By Rahul Lal
On Monday’s episode of Michael Rapaport’s I AM RAPAPORT: STEREO PODCAST on CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network, Michael spoke with NBA announcer Mike Breen just hours before what turned out to be a memorable Game 7.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Breen. “I absolutely have butterflies.”
Breen does have experience calling Game 7s, as he was part of the 2010 Lakers-Celtics and 2012 Heat-Spurs broadcasts. Both of those games had incredible outcomes, and Breen could only hope this one produced a similar level of excitement.
The conversation transitioned to LeBron James, Cleveland and his legacy. With so many people doubting his place among the best, Breen had plenty to say.
“It drives me crazy when people want to pin the legacy on players when they’re not even finished with their careers yet… we’re in a society where we have this definitive daily analysis of players and their legacy, and it’s ridiculous.”
But his opinion of LeBron and his place in history is definitive. “It’s clearly evident that LeBron James is one of the greats of all-time.” A LeBron win in Game 7 would be his “greatest triumph.”
Breen, like Michael, grew up as a Knicks fan, going to games in New York’s infamous Madison Square Garden. Michael’s 30 for 30 film, When the Garden Was Eden, outlined the 1970 New York Knicks championship team and the culture of New York basketball.
“We still talk about that team and love that team 46 years later,” said Breen. “There’s no place like Madison Square Garden.”
As an announcer, Breen sometimes has to tip-toe around his emotions because, at the end of the day, he’s really still just a fan of the game and of his Knicks. While he’s able to maintain his professionalism during most games, he still isn’t sure how he well he would keep calm during a Knicks’ Game 7.
“I don’t know how I would react in a Game 7 of an NBA finals [with the Knicks playing], I would like to hope that I would maintain m professionalism, but you never know until you go through it.”
Michael brought up the recent controversies going on in the news about fans thinking the NBA was rigged. As Michael quickly agreed, Breen put it as “just silly.” While he understands the thought process, he believes the rumors are just reactions from irrational fans and that it “makes them feel better as a fan.”
Instant replay has been a polarizing topic among NBA players, coaches, fans and announcers. While it helps with tricky calls, it also leads to breaks in games, often killing momentum or changing the flow of a game.
“It will never be a perfect system, there’s always going to be flaws, there’s always going to be things that drive you nuts,” said the announcer. “It’s the right idea… but let’s not go too far with it.”
A big part of calling games is having enough content to be able to sustain conversation for the entire game, and this material is gathered during pre-game player and coach meetings. Breen said one of the most interesting aspects of these meetings is watching the way his fellow announcers, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, handle the meetings as they have so much in-depth and personal knowledge of the game.
“Some of the coaches are unbelievably honest, but what I find is they have such respect for Jeff and Mark for what they accomplished and their knowledge of the game that it’s really interesting to see that.”
The conversation ended on a light note putting two prolific dressers against each other: Knicks legend Clyde Frazier and sideline reporter Craig Sager. When asked about their outfits, Breen responded:
“At 71 years old, to be able to wear those clothes and pull them of, it’s absolutely incredible… it fits him perfectly.” He also added that “Craig is able to mix and match, he takes a few more chances with the colors, but Craig’s colors are fantastic.”
He believes that if the two were in an arena together, “there’s no question the electricity would go out.”
To hear the full interview as well as interviews with NBA sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow and actor Wood Harris, listen to the latest episode of I AM RAPAPORT: STEREO PODCAST.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.