Mike Breen has been there through all the chaos and despair that defines the last two decades of Knicks basketball, and now the brilliant broadcaster is being etched into basketball history through his enshrinement into the hall of fame.
His entrance into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame comes by way of the 2020 Curt Gowdy Media Award, an honor being bestowed upon both Breen and Michael Wilbon this year. As winners of the Curt Gowdy Media Award, Breen and Wilbon join a prestigious list of colleagues; previous recipients include the late, great Craig Sager, along with the likes of Doris Burke, Hubie Brown, Bob Costas and many others.
Brief aside: Curt Gowdy was a big time sports broadcaster in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He announced professional baseball, football and basketball, and appeared in a handful of movies, including The Naked Gun and a voice role in BASEketball.
Alright, back to Breen, who has been the voice of the Knicks since 2004. His ability to announce Knicks games night in and night out should be enough by itself to warrant a call to the hall, but Breen is far more than just the guy who keeps Walt Clyde Frazier from rhyming us to death. Breen has been the lead broadcaster for the NBA at large since 2006, and has called 14 consecutive NBA Finals. He’s also been an announcer for five Olympic Games, including some major basketball years like the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athen.
Breen, alongside the legendary Frazier as his partner in crime, has truly served as a calming presence over the course of recent Knicks history. It stings whenever he doesn’t show up on the television screen because he’s busy calling the game for ESPN or ABC.
A lifelong Knicks fan, Breen has broadcasted through oodles of eras. He was there for Stephon Marbury. He was there for Eddy Curry (by the way, go read this recent Players’ Tribune piece from Curry. It’s nuts, and provides some much needed context for a career that never lived up to the hype). Breen, like us, experienced the Mike D’Antoni tenure in its entirety. He, like us, yearned for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to find some chemistry and become greater than the sum of the team’s parts (it didn’t happen). For goodness sake, Breen was there for the rise of Alexey Shved.
His signature call — you might know it as “Bang!” — is about as iconic as they come. Here, have a whole bunch of bangs.
brb watching Mike Breen’s best “BANG!” moments over and over again. pic.twitter.com/agv6amM0zP— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 1, 2018
Breen was just as humble and happy as you might expect when answering questions about the hall of fame honor. Per Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“I almost started crying before,’’ Breen said. “It’s hard to fathom even after getting the word. As a 5-year-old, I fell in love with basketball, played it until I was 45. To get this job, it was hitting the lottery and to get an award like this for doing job you love so much. … It’s hard to find the proper words to say how I feel.’’
That Post story includes a nice little tidbit about how a Walt Clyde poster that Breen put up in his childhood bedroom in Yonkers when he was 10-years-old still hangs there to this day.
“I go from Walt Frazier being my basketball hero to my partner and lifelong friend,’’ Breen said. “I can’t make this up.’’
Barring circumstances unforeseen, Breen, 58, presumably has plenty of years left calling games. We can only hope he continues to do so for the Knicks, because without him some of these seasons would have been hard to stomach.
Lots of Knicks fans know they have no real chance of actually making the NBA, since doing so requires incredible natural abilities, a work ethic that is beyond belief and some genetic gifts in the form of height. But because of the excellent broadcasts put on by MSG over the years, many fans still want to be like Mike. Breen, that is.
Now let’s raise our glasses, or whatever we’ve got in front of us, and offer a hearty congratulations to the legendary Mike Breen. Bang!