Sixteen teams started the 2013 NBA playoffs. Now, only four remain. Playing in the Western Conference finals are the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs, while representing the Eastern Conference are the Indiana Pacers and the highly-favored Miami Heat.
Not one of those teams’ home states—Tennessee, Texas, Indiana or Florida—is particularly well known for wine, although wine is produced in all four. So what am I doing writing about the NBA playoffs in this blog?
Well, as one who grew up in Southern California, I had an opportunity to listen to some of the finest sportscasters of the 20th century, including Vin Scully (Dodgers baseball), Dick Enberg (Angels baseball) and Chick Hearn (Lakers basketball).
Scully and Enberg are still going strong (Scully in his 64th year with the Dodgers, and Enberg now with the San Diego Padres), but Hearn passed away in 2002, a few months shy of his 86th birthday.
Because Hearn was the man who invented such colorful phrases as “slam dunk,” “air ball” and “no-harm, no foul,” and because he brought such enthusiasm to his craft, it’s difficult for me to listen to any other basketball broadcasters. And I’ll always remember two occasions when Hearn, while calling games, made reference to wine… in a roundabout sort of way.
Two years before he passed, he was calling game 7 of the Western Conference finals, which pitted the Lakers against the Portland Trailblazers. Early on, it looked like Portland would win easily, but the Lakers battled back, took the lead, and then, with only a few minutes left, began to pull away.
Hearn’s comment: “Portland can put the Champagne away and get out the bottled water, ’cause that’s all they’re gonna drink on their way home.”
The other memorable wine-related “Chick-ism,” as his catch phrases came to be known, aired on February 4, 1987, when the Lakers were playing the Sacramento Kings. It was one of the most lopsided starts to an NBA game ever, with the Lakers dominating the Kings in every way.
Pro that he was, Hearn would update the game score regularly, realizing that not every listener had the opportunity to tune in for the opening jump ball. And at one point, this was his update: “37 to 2, ladies and gentlemen. If you’re just tuning in, no, I haven’t been using any of the squeezing of the grape.”
R.I.P., Chick Hearn. I’m sure I’ll think of you often during the rest of the playoffs.