Since we’re in the midst of the NBA Finals (which could end tonight), I figure I would give you some of the old opens. ABC had the NBA in the 1960′s and early 1970′s, but in 1973, CBS took over the contract. CBS held the rights from the 1973-74 season until the 1989-90 season.
CBS had the rights when the NBA experienced tremendous growth in the mid 1980′s as it watched Magic Johnson and Larry Bird enter the league and bring the league tremendous TV ratings. However, in the beginning, CBS treated the NBA like a bastard stepchild, putting the Finals on tape delay so it would not pre-empt primetime programming. This is unheard of today, but when there was only a three network landscape, and the ratings did not justify primetime, this was the hand the NBA was dealt.
So here’s CBS original opening used in the first three seasons. It’s really horrible. The theme sounds similar to the beginning of “Family Ties”.
In 1976, the NBA Finals had the Boston Celtics taking on the upstart Phoenix Suns. This series went 6 games including a triple overtime classic. This is the open to Game 1 and notice how young Brent Musberger looks.
The 1980 Finals had the Lakers taking on the Philadelphia 76ers and this was a classic example of CBS putting the game at 11:30 at night so as not to pre-empt its lineup which included the venerable Dallas. So CBS aired the game on tape delay. This is the opening to Game 6 in which Magic Johnson played center in place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Again, note the bad opening.
In 1982, CBS started to show the NBA Finals in primetime and again, the Finals pitted the Lakers and the 76ers, ending with Magic and Los Angeles winning again. The opening is a big improvement and this was the year Dick Stockton became the voice of the NBA on CBS.
The NBA finally got its dream Finals with Magic and the Lakers taking on Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in 1984. This got monster numbers for CBS and here’s the intro which had the best theme music and best video of all of the openings for the network. This is Game 7 which the Celtics won. Brent hosted, Dick Stockton and Tommy Heinsohn called the game. I actually had this game on tape once. Note the “BEAT L.A.!” chant.
In the late 1980′s CBS began showing NBA playoff games in primetime, not just the finals. With Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls rising in stature amd popularity, CBS put selected games of the Eastern Conference Finals on at night. This is Game 4 of the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals against the Nasty Boys, the Detroit Pistons on Memorial Day. Dick Stockton’s partner for this game was Hubie Brown. CBS had started to use sideline reporters and Pat O’Brien was the man with a plan.
Here’s the NBA on CBS intro without any voiceover.
In 1989, CBS updated its opening. This year, the finals pitted the Lakers against the Detroit Pistons. This marked the beginning of the end of the Magic era in Los Angeles. This open was ok, not great.
And here’s the close to Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals between Chicago and Detroit, won by the Pistons and it marked the final year of the NBA on CBS. Verne Lundquist called the game with analyst Len Elmore. Pat O’Brien and the lovely Lesley Visser were on the sidelines for CBS. The following season, NBC would take over.