A sad day for the NBA and basketball fans everywhere: Veteran NBA play-by-play voice Jim Durham passed away over the weekend in Texas. He was 65.
He worked the NBA season opener between Boston and Miami last Tuesday with his good friend Jack Ramsey.
Durham had been the lead play-by-play radio voice for the NBA on ESPN Radio since 1996. Basketball fans in Chicago already knew he was great.
Durham was the voice of the Bulls on radio and TV from 1973-91. For those of us growing up in the early 70s, when home games weren’t televised, we listened on radio to Durham’s voice capturing the rocking energy at the old Chicago Stadium for those great Bulls teams of Bob Love, Chet Walker, Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier.
Later, Durham was on hand to describe the first pro games for a rookie named Michael Jordan. There were classic calls of him and his colorful partner, Johnny “Red” Kerr, marveling at Jordan’s magic. They provided the first words to the eventual transformation of basketball.
Durham had a terrific voice and keen sense for basketball. He made the games exciting and let his analysts flourish.
“Jim was an extraordinary professional,” said John Martin, ESPN Executive Producer, radio remotes, who frequently worked on-site with Durham. “His talent for calling NBA on radio in vivid, descriptive terms was unmatched. When JD was so deservedly recognized with the Gowdy Award, he had the Hall of Fame career to go along with his long established position as a Hall of Fame person. He was a sensational individual.”
In 2011, Durham’s talents earned him the Curt Gowdy Award from the National Basketball Hall of Fame. In a piece written by Sam Smith at NBA.com, Ramsey praised his partner.
“He’s the best I’ve ever heard on radio,” Ramsey said. “He seems to have been taken for granted because he’s such a self effacing guy. But he has everything—the great voice, the instinct for coming to the exciting parts of the game so that you can feel it in his voice. He never misses a tip, a pass, deflection, every shot, every defensive play and with great recall. He’s just amazing. This was long overdue.”
Last winter, ESPN compiled some of Durham’s most famous calls, including the legendary Michael Jordan shot over Craig Ehlo to win a playoff series for the Bulls over Cleveland.
Enjoy listening to the one of the best. He will be missed.