As soon as I walked through the turnstile of the old Philadelphia Arena, I was surprised by the noise of the crowds. A quick climb of a few steps and I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. The bright lamps hanging from the ceiling. The beating of the ball against the beautiful hardwood. Satin uniforms. The squeaking of sneaks. The players are talking. And the canopy of cigar and cigarette smoke that floated above it all.
It was February 29, 1964, I was eight years old; and that was the night the Philadelphia 76ers became my first love.
Religiously I’d comb the Philadelphia Bulletin the afternoon following a match for the score box. I listened intently to the games on the radio, captivated by the vivid word images provided by Andy Musser and Al Meltzer. And every once in a while there was a game on a UHF TV station, the players barely discernible, little black and white images enveloped in a translucent curtain of static electricity and snow.
A few years later, I would be mesmerized by the rock disc jockeys on AM radio as they “talked about a record” during the song’s intro, to stop their chatter just as the lyrics entered. I started to imitate this myself, and soon realized that I, too, loved to advertise. Combining that with my love for the team, I started turning down the volume during 76ers games on TV and “streaming” into my new cassette tape recorder.
While playing, I dreamed that one day I would be the voice of the Philadelphia 76ers …
Now, after 39 years of covering 76ers basketball, first as a halftime host and the last 27 years as a TV voice, it’s time for me to step away.
I still love what I do. In fact, I can easily see myself doing this until I just can’t do it anymore. But there are several issues at play here.
In the foreground is my wife for almost 38 years, Debbie. I’ll never be able to repay her for all the nights and weekends she spent alone, raising our sons and keeping her own career on high pressure. She’s just my best friend and we want to spend more time together.
If life is a basketball game, I’m in the fourth quarter! I would like to play a musical instrument, learn to speak a foreign language, cook, travel and give back my time and strength to charitable causes which I hope will help make the world a better place.
I still have a lot of things to do, and I want to do everything while I can still do it.
Gratitude is one of the qualities that I have always worked conscientiously to adopt. I am not the voice of an NBA team without the help of hundreds of people along the way. As I enter this next phase of my life, I will sincerely return to these people to express my gratitude.
But for now, let me thank you 76ers fans for the opportunity to be with you in this surreal race. It has been a privilege to be welcomed into your homes. I have come to understand and fully appreciate the responsibility of being the voice of your team and I have been truly honored to do so.
You will continue to see me on social media, at the beach, at the golf course, at a game or just on the street in town. If we happen to bump into each other, give us a call so we can talk about 76ers basketball, relive the moments and carry on the memories. In the meantime, I’ll be passing the baton on to the next Philadelphia 76ers televised voice, doing so with a piece of peace of mind and a heart that couldn’t be more full.