After moving the franchise to Los Angeles, California, the Lakers went through many personnel changes. But one person that stayed through and became synonymous with the Lakers was Chick Hearn, their play-by-play announcer for more than four decades and over 3000 games.
HBO’s ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty’ picks up after the franchise is sold to Jerry Buss in 1979, beginning the magnificent turnaround few expected. Chick, whose voice welcomed many new fans into the NBA, continued calling Lakers games into their glorious and triumphant era. So, let’s find out more about him then, shall we?
Who Was Chick Hearn?
Francis Dayle “Chick” Hearn was born in Buda, Illinois. He got his nickname while playing in an amateur basketball league; Chick’s friends played a prank by giving him a box with a chicken when he thought it contained sneakers. He married Marge, whom he met in high school, in August 1938. Chick’s career with the Lakers began in March 1961, beginning an almost impossible legacy that lasted more than 40 years. He was known for his fast and practical yet imaginative mode of delivery that many have come to love since.
Chick’s style and impact were best explained by Eddie Doucette, a fellow announcer. He said, “If you’re going to capture the beauty of the game, you have to be as fast as it is. And in order to do that, you can’t miss the beat of the ball. Chick Hearn is probably the best there’s ever been at making you hear the beat of the ball.” Chick’s innovative playcalling gave the sport many memorable terms like a slam dunk, triple-double, and finger roll that have become part of basketball’s vocabulary today.
Not just that, Chick was known for phrases like, “no harm, no foul,” “ticky-tack foul,” and “faked him into the popcorn machine” that delighted the crowd listening in. The terms and phrases that he came up with were called Chickisms. Later on, Chick’s broadcast partner of 15 years, Stu Lantz, said of him, “When you’re genuine, people see it. You can’t hide genuine. You can fake it all you want, but you can’t hide it. He would just make you feel so at home, plus he was in everybody’s living room, you know? With 82 games, he’s in your living room 82 times a year. You just fell in love with the guy.”
Throughout his career with the Lakers, Chick called games for 3,388 consecutive games starting in November 1965. Apart from announcing NBA games, he served as a commentator for college-level sports, boxing, and pro football, among others. Chick was also known to come up with interesting statistical nuggets during his commentary. Furthermore, his equation with the players set him apart from the rest. Magic Johnson once said, “When I talked to Chick, a lot of times it was hardly about basketball. He was always so proud of me. I would get little notes from him. That would make me feel so good.”
How Did Chick Hearn Die?
Chick’s string of consecutive games ended when he had heart surgery in December 2001 and later a hip fracture in early 2002. He returned to the broadcasting booth in April that year. However, in August 2002, Chick fell at his Encino, California, home and hurt his head. Despite two surgeries, he never regained consciousness. On August 5, 2002, Chick passed away at the Northridge Hospital Medical Center in California. He was 85 years old and was coming up on his 64th wedding anniversary with Marge. Chick also became the first broadcaster to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Read More: How Did Jerry Buss Die?