Resigns: NBC Sports Embraced, Dismissed NBA During His Reign". SBNation.com. OpenCalais – Powered by Thomson Reuters. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  11. ^ SportsBusinessDaily.com
  12. ^ Will Comcast Bring The NBA On NBC Back In 2016? (Video)
  13. ^ The NBA on NBC: 1954–55 to 1961–62
  14. ^ Simmons, Bill (September 27, 2002). "Magic's Act". ESPN. Archived from the original on December 10, 2002. 
  15. ^ Yoder, Ryan (January 25, 2012). "TOP 10 SPORTS MEDIA BUSTS". Awful Announcing. Retrieved July 28, 2012. 
  16. ^ Stewart, Larry (June 10, 2002). 10 articles.latimes.com/2002/june/10 "Walton Delivers the Jabs, O'Neal the Knockout". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  17. ^ NBA NBC 1993 Promo on YouTube

External links[edit]