Although this year’s NBA season will be different from any preceding it, Mike Breen, the instantly recognizable voice-of-the-NBA will be calling the action from inside the bubble in Orlando. Mike and Andy chat about what to expect from the NBA bubble and how Breen became the Hall of Fame announcer he is today. Mike and Andy are fellow recipients of the prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I grew up in a house where there were six boys. Sports wasn’t an option; it was a way of life,” Breen said.
Breen was first introduced to radio broadcasting when he was 13. He recalls experimenting with broadcasting at his neighbor Tony Minecola’s house. Breen later went to Fordham University and worked on the school’s radio station, WFUV. His first on-air job was as a news anchor in Poughkeepsie.
“If you were in New York in my era growing up there’s nobody else that you could listen to than Marv (Albert). And you mentioned the big shoes, the big shoes that will never be filled because he has been and will always be the greatest basketball play by play guy of all time in my estimation. So, to be able to watch him and learn from him, you know, it’s just something priceless as they say in the AmEx commercials. So, he was important,” Breen said.
In addition to the legendary Marv Albert, Breen says Bob Costas and Al Michaels are also broadcasting inspirations. He cites the camaraderie among broadcasters like with his longtime broadcast partners Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy.
“It’s just that camaraderie and chemistry is so easy when not only have you been working together for a long time, but you’ve been friends for so many years,” Breen said.
Despite having 14 NBA Finals under his belt, Breen says he still gets nervous before the big game.
“When the Finals come around, I’m nervous before a game one of the Finals because, you know, it’s what everybody is watching. It’s what everybody plays for. These two great teams are there for a championship. And you want to do it justice. You want to make sure that you bring it properly to the viewership and record it for the NBA archives,” Breen said. “
Breen says a big part of his job is “being a fan” and allowing himself to be impressed by how the games unfold.
“It’s like anything–You have to go through it to smooth out the rough edges and at the same time not leaving that emotion out of it because the emotion is part of it. And because I am such a fan of the game, that part is easy,” Breen said. “The other part just took a little time to be able to kind of harness and focus–because you do have a job to do–focus on the job at hand, but at the same time being so excited.”
He’s looking forward to an unprecedented season in the bubble. He notes that players are highly adaptable and will be able to adjust to the separation from the daily routines, the lack of fans, and the concerns about health and safety.
In part two of the podcast, Los Angeles Times journalist, Tania Ganguli adds that this season will be especially different for Lakers player LeBron James.
“Every time we ask LeBron about being away from his family, he brings up that he had a really nice four months where he was able to spend a lot of time with his family. And that was really important to him…this is going to be different for him. But I think there’s sort of this common goal, especially with the Lakers, that they worked so hard to put themselves in a position to be competing for a championship again that it’s worth the sacrifice.”
Both Ganguli and Breen are looking forward to seeing how the championship unfolds.
“It’s going to be really fascinating to try and combine some kind of normalcy with what everybody is used to, but at the same time still give the proper documentation of what’s going on in this bubble without fans,” Breen said. “These players, one of the things that makes them so magnificent is their ability to adapt. It might be a little funky at first, but they somehow figure out a way to adapt and still be great. And I think we’ll see that. It might be a little weird the first few games to see it, but I think they’ll be fine.”