When the NBA Finals tip off on Tuesday night between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, a record will be set (and no, I don’t mean the one for most white shirts-per-square-foot that Miami fans are gunning for).
For the fifth straight year, ESPN/ABC’s broadcast team of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy will call the NBA Finals, the most consecutive times for a three-man booth. I asked each of them last Friday to reflect back on these past five years of being the #1 NBA broadcast team.
“It’s been absolutely incredible,” said Jackson. “To have an opportunity to call games with friends and guys who have no agenda other than calling games and enjoying one another’s company.”
Jackson credits the comfort they have with each other which allows them to trade barbs back and forth: “There’s nothing that you can say or do, if either one of the three of us, that we would be offended or upset about, because we know it comes from a great place.”
For New Yorkers such as myself, we are used to hearing Breen’s trademark “Bang!” call on MSG, sitting next to Clyde Frazier and his cow-print suits calling New York Knicks games. Breen was able to get to know both when Jackson played for Van Gundy during his tenure as Knicks’ head coach, and says that tandem is one of the most unique in broadcasting.
“To see the two of them, and I knew them back when Mark played for Jeff, and that friendship coupled with the respect I just think is an amazing dynamic,” said Breen. “Those two guys, they can be 180 degrees different on an opinion about something, go at each other, and nobody but nobody gets offended.”
“When you’re trying something new, you want to do it with people you like,” said Van Gundy. “They are two professionals, with incredible knowledge and I’m the beneficiary of all that.” At the beginning of the season Van Gundy predicted that the Heat would break the single-season wins record of 72 (they finished with 58), and says he still has not heard the end of it. “[We] feel very comfortably getting on each other, like for my stupid declaration.”
Nevertheless, it’s all been in good fun these past five years for the three boothmates. “It’s been a thrill, a joy and an honor to work beside two guys who I count as friends,” said Jackson.