Jim Durham, a Hall of Fame broadcaster and the voice of the NBA on ESPN Radio, died Monday at the age of 65. In remembrance, our staff shares some of their fondest memories of the longtime sportscaster who called countless games for the Bulls and Mavericks, among many other sports teams, in his long career:
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Some of the things I will never forget about the one and only Jim Durham: How he made the broadcasts of some really bad Mavericks teams in the '90s sound as important as the games he called for Michael Jordan's Bulls. How patient and helpful he was when he had to nurse me through my first few on-camera halftime "insider" cameos on those same broadcasts. How much Jerry Sloan always loved seeing him when Utah came to town. How much we all looked forward to him making it official and announcing that somebody hot had it "stuck on automatic." How good he and Dr. Jack were together. How honored I was to actually get to work with the two Hall of Famers on an NBA on ESPN Radio broadcast last spring with JD tossing to me for updates as a first-time sideline reporter. How Dr. Jack loved to call him JD several times during every broadcast. And how, as TNT's David Aldridge so aptly put it on Twitter: Jim Durham was a better man than a broadcaster. And we're talking about a Hall of Fame broadcaster. What a voice. What a pro. What a gentleman. The game lost one of its all-time greats today. Will miss you dearly, JD.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Jim Durham was the first basketball radio voice I heard regularly after Chick Hearn, and it's a tremendous credit to Jim that it did not feel like a huge letdown. Chick was the best. But when I left Los Angeles in 1988 to go to college near Chicago I was greeted by a voice that was practical and informative. Jim wasn't about gimmicks or cartoonish catch phrases. He gave you the game. It sounds like a simple task, but few were able to do it as well as Jim Durham. When he joined ESPN Radio, his distinguished style made him a natural fit.
On a personal level, I got a chance to spend time with him when I came on the radio pregame show. I'll miss seeing him courtside at the arena, in addition to hearing that familiar tone while listening to NBA games in my car.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Every transcendent superstar needs a narrator. For Michael Jordan, there wasn't a better storyteller than Jim Durham. Jordan's theatrics didn't require wild exuberance from a play-by-play man. We didn't have to be sold on his Airness' talent. All we needed was an occasional reminder that what we were seeing and hearing was actually real. For that reason, Durham's gravitas was a perfect voice of record for Jordan's career. He was believable, trustworthy, linear in his descriptions and, above all, it was never about him.
Did Durham know how important his calls would become in the oral history of the sport? It certainly felt as though he did and, for this, we'll always be grateful he was at the mic.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Jim was just a total pro. He would always be one of the first people there for a game, a fixture on press row doing research and making preparations. The only thing that would distract him was the people who came to see him in every arena; he had developed so many good relationships in the NBA over the years. Everyone respected his work, which is saying something, but he was equally respected for who he was.
Marc Kestecher, ESPN Radio:
As a teenager growing up wanting to be a basketball announcer on the radio, there was nothing better than scanning the dial at night. I was mesmerized by the voice I was hearing on numerous winter nights on 670 am out of Chicago, bouncing hundreds on miles across the atmosphere into my upstate New York bedroom.
It was Jim Durham and the emerging Chicago Bulls of the late 80's. Nobody called a basketball game with such ease, such description and with that perfect dramatic timing. His voice would become my personal backdrop for the NBA. A style to learn and borrow from.
You can only imagine my thrill when I joined JD's ESPN Radio NBA broadcasts as studio host more than a decade ago. I especially looked forward to our twice yearly "in person" assignments together at the All-Star Game and NBA Finals. He was an even better man than his Hall of Fame broadcasting credentials. My heart breaks for Helen, all the kids and their many grandchildren. The backdrop of the NBA will never sound the same again.