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Sunderland Is Lakers' Voice of Choice

Pro basketball: Play-by-play announcer gets one-year contract, but he says no one can replace Chick Hearn.

September 25, 2002|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Paul Sunderland bent over and signed a contract on General Manager Mitch Kupchak's desk that made him the second play-by-play announcer in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'm honored, thrilled and ecstatic," Sunderland said after officially replacing the legendary Chick Hearn, who died Aug. 5.

Then, after a pause, Sunderland said, "But the reason we are doing this is because Chick is no longer with us, so this comes with very mixed emotion."

The contract is for one year, which Sunderland said initially was an issue that needed to be examined after he and his agent, Martin Mandel, were made the offer Friday. But Sunderland added that once it was explained that one-year contracts for broadcasters, at least initially, are a custom of the Lakers and owner Jerry Buss, he was fine with it.

"Sure, who wouldn't want a long-term contract?" Sunderland said. "But the bottom line is, this is a Buss custom. Chick worked with one-year contracts for more than 30 years."

In more recent years, Hearn and partner Stu Lantz worked under two- or three-year contracts.

"The Lakers are known for their continuity and loyalty, and what they have said to me and what I have said to them is, this is the beginning of a long relationship.

"Having grown up in Southern California, this really is a dream come true. But one thing I want to make clear is, I'm not the new voice of the Lakers. I'm the next play-by-play announcer. And in the years to come there will be another play-by-play announcer after me.

"But there will always remain only one voice of the Lakers, and that voice is Chick Hearn."

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