Few people mean more to the Los Angeles Lakers than Chick Hearn.
In the 40 years he has done play-by-play for the team on television and radio, Hearn has described in his rapid-fire delivery the heroics of everyone from Jerry West to Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal.
But unlike those superstars, Hearn has been there during every championship and every disappointment.
And in the process, he coined many of the terms now standard in NBA lingo: "slam dunk," "dribble drive," and faking someone "into the popcorn machine."
His record of durability is astounding: since Nov. 21, 1965, Hearn hasn't missed calling a single regular season or playoff game a string of 3,200 straight contests.
Hearn, who won't reveal his age, is one of only three announcers in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and one of the 20 members of the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame (an exclusive club that also includes L.A. Dodgers announcer Vin Scully).
Question: How on earth do you keep broadcasting day after day, year after year, with the same level of detail and intensity, without missing a game?
Answer: I'm a very devoted person. When I make up my mind to do something, I stick to it pretty much, but this is ridiculous. Actually, when it came to the end of the first thousand (games), I had no idea that the consecutive-game streak was going. They gave me a basketball for the achievement. When I got another five hundred, they gave me another one. Now I've got more basketballs than Spaulding. I'm very proud of that record, I don't think it'll ever be broken. If it is, God bless whoever breaks it. You play sick a lot of times. When you're not feeling up to par, you still go out and do your job.
Q: The Lakers have their best team in years. How does this squad rate in comparison with Laker teams of the past?
A: For the best teams, they do not compare yet. (The current Lakers) are not as good as the '71-'72 team that won 33 straight and finished with 69 wins, 13 losses, and won the world championship. The era of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the '80s, that was a better team. But this team has the possibility of one day becoming that good. Chicago won the championship under Phil Jackson six times, and the Lakers in the '80s won two (championships) in a row. I think you've got to do that to be firmly established (as a great team).
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