On Wednesday night, the whole of NBA fandom will sit in front of their beaming League Pass packages to take in the last game of the league’s regular season. It will start the night in Charlotte and Orlando, as it usually does, and end up somewhere in California, or Oregon, as is League Pass custom. Tweets will be shared, games will be watched, and fans across the country will wave goodbye to 14 of the league’s 30 teams as the season finds its end.
Many fans outside of the Bay Area will also be forced to wave goodbye to Golden State Warriors color analyst Jim Barnett, who is basically being asked to step down as one of the voices behind Warriors telecasts in order to take on an ambassador’s role with the team. That decision was made last autumn, and was hardly noticed outside of GSW-blog circles, a move that I regret missing and then lamenting as we prepped for the slog of an 82-game, five and a half month season.
Jim Barnett is fantastic at what he does, and it truly is a shame that those of us who won’t be able to take in local Warriors broadcasts during their playoff run will have to stop hearing Jim Barnett call basketball games following Wednesday night’s Golden State/Denver pairing. Digging in to hear Jim Barnett work Warriors games has long been a marvelous late night treat, a ladle-full of ice cream for those of us that should be in bed soon, and I can’t for the life of me imagine what drove the organization to remove the longtime voice – the 29-year voice – of the franchise.
There are certain realizations that hit those of us that obsess over League Pass that we’ll never quite get over. When I plunked down way too much money to secure the package in 2000, I was straightaway struck by the richness and depth of the league’s announcing crews, something that ran far deeper than a league then-situated at a particularly low ebb. There were Chick Hearn and Hot Rod Hundley, calling the simulcast action as if a radio listener’s life depended on it. There was Matt Guokas, certain and steady. There was the wonderfully chewy and at times subversive pairing of the brilliant Ralph Lawler and the much-misunderstood Bill Walton.
Less showy was the work of Barnett, who at first struck me as a bit of an obscurant but later helped me grow as a fan. The bits of fundamental wisdom he dropped along the way – not as an ardent critic of some often-terrible Warriors teams, but as a patient and caring host that nearly nightly welcomed us into his ever-shifting living room – were more than appreciated. He gave us credit, as listeners and fans. It’s wonderful not to be taken for granted as a viewer, to not be talked down to even while receiving lessons on the fly. I don’t know if this was by choice or by habit or instinct or some wonderful combination of all three, but Jim Barnett brought in spades.
“Brings it,” I should say. He has one more game for us League Pass folk left, and a growing and vocal group of online backers that are begging the Warriors to rethink their decision to part ways with Jim Barnett the broadcaster. I fully support that movement and urge you to do as well.
In the interim, though, I’m going to enjoy those last 48 minutes, those two and a half hours of broadcast time, those final four quarters before every game has to be telecast nationally, before Jim Barnett is stripped from our dial in the high 700s.
To whatever end, Jim Barnett has enhanced my love of the game I’ve devoted my life to, and for this I sincerely thank him. I can only hope that the Golden State Warriors find some way to be able to let us faraway fans, those up way too late watching a game long-since decided, keep someone like him in our near-nightly routine.
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