Earlier on Tuesday, Sports Illustrated released a list documenting the collected works of 124 NBA players that were asked to rank their favorite "announcers." We put that word in quotation marks not because we don't think much of the people that they've chosen, but because the players polled didn't really pick all that many announcers. Instead, the group seemed to lean towards a whole lot of guys that are on the TV that talk about NBA basketball.
Which is fine. We've graded that lot before (this was my then-girlfriend's first go at giving me a haircut, some 7 1/2 years ago, so give me a break), and because those rankings still somewhat hold up, we don't mind grading the graders in this instance. So click the jump, and take in our takes on what 124 NBA players thought of 15 guys they see a lot on TV.
15. Mark Jackson
The good parts: Former player who probably assisted on baskets scored by just about every former NBA player who currently has a son playing in the NBA. Offered an analysis style full of seeming non-sequiturs, a style so strange that NBA players probably didn't want to admit to not knowing what the phrases meant, so as to avoid looking less than clever.
The problem: Coaches the Golden State Warriors. Not an announcer. Also, all the stuff he used to say when he was an announcer.
14. George Blaha
The good parts: A legendary local NBA play-by-play man for the Detroit Pistons, Blaha calls a great game while setting up his partner (former Piston and Michigan State standout Greg Kelser) as great as local product Magic Johnson set up Kelser while they worked as Spartans. Blaha is a terrific listen, and the only local play-by-play man to show up on the list — a well-earned honor.
The problem: Calls every player by their first name. This breeds familiarity, so NBA players feel guilty about not knowing his first name, so they deign to learn it. Not fair, George. Not fair.
13. Craig Sager
The good parts: Very tall. Married a former Chicago Bulls cheerleader (dating a player is verboten by the dance/cheer troupes of all 30 teams, so don't think players aren't jealous), and spends way too much money on clothes that cannot be re-sold because of his massive, massive height. Players tend to relate.
The problem: Not an announcer, unless NBA players picture Sager in sotto voce calling the games to himself from his seat on press row. Which, admittedly, is a fantastic thing to visualize.
12. Chris Webber
The good parts: Knowledgeable, quick on his feet, intelligent, able to pounce in the interim but still think long-term with his actions, and more than willing to think team-first as he utilizes his gifts while considering what's best for his partners as they move toward a greater goal. In a nutshell, Webber at his playing peak has carried over into his work in the announcing booth.
The problem: Chris Webber is ranked way, way too low.
11. Tommy Heinsohn
The good parts: Heinsohn is a Basketball Hall of Famer who dominated, offensively, at times for several championship teams up in Boston. He then went on to coach some of the finer teams of the 1970s for the Celtics, winning a ring along the way, before calling some of the greatest games of the 1980s for CBS alongside Dick Stockton (in a tone that, relatively free from homerism, would surprise you). He's also an accomplished painter and Boston-area bon vivant. Also, the picture that Sports Illustrated chose to accompany this pictorial appears to show Heinsohn drinking what looks like a green beer. In addition, there are two cups stacked on top of each other in the picture, which leads us to believe that Tommy is on his second green beer.
The problem: Have you, um, heard Tommy Heinsohn call a basketball game recently?
10. Walt "Clyde" Frazier
The good parts: Absolutely everything.
The problem: There isn't one.
9. Shaquille O'Neal
The good parts: Shaquille O'Neal doesn't need the money, so it's nice that he's staying in touch with the NBA while working with NBA TV and Turner Sports.
The problem: He's ruddy awful.
8. Bill Walton
The good parts: When he was active, Bill Walton was one of the more hilarious, subversive and also insightful broadcast minds in the business. An absolute joy to listen to, whether on the air with NBC or ESPN, or working up Clipper games with the great (greatest?) Ralph Lawler.
The problem: He's currently playing a djembe, somewhere. Missing, and presumed having a good time. Not actually announcing NBA games, at the moment.
7. Marv Albert
The good parts: Learned his craft from "that mad" Marty Glickman. Has called just about every other significant NBA moment you've had the pleasure to have known in your lifetime. Possibly the only NBA announcer to successfully make a three-man booth work.
The problem: He's not ranked at the top of this list.
6. Hubie Brown
The good parts: NBA players, who typically age from 19 to 39, picked Hubie Brown as one of their favorite announcers. Which means that they're watching ABC/ESPN's second-ranked broadcasting team, in games that often fly below the radar, as they sit through their nights or Sunday afternoons off. And Hubie, who doesn't cater to anyone save for his own expectations of himself, is getting through to a generation of players watching games on a busman's holiday that clearly see right into the core of the greatest color analyst in basketball history, one that knows more about this game than all of us put together, and isn't afraid to share that knowledge.
The problem: Hubie Brown can't be in my living room to watch the Western Conference finals with me.
5. Mike Breen
The good parts: He's on TV, a lot.
The problem: Smart-alecky comments aside, we don't recall many broadcasts that were heightened with Breen's presence. We've dug him since he was Marv Albert's alternate on the MSG network years ago, but his inability to rein in the triptych with Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy did a disservice to the big games the trio called. That criticism aside, Breen has been absolutely excellent in 2011-12 calling games alongside Van Gundy.
4. Reggie Miller
The good parts: (…)
The problem: Reggie Miller.
3. Steve Kerr
The good parts: Kerr works his way through an amiable broadcast and does a fine job regardless of his playing partners.
The problem: He's Steve Kerr. Nobody's ever had a problem with Steve Kerr. It's like having a problem with a club sandwich.
2. Jeff Van Gundy
The good parts: You think Jeff Van Gundy is funny now? Go back to find tapes of his time spent with Turner Sports in between his coaching stint with the New York Knicks and his gig with the Houston Rockets. Not only did a mindful and crafty JVG call a great game, but he defended absolutely EVERY referee's call to ends that had us wondering if he was working with his tongue placed firmly in cheek. In reality, he was looking out for his next coaching gig with his next team, not wanting to tick off the refs he was months removed from having to work with. Smart dude, that JVG, in making his current partner on ABC/ESPN (Mike Breen) look like your typical message board conspiracy theorist in comparison to Jeff's 2002-03 turn as a Stu Jackson apologist.
The problem: None, as far as we can tell. Nobody gives Jeff more stick than I, especially on Twitter; but when he's engaged and sticking to the game instead of radio chat show rants, he's an absolute expert with quite a bit to lend us.
1. Charles Barkley
The good parts: He's Charles Barkley. He's the best. And sports television was completely turned on its ear within the first six weeks of his first full year at Turner Sports, early in the otherwise forgettable 2000-01 season.
The problem: He doesn't actually announce games, save for a pair of novelty excursions. Do NBA players actually know what an announcer does?
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