Lakers Nation Roundtable: A Celebration Of Chick Hearn’s Career
In a city home to some of pop culture’s biggest stars, the ones that seem to shine the brightest don Forum blue and gold uniforms — a designation about the color “purple” coined by Chick Hearn that former owner Jack Kent Cook loved, but refused to acknowledge. A huge reason why the Lakers ostensibly outshine the movie stars in Los Angeles has to do with the fact that they’re success has been largely unparalleled — and Hearn’s voice and call at the end of games captured the zeitgeist of Lakers wins like nothing else. During Hearn’s 42-year tenure as the Lakers play-by-play man, the faces of the owner changed, the faces of the super stars changed, the arena changed but that singular call at the end of games — the one about the fridge, eggs, jello and butter — remained the same.
Chick’s voice, verve and personality distinguished himself from his peers in the same way that Vin Scully has for the Dodgers over the years. Los Angeles has been blessed to be able to listen to two of sports most golden voices, but no one really epitomized with his voice what the team tried to establish on the court. Chick was a legend, he was a fan, and he was ours. Today, we celebrate the life of one of the greatest Lakers in the history of the organization. He’s been bronzed in front of of Staples Center, he’s had his microphone retired in the rafters and his voice will be cemented in our hearts forever.
Chick Hearn left a legacy in sports broadcasting that is unparalleled. He was more than the voice of the Los Angeles Lakers; he was the connection between the fans and the game itself.
During his 42-year career with the Lakers, it was nearly impossible to find a key or memorable moment in Lakers’ history without hearing Chick’s unique, staccato, voice calling games for the listeners and watchers, especially since he broadcasted 3,338 consecutive Lakers games.
He wasn’t a broadcaster; he was a storyteller. His storytelling and one of a kind phrases, or “Chickisms,” blended perfectly with Dr. Jerry Buss’ vision of providing the audience with entertainment on the court. Fans could breathe easily when Chick would “put the game in the refrigerator.”
Listening to Chick Hearn growing up was like listening to a symphony in action. Whether it was during the Showtime era or the Shaq and Kobe era, Chick brought the game to life and made a fan sitting on their couch at home, feel as if they were in the front row of the Forum or at Staples Center.
On this day, all Lakers fan remember and celebrate a Laker legend that enhanced the way those that were lucky enough to listen to him broadcast a game, listened to or watched the Lakers. Simply put, Chick made the fans a part of the game and a part of the team.
Chick Hearn made the experience of watching Laker games one of a kind. He was a master of words, and knew exactly how to captivate the attention of his audience. My fondest memories of Chick came as a a kid when I would listen to him broadcast games on the radio with Stu Lantz. What made Chick so special was his ability to create colorful phrases throughout his broadcasting career. A saying such as “the mustards off the hot dog” is just one of the many phrases that he coined that will forever remain in my memories of him. My favorite moment in Chick’s broadcasting career was his call on Magic Johnson’s baby skyhook against the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals. Though I wasn’t close to being alive at that time, it’s a sequence I continually replay simply to hear Chick.
There are so many memories of the great Chick Hearn, but the first Lakers game I ever watched and all the home games he called still mean a lot to me to this day. The first game I watched was the Lakers overcoming a 28-point deficit against the Warriors on a buzzer-beating tip-in by Kobe Bryant which led to an eventual overtime victory. I’m sure most fans turned off the TV that night, but there was something special about Chick’s play-by-play calls that kept an eight-year-old kid engaged and hopeful.
Since that game, I continued to watch all the Lakers road games on KCAL9 but there was a problem — I didn’t have cable and couldn’t watch the home games. Fortunately, Chick was there for me on KLAC 570 and I could imagine watching the game through his commentating. Even when the Lakers played on NBC, I would turn off the volume and turn on the radio instead.
Simply put, I was really fortunate to grow up listening to Chick Hearn and his “Chickisms.” There’s no one that compares to him and he was one of the reasons I became a Lakers fan.
Basketball is a palette of paint that Chick Hearn knew exactly what to do with. His voice, his mannerisms and his passion for the sport defined an era of basketball that saw the Los Angeles Lakers landing nine titles. His vision of the game bridged a gap from 1965 – when Jerry West averaged 31 points per game without the three-point line to the Showtime Lakers and Magic Johnson to the final game of the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant three-peat era in 2002.
His excellence as a broadcaster amplified the luster that became the purple and gold clad Lakers.
There’s no overstating the significance of having Chick Hearn guiding Lakers fans and the world through an 82 game season and playoff run 48 minutes at a time. His dedication to his craft – broadcasting over 3,000 Lakers games consecutively – is easily represented by the mark he left on how the game of basketball is discussed by fans and professionals. Slam dunk? Chick Hearn. Matador Defense? Yeah, that was Chick. The list goes on and on for phrases and ideas the legend coined.
His famous close-out call is something my friends and family still use today. Watching animated Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz push the refrigerator across the screen, watching Chick toss the hard butter and cooled eggs off the screen and ultimately watching them jiggle with the Jell-O, then slamming the San Antonio Spurs logo into the refrigerator after the Game 5 victory in the Western Conference semifinals stands as an everlasting moment to me. You could hear the excitement between both Lantz and Hearn, and it serves as one of the final playoff series that we had the pleasure of being serenaded by “The Golden Throat.”
Chick Hearn and the Lakers are synonymous; the void he left is still being felt without his voice.
It would’ve been incredible to hear what Chick would’ve said about the latest version of the Lakers and the ownership mess. While he was always fair in calling the game, he had an opinion about how the team was doing and he let everyone know throughout the broadcast.
To talk about what he meant to the Lakers you just have to walk outside Staples Center and look to the rafters as he’s one of the few broadcasters to have both a statue and microphone retired in a stadium.
However, my favorite Chick memories are when he put the game in the refrigerator.
No matter how big of a blowout the game was, hearing that one line every single Laker game made it that more special.
I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news about Chick’s passing and subsequent sadness and long string of tears rolling down my face as I knew I’d never hear him put a game in the refrigerator again.
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