My Unreasonable Love of Kevin Harlan

Back in college, I was part of a one-act play. It was sort of a “Friday Night Lights” story about a high school football coach under great pressure for reasons I can’t remember. Just pressure to win maybe? Perhaps he was starting his son and dodging nepotism allegations? I don’t remember anymore.

I got a short scene as the coach’s son, but my favorite part came at the end. The “big game” against MacGuffin High had ended in victory, but we had to let the audience know without portraying any actual football.

The solution? Radio. I stood just off-stage, breaking down the game’s action. My Kevin Harlan Voice was like the only choice I could make. It was a knock-off at best, but it was still enough to garner compliments for a “great announcer voice.”

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I have an unreasonable love of Kevin Harlan.

Some of it comes from my formative sports years. 90’s NBA was the greatest era of any sport, but it was about as much part of that era as The War at Home was part of the Third Golden Age of Television. Although the hometown Minnesota Timberwolves were terrible, they did have Kevin Harlan calling the action. After all, they’re called your formative years for a reason. If there’s a voice in your ear taking about a thing you love, you’re probably going to love that voice.

And what a voice! It’s that deep, beautiful baritone that lends instant credibility to anything. The sort of voice that if you heard it calling squirrel waterskiing on The Ocho, you’d be like “Whoa…This waterskiing is really important and I immediately buy into the narrative.”

It’s not just “the voice,” however. Continue reading

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My Evening with LeBron James

Sixteen years ago, I attended my first NBA game. It was a DARE field trip and a Minnesota Timberwolves team on the cusp of relevance was playing the Utah Jazz. Karl Malone was there. John Stockton was there. Tom Gugliotta was probably there. I bought a David Robinson pennant. I peed next to Flip Saunders.

Sixteen year later, I attended my second NBA game, mostly to see LeBron James.

I’m no fan of LeBron. I’ve poked plenty of fun at him in the past and he broke my heart beyond description during last year’s Finals. Even if I always hate him, he now commands my eternal respect. Watching him play basketball live was beyond beautiful; it was frightening.

It isn’t just that he’s large. And powerful. And fast. And graceful. It’s that he combines all of those things together in a way that makes “violent” the only proper adjective.

LeBron James plays basketball like the US Marine Corps conducts war. It’s surgical, it controls the tempo (usually fast), it’s powerful, and it is both emotionless and remorseless in its precision.

So, yeah. James and the Heat beat the hometown Wolves 103-82. Everyone had their scrubs in by the middle of the 4th quarter. But, I got to see the best in the world.