I'm angry at Dallas, and I'm angry at ESPN. They took Jim Durham, the best play by play man I've ever heard, away from me. First in 1993, and then in 2001. I can't blame them, but I still reserve the right to showcase my enmity.
That's not hyperbole, by the way, tapped out onto the screen because Jimmy Durham will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday. And it's not some warmed leftover from having grown up listening to Durham call Chicago Bulls games on SportsChannel until 1993. There were a lot of things that happened before 1993 and during my childhood that I'm not calling the best ever. I'd rather not call on most of it.
But Jim Durham is the best play by play man I've ever heard. And Dallas hired him away from Chicago in 1993. And, following my first year listening to Durham call Dallas Mavericks games in 2000-01 (as they made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade) on League Pass, ESPN (preparing for their bid for NBA rights following the 2001-02 season) hired Durham away from Dallas.
The hope was that he'd helm their lead TV crew, the best-suited gig for The Best Play by Play Man I've Ever Heard. Instead, Durham works the radio broadcasts for ESPN Radio. And, as someone charged with having to write about those boffo Sunday afternoon games for this site, I can't exactly churn around town while "covering" a game and listening in my car. And I can't sync up the radio with the TV broadcast, either, because of the massive FCC delays put in place so that ABC or ESPN can blank out the curse words those courtside mics often catch.
So I guess I have to be angry at Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, and Michael Powell for that. Geez, I'm an angry guy today.
Durham never comes off that way. There's no real signature go-to phrase, no showy personalization of the game he's describing, and often all but the die-hards know who he is. He just … calls … everything … perfectly. Match him up with Dr. Jack Ramsay? Heaven. The kind that makes you want to, as I steal from a Louis CK bit, throw all your toilet paper away just so you have an excuse to leave the house, flip on the radio, and drive to go buy more toilet paper.
The best thing about Durham? He's in his prime. He's there to listen to whenever the NBA starts again. He's Chris Mullin, in 1990. He's Dennis Rodman, firing an outlet to Scottie Pippen on the break. He's Arvydas Sabonis in 1988. He is, with the ubiquity of the ESPN Radio network, just a scan away.
And for The Best I Ever Heard to make the Hall of Fame? Sounds about right. Just like Durham.