Air Check: Showing Their Colors

aircheck-250HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

The national guys aren’t perfect either. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

Here are a few moments from the season thus far that made us laugh, made us smarter, or made us shake our heads.

1. Trifecta of bias

Game: Minnesota @ Denver, Jan. 3
Broadcast: Denver

Denver analyst Scott Hastings really shows his colors here. First, he infers that the official should take a previous J.J. Barea complaint into account when making a call. Then, he disparages Barea’s size. And finally, he infers that the number of fouls that Kenneth Faried had at the time should have affected the call. Oof.

2. Mid-game education

Game: Golden State @ Minnesota, Nov. 16
Broadcast: Minnesota

One of the biggest problems with some NBA broadcasters is that they’re behind the curve in regard to advanced stats. When a play-by-play guy or analyst references points per game and/or field-goal percentage as a measure of offensive or defensive quality, those of us who know and believe in advanced stats just want to squirm and/or mute your television.

So when one of these guys takes the time to educate their audience about pace and efficiency, it’s worthy of a mention. This clip starts out on the wrong foot with a graphic citing PPG, but Dave Benz and Jim Petersen quickly turn the conversation toward efficiency.

Hopefully, talk of pace and efficiency will be the norm (and not the exception) in the near future.

3. Foul? What foul?

Game: New Orleans @ Portland, Dec. 16
Broadcast: Portland

There are a lot of times when broadcasters need to hold their tongues until they see a replay before questioning an official’s call. Let’s just say that Mike Barrett and Mike Rice don’t do that very often.

On this play, Barrett (play-by-play) first questions the idea of Nicolas Batum‘s foul being a flagrant. Rice takes over from there, seems to ignore an obvious blow to the face of Anthony Davis, makes a silly remark about the official not wanting him to eat dinner on time, and then takes a grade-school-level shot at Davis’ eyebrow(s). Oh yeah, like Hastings in the clip above, he infers that a previous call should somehow influence this one.

One more thing: Broadcasters should know that referees will err on the side of caution when initially determining whether a foul was a flagrant or a common foul, because one can be reviewed and the other can’t. If the refs initially call a flagrant, they can review the play and change it to a common foul. If they don’t call a flagrant initially, they can’t review it or change it. So if there’s any doubt, the best thing to do is call a flagrant foul and check the replay.

4. I take that back

Game: Minnesota @ Brooklyn, Nov. 5
Broadcast: Brooklyn

Let’s end on a good note, shall we?

Ian Eagle is a Hang Time favorite, because he’s calls games straight, he’s got a quick wit and he certainly isn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Here, he regrets his premature assessment of Greg Stiemsma‘s perimeter game.


  1. Adam says:

    I have to put it out there, the Raptors commentators are some of the best, unbiased commentators in the league

  2. […] Reminder: OKC’s announcing crew is pretty solid, comparatively. […]

  3. Mark says:

    “…then takes a grade-school-level shot at Davis’ eyebrow(s).”

    Joining in on the mockery, author?

  4. saynt614 says:

    Scott Hastings tells it as it is. He will call out the really bad calls and justify the calls that should be made..

    I have heard him agree with calls 1000 times against the Nuggets.

    He just isn’t afraid to call out certain officials when they make the very bad ones. Which is ballsy

    And that is why i think he is one of the best commentators in the game.

    Pretty cool side note… on the really bad fouls that go against the Nuggets… Scott Hastings will actually take his headset off and shout at the ref.

    Which is amazing lol

  5. MjfromOKC says:

    In OKC our announcer Brian Davis is absolutely horrible.

  6. Denzo says:

    Terrible article.. I mean Barrea? How silly is that video? Then I watched Batum and Davis.. and the guy made a joke when he realised he was wrong.. “hand got in the way of his face”.. and corrected himself..

    Man if you want hits for this website email me Ill help you write something half interesting without being so stupid.

  7. bitch says:

    lol 3 out of four are from the timberwolves

  8. Celtics commentary would fill 100 spots on my top 100 list of biased commentary.

  9. George says:

    I know there is not a lot of love for the Miami Heat, even after all that they have done the last couple of years for themselves and the league, but everybody really ought to acknowledge the great job Eric Reid and Coach Tony Fiorentino do down there in South Florida. The Heat show probably captures a huge audience, so there is likely a greater responsibility on them to present a respectful and balanced call, but even so, man, do they do it well. They are well-spoken, interesting, extremely knowledgable with all the stats at their command and plenty of game history, they really watch the plays, they correct themselves where it’s required, are wonderfully complimentary of opposition players and coaches, and they manage to be damn entertaining as well. They’re worth a mention in this fantastic Air Check section.

  10. Noit says:

    The announcers get the refs better than the author of this article. I think because announcers get more of a chance to get at the refs, this author working for the NBA needed to take this as an opportunity to get at the announcers by taking clips out of context, by out of context I mean the refereeing of the game around that clip.

  11. Noit says:

    Why do you, the author of the article, keep saying the previous call shouldn’t influence the next one. You know it shouldn’t but you know refs do it. Make up calls for starters.

  12. HMH says:

    I remember when Vince Carter was traded from Toronto to the Nets and then we played the Nets soon after. The local Raptor broadcasters, Chuck Swirsky and Leo Rautins, just lambasted Carter during the entire game. E.g., on one play, Carter was fouled relatively hard by a Raptor and kind of took exception to the foul and confronted the player and had a stare down with him. Rautins then chimes in “Carter is certainly known around the league more for his bark than his bite”. I just smiled and thought to myself that finally we can talk openly and honestly about Carter’s on-court demeanor and play, especially during his last few months with the team….

  13. Ollie says:

    Absolutely shocked the Jazz announcers didn’t make it in. They are the biggest homers in the league and for someone to have play as much ball as Harpring has, know nothing.

  14. Minsoup says:

    Lol It’s hilarious when Stacey King goes crazy over a Bulls(I want to go higher, get up or get out of the way) play but if Lebron did a 360 windmill it’d just be wow. Not hating cause I’m from Chicago and Bulls are a hardworking team and that’s how broadcasters should be a little especially if you’re watching from a local network… I guess. but didn’t really realize it until I thought about it cause of this article.

  15. LebronKingOfNba says:

    hey Mr. John Schumann. had u watched the sac@mia game, in which broadcasted by sacramento? you should watch it if not. you may include them. they were broadcasting the game horrible. lol

  16. Darin says:

    John, this is a good piece, but please learn the difference between “infer” and “imply.”

  17. Alex says:

    I think you mean “imply” in most of the places you use “infer.”


  18. Joel says:

    Very happy to read this and find out that it wasn’t just me. The only bad thing about LP is when my team visits Memphis, Utah or Denver, and I have to listen to the hometown broadcasters.

  19. Bryce Roth says:

    Well maybe the refs need to be better or hire new ones. That flagrant foul was a joke even with the replay.

  20. ajax says:

    I think you’re missing the point about previous fouls affecting future fouls. They should. Its about consistency, and applies to all sports; your early calls set a standard of what you’re actually gonna call. Especially in #3 there, they’re not complaining about the call being affected by the previous flagrant foul, they’re saying that while they don’t think it was flagrant, the standard has been set by the previous call and therefore is consistent.

  21. Oakley34BLAM says:

    GREAT idea for a feature Mr Schuhmann. I watch a ton of NBA ball and some of the commentators INFURIATE me (Bob Rathbun *cough*). Love seeing a new feature where some of their ridiculous patter can be called out or, in the case of Ian Eagle, appropriately lauded. My fav commentator is of course Walt Clyde Frazier, but I think the Raptor’s and Warrior’s TV men also do a great job. They are not alone, but sadly I think more guys drive me nuts than draw my praise. Some of my favorite players of old like Drexler and Nique are particularly awful most of the time, although some of these ex-players do occasionally drop some great nuggets of insight. Keep this feature coming.

  22. zackg0808 says:

    As someone who wants to be a sports broadcaster I really enjoy watching broadcast teams that call a game how it is without bias towards one team. If there is something that the Knicks and Nets have in common is that the broadcast teams, Breen and Clyde for the Knicks, Eagle and Spanarkel always are unbiased. The most biased broadcaster, in my opinion, is Heinsohn who does the Celtics.

  23. Pierce says:

    I honestly don’t know how Utah’s Matt Harpring isn’t on this list every week. He is the worst.

  24. MHX says:

    The most unbiased announcers are:

    New York Knicks
    Brooklyn Nets
    Chicago Bulls
    Indiana Pacers

    These commentators talk the truth and don’t try to bend things around.

    I really don’t know much about the bad teams because I don’t watch their games, and they don’t have much positive things to talk about anyway since their teams are bad.

    The biased ones are:
    Boston Celtics (really strong bias especially towards refereeing)

    Memphis Grizzlies (monotone on opponents’ great play — just look at gary neal’s buzzer beating 3 of game 5 in 2011, and they sound crazy when their team banks a shot)

    Cleveland Cavaliers
    Denver Nuggets (complains about referees)
    OKC (Westbrook shooting a lot is a great choice)
    Utah Jazz (same problem like the memphis commentators, downplay opponents’ great plays)
    L.A. Clippers (Everyone is an all star because they can dunk)

    Los Angeles Lakers (I really don’t think they over-emphasize on their team as much as most people may think)

    • Fan says:

      So true. I would throw in the Pistons as one of the unbiased one, they get excited over plays by both teams. Warriors seem pretty fair as well. I love listening to Mike Breen and Walt Clyde Frazier broadcoast, Breen with his exciting commentary along with Clydes wisdom. The Blazers have one of the more biased broadcasters, and for some reason hate on Alvin Gentry although he is a great coach. Guess they are still bitter about the loss a few years back?

  25. crzysnwbrder2 says:

    Boston Celtics announcers are so biased. They should be on here.

  26. joadsta says:

    Either way, I’d much rather hear local broadcasters over national broadcasters any day. At least they tend to talk about the game at hand and not make comments that are completely irrelevant. Just call the game and keep personal comments to yourself.

  27. Robo1212 says:

    Where the hell is Tommy Heinsohn?

  28. Cole says:

    Wrong. Most National Broadcasters are as biased with the Lakers as Laker announcers themselves.

    • Jeff Van Gundy says:

      Your kidding right?
      Stu lantz tells it how it is!
      Hes the least biased commentator in the nba.
      Everyone at espn is more biased than Stu Lantz.

  29. aRod says:

    Too bad there are no Clippers videos here. Their announcers are the most biased by far. They overstate EVERYTHING when it comes to their players’ ‘greatness’. From players 1 thru 15, every guy on the team is the best in the league at what they do in their eyes. The play calling is campy and the color guy is homer. Comparing DeAndre Jordan’s dunking to Dr. J this year and ranking Blake Griffin’s all around play right next to Lebron? C’mon. It’s absurd and painful to listen.

    • Hm says:

      “every guy on the team is the best in the league at what they do in their eyes”
      I realise they’re biased like all locals (though Lawler has definitely earned the right to be biased after so many decades) but you’re exaggerating.

      • it will happen says:

        no he is not have you watched one of their games every 3-pointer they hit is a BINGO and ME-O-MY clippers are the worst and they overrate that team way too much

    • skrutz says:

      I think their broadcasting is great. Sure, they over-emphasize the Clippers players abilities, but they do the same for the opponents. And holy-moly, they can lay down some history and stats.

      If you don’t like Lawler and the fact that he gets super hyped up when a great play takes place, and keeps it interesting and exciting… then I don’t know who you would like.

  30. JohnLabrier says:

    It really is ridiculous how one-sided local announcers are.
    I don’t know about how all fans are, but me as an NBA fan would rather hear fair and unbiased broadcasting.
    Even when it’s my team playing, I don’t want them to put the opposing team down and stuff. We want facts not biased opinions.

    • LA Dwight says:

      true. being a fan of the nba because of basketball and not because of the superstars, i prefer unbiased broadcasting. it’s really irritating when broadcasters gush over superstars like everything they do is always right. they are still human and will still make mistakes. that also goes for the nba’s “preferred” teams

    • Carl says:

      That’s how I feel watching the Hawks play. Their commentators are SO unbelievably biased.

  31. andres says:

    JJ Barea call is not what your saying. Stop trying to make the commentators look bad. He clearly states he shouldn’t have given JJ Barea that call cause he’s rewarding him for complaining earlier.

    • Cullen says:

      Agree. And Hastings doesn’t say anything about a previous call. WHat previous call are they talking about. He just says Barrea has been complaining and the refs just rewarded him for throwing a elbow at Faried.

  32. Patrickmarc says:

    Greg stiemsma, I need to write his name..
    he looks strong, but I wonder if he is stronger than Pekovic!
    anyway all teams need big men, with good hands,
    to go in play-off..
    Next year Wolves should be ready.