Last week, I gave you various NBA on CBS opens. Now it’s NBC’s turn. In 1989, NBC outbid CBS for the rights to the Association. It ended up being one of the worst decisions for CBS Sports as the NBA witnessed great growth and ratings under NBC’s watch. The Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan won six championships in eight seasons and the league saw great rivalries between the New York Knicks and the Bulls, the Knicks and the Indiana Pacers and the Pacers and the Bulls. During its 12 season tenure, the NBA and NBC had a great partnership. But in 2002, the ratings for the NBA were falling and parent company GE wanted to make money on sports so in swooped ESPN to take the rights away from NBC and put the over the air games on ABC.
Let’s go over some of the openings.
From NBC’s first NBA Finals in 1991, the intro to Game 3 between the Bulls and the Lakers.
Christmas Day has traditionally been a day for joy, celebration and a primetime game. In 1992, NBC went for the Knicks-Bulls. Here’s the open voiced by the great Marv Albert. Note a young Doc Rivers.
The 1992 NBA Finals pitted the Bulls taking on the Portland Trail Blazers. And NBC has a nice blimp shot of the old Chicago Stadium and construction of the United Center next door.
From the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5 between the Bulls and the Knicks during the height of their great rivalry. And for me, the best team during the NBA on NBA, Marv and the Czar of the Telestrator, Mike Fratello. Great intro using Metallica.
NBC’s NBA pregame show was called NBA Showtime and Bob Costas was the host. In the first year of the package, Bob co-hosted with Pat Riley, but when Riley took the Knicks head coaching job for the 1991-92 season, Quinn Buckner was brought in from CBS as the co-host. Here’s an open from 1993. The open always had the Phoenix Suns gorilla to cap things off.
From 1997. the NBA Finals pitted the Bulls taking on the Utah Jazz. This was Marv’s last finals (see below) until 2001. Hannah Storm had taken over hosting NBA Showtime as Costas wanted to cut back on his schedule. This is the transition between Showtime and Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
In 1997, Marv pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges stemming from an embarrassing sex scandal and was forced out from NBC. Bob Costas took over as play-by-play man. This is the open for NBA Showtime ahead of the 1998 All Star Game at Madison Square Garden. Hannah was teamed with John Salley. And note how Ahmad Rashad was not ready for Hannah’s toss, but quickly recovered by getting his binky, Michael Jordan for an interview.
Here’s an intro voiced by Costas from 2000 just before the Sacramento Kings vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.
Marv returned in 2001 to NBC and called the Finals between the Lakers and 76ers.
During the 2002 NBA Finals, NBC brought back its original open from the 1990-91 season.
After Game 4 of the 2002 Finals, NBC said goodbye to the NBA with this great montage of its 12 season association with The Association.
To be honest, I’ve felt the NBA’s best TV partners have been CBS, NBC and Turner Sports (TBS and TNT). ESPN has been an abomination to the sport and it has shown since it got the rights in 2002. This past season has been much better production-wise for the Alleged Worldwide Leader, but the studio show and announcing teams have paled in comparison to the the aforementioned networks. Coming up next week, the opens for the NBA on TBS/TNT.