Updated: September 4, 2013
At times, Cleveland fans don’t know how good they have it.
Now, I’ll preface that by saying I’m talking about broadcasting and not the actual play on the court (or field) - or the number of championships in the last 49 years. It’s actually rather depressing to think – next year will mark the 50 year anniversary of the last Cleveland sports championship. What a fitting time for the Cavs to end the drought, right?
During that 50 year span, we’ve at least been treated to entertaining play-by-play, which is something the average fan doesn’t always appreciate.
Now I can only draw on my own personal experiences, so without question I’m partial to the teams and broadcasters I’ve been able to watch on a nightly basis. That doesn’t change the fact that now living outside of Ohio, I’m exposed to a wider variety of play-callers, and there always seems to be a dramatic drop-off in terms of engagement and enthusiasm from the announcers. Just try listening to a MLB TV game with the other team’s broadcasters. You’ll be bored out of your mind.
In my brief 25 year tenure as a Cavs apologist, I’ve seen the transition from the immortal Michael Reghi, to Fred McLeod and Austin Carr. Vastly underrated in his own time covering the legendary Ricky Davis and Darius Miles, Michael Reghi is actually one of the best NBA broadcasters I can remember listening to. Cleveland fans aren’t just lucky when it comes to basketball – Tom Hamilton (better known as “The Voice of the Tribe”) has been calling gems for as long as I can remember.
I’m sure there will be disagreements among my selections, but that isn’t important. I’m aware that there are announcers before my time that may have been great, so forgive me for leaving them off my list.
So what makes actually makes a good NBA announcer, and how do the Cavs’ current and past voices stack up against the competition? In this four part series, we’ll take a look at a few of our favorites. Let’s start with an active announcer, and living legend.
Fred McLeod might be the single-most underrated broadcaster in the NBA, for starters. There was a reason Dan Gilbert hand-picked McLeod after he purchased the Cavaliers. Much was made over that controversial decision to replace another Mt. Rushmore candidate (Michael Reghi) with McLeod – but Dan Gilbert knew the talent he had in McLeod from his time in Detroit, and positioned Fred to become the new voice of the Cavs.
Many people forget that Fred called games for 22 consecutive years for the Detroit Pistons, an NBA record for announcers with the same team. He’s a seasoned broadcaster who has a distinctive delivery, and adds to the excitement of the game by his sense of the moment. He approaches each game with a new sense of enthusiasm and even when the Cavs were in the middle of a bad season or a bad night, he made the game fun to watch.
Fred is one of a few announcers who are embracing the Twitter phenomenon (at least actually doing it well) and he does a really good job of engaging with fans; he can be spotted “live-tweeting” during TV timeouts, and commercial breaks. That’s dedication. Consider that also he has Austin Carr’s sometimes-flailing body language to deal with; almost every game AC tries to demonstrate something, he elbows Fred who responds irritated almost every time – it’s priceless. You can’t tell if he’s actually bothered by AC’s antics or not, which makes those moments even better.
Fred has a great voice for broadcasting– and has a few memorable lines he likes to use. He frequently references Cleveland street names when explaining how deep a particular shot was or how wide open a driving lane was, and at least to me, it never gets old.
- Kyrie Swerving
- Right down Euclid
- “The BOTTOM”
McLeod has been through quite a transition period with the Cavs – he’s been there for most of the LeBron era, suffered through the aftermath and now is again rejuvenated with a budding all-star in Kyrie Irving. He does an incredible amount of research prior to the games and knows quite a bit about basketball, as one would imagine. Fred is head and shoulders better than the vast majority of NBA announcers, and is probably the only person that could have replaced Reghi. Even though the Cavs only have a select few nationally televised games on ESPN, it’s not worth listening to Van Gundy or Jon Barry when you have a much better analyst in McLeod on FSO (and of course with the necessary slight hint of Cavs-bias).
The video below gives you a sense of his humility and appreciation that he’s able to do what he loves on a nightly basis. You can’t argue he deserves a place in the HOF of Cavs announcers. Next time you watch a game, sit back and enjoy greatness.
A few words of wisdom from a classy guy:
Stay classy Fred.