By: Rob Botts
A great NBA TV analyst must have a couple of things to really stand out to the viewer. They must have an engaging personality that while powerful, is not overwhelming. Like Brad Pitt’s character tells Matt Damon’s character in the remake casino caper flick Ocean’s Eleven, “He’s got to remember you and then forget you.” That must happen after every comment and then it’s on to the next play or event. The analyst also must be able to convey what they are saying in terms that the astute basketball junkie along with casual hoop observer can both mutually understand for optimal viewing pleasure. They must always carefully navigate through the basketball weeds but not get caught up in them. They must be able to fill the time between whistles with entertaining and enlightening topics that relate to the players and the in-game situations. While viewers can see the action unfolding before them, a nuanced and guided verbal hand really helps us to understand why just happened, did just happen in the manner that it did.
The one man over the years who has done all of the above and then some, is non other than the best NBA TV analyst of all time. That would be Mr. Hubie Brown. The man has coached many NBA franchises. Most noteably the New York Knicks and the Memphis Grizzlies. The former NBA coach of the year and Naismith hall of famer, was an intense coach who stalked the sidelines of arenas like a hungry tiger looking for his next substitution or time out call. He lectured, taught and coached many basketball camps as well over the years before taking his considerable knowledge to the TV booth. The man above all else in life, is and will always be a teacher. A teacher of the game. The audience for years now have been his students of each and every telecast that he has worked for various networks.
From the moment you hear Hubie’s gruff, tough and caring voice, you are hooked. The man knows how to EXPLAIN to us what just happened and what most likely will happen next. It is like listening to a basketball encyclopedia one man book on tape each and every game. Plays that look so simple to our eye are a series of short expositions inside of a larger overall story. He breaks that story down for us. He tells us why the guy just cut back door instead of coming up high and setting a screen. He let’s us know why a player decided to go one on one and break out of the set play call. He educates us on why one team has all of sudden changed strategies after halftime. All of this is done in a manner that is like your favorite uncle coming over for a beverage and dropping all time knowledge that will immediately make you a better person just for having heard it first hand. It is the explaining of why things are happening and how they were able to happen from a man who has been there and done that so many times in so many different roles. A patient teacher above all else whose eyes light up when he sees he has gotten through to whomever he has worked with over the years on the sidelines. A man who be ready to move around all the furniture in your living room to recreate the on the floor scenario that was just witnessed. By the time he was done, you wouldn’t look at your sofa the same way and wonder why it wasn’t averaging 20 rebounds a game.
Then there is the personality. Oh, what a personality he has. I am NOT defining personality as so many are in today’s reality TV obsessed culture in relation to how offensive and idiotic they can be. Or how self-serving and outlandish the comments tend to be out of most who are trying to be provocative just to be provocative. There isn’t a self-serving bone in the man’s entire skeletal structure. The great ones have an ease to their style. Mr. Brown has had some wonderful phrases over the years. “Oh, come on now…Come on…” is one that comes to mind. When it is typed out like this it doesn’t look very original or exciting. BUT, when you hear Hubie say this after an exciting or controversial play that has just unfolded in his very, every man voice with a slight gleeful chuckle, it just hits home as so real. “Now just watch this here now…” is like an excited surgeon using instant replay. He breaks down the anatomy of the play while making sure you are still with him for the entire replay ride. He is excited and you should be to because of how is working his analyst magic.
The great ones effortlessly come up with names that stick with us. Pre-Hubie Brown, the middle of both ends of the basketball floor under each respective hoop and out in front was a square of painted floor that extended 15 feet out from the end line to the free throw line. It is known as the key or the paint. Post-Hubie, it is simply known as the “Painted Area.” What a simple, yet highly engaging and memorable way to talk about that part of the floor. I’ve heard numerous play-by-play and analyst types use that exact phrase as a direct salute to the great Hubie Brown. In fact I think every basketball coach’s pamphlet or diagram of the actual hardwood floor has had the name “The Key” or the “The Paint” removed completely and replaced by the more descriptively accurate and fun, “Painted Area.”
One of Hubie’s favorite words out of the english language is BECAUSE. He uses this word in a way similar to how a person would be preparing to give somebody a wrapped gift on a spacial holiday or event. As a viewer, once you heard him say because, you were waiting with bated breath to have him finish that particular golden nugget of basketball knowledge. He had become part of the game experience. After seeing an amazing play on the floor, you couldn’t wait to hear Hubie’s take on how and why that particular play had just happened.
With Hubie, you always feel like you are on the inside of what is going on. Like he enables us to impart some basketball wisdom we have learned upon our friends and have that subtle wink that we will always know something that they don’t. Until the next telecast that is. Until the next time we get to hear the greatest NBA TV analyst of all time do his thing again.