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This Night Belonged to Chick

Beloved broadcaster Hearn, who died Aug. 5, takes his place among other Laker greats in an emotional tribute.

November 25, 2002|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Chick Hearn may be gone, but the Lakers are doing their part in making sure he isn't forgotten.

In an emotional ceremony before the Lakers' game against Milwaukee on Sunday night at Staples Center, a jersey bearing Hearn's name was unveiled. It hangs among those bearing the names West, Baylor, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Worthy and Goodrich.

Rather than a number, Hearn's jersey has a microphone.

"It look likes a No. 1, which is fitting," Laker Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss said before the ceremony.

Buss, who with Linda Rambis organized the ceremony, said it really was the fans' idea.

"We heard from so many fans who wanted us to do this," Buss said. "The reason we did it now is because we couldn't do it on opening night and this is the week of Chick's birthday."

Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn, who died Aug. 5 after taking a fall at his home in Encino, would have turned 86 on Wednesday.

Jerry West, who received a standing ovation in his first visit to Staples Center since he became president of the Grizzlies, made a special trip from Memphis to honor Hearn.

Davis Gaines sang "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Hearn's widow, Marge, elegantly dressed in a blue suit and white hat, spoke to the fans.

Also present were the Hearns' granddaughter Shannon Newman, her husband, Louis, and great-granddaughter Kayla.

Memorable photos of Hearn and many of his "Chickisms" were displayed on the scoreboard as fans oohed, aahed and cheered.

There will be more tributes to the man who until last season was the only play-by-play announcer the Lakers had after moving to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960.

Buss said 11th Street in front of Staples Center will be renamed next month. Details are being worked out to erect a statue of Hearn in front of Staples Center. The Lakers are planning to hold a dinner in honor of Hearn in the spring. A post office in Encino is going to be named after Hearn.

"If Francis knew all those things were being named after him, he would have said, 'Are these people crazy?' " Marge said.

West called Hearn a unique man, a special friend and a man "who loved his wife, his work and the Lakers."

Fox Sports Net devoted most of its pregame show to honoring Hearn and paid tribute to him throughout the game telecast.

The pregame show included a taped interview Stu Lantz had done with Jerry Buss, taped interviews with Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox, and live interviews with Jeanie Buss, Marge Hearn and West.

Jerry Buss said Chick Hearn had given the Lakers an identity in this city and brought all the Laker teams together. Marge Hearn said she knew the night was going to be an emotional one, and Bryant said, "Chick is the Lakers."

Co-host Bill Macdonald said the ceremony was going to be emotional. "But it is also going to be a celebration of Chick's life."

And that's what it turned out to be.

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