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Michaels Takes NBA Offer

September 23, 2003|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Al Michaels, deciding to accept ABC's offer, will become the network's lead NBA play-by-play announcer next season.

His partner will be selected within the next few weeks, George Bodenheimer, president of ABC Sports and ESPN, said Monday night.

Michaels will make his NBA debut when the Lakers play host to the Houston Rockets in one of two games ABC will televise on Christmas Day.

Michaels will work some regular-season telecasts, weekend playoff games and all games of the NBA Finals.

Mike Pearl, executive producer of ABC Sports, said Michaels would work "more than a handful" of regular-season games. Mark Shapiro, Pearl's counterpart at ESPN, said the exact number will be determined later.

"It will be a substantial number," Shapiro said.

ABC has 13 NBA regular-season dates, which include five doubleheaders.

The Times reported Aug. 15 that ABC wanted Michaels, the play-by-play voice of "Monday Night Football," to also be its lead announcer on the NBA.

Bodenheimer declined to say what contractual incentives Michaels was given, but said one factor in Michaels' decision to take on the assignment was the marquee value of the NBA Finals.

Pearl said finding a schedule that would allow Michaels to maintain his current lifestyle was another factor.

Brad Nessler, ABC's lead play-by-play announcer last season, will announce the ABC telecasts Michaels does not work and will remain ESPN's lead NBA play-by-play announcer.

Michaels and his partner will appear only on ABC.

Pearl said Bill Walton and Tom Tolbert, who worked with Nessler last season, will be among about a half-dozen candidates for the lead ABC commentating job. Those candidates, Pearl said, will be commentators who are already in place, plus a few newcomers. One possibility is Grant Hill, if he chooses to sit out the season and let his chronically injured left ankle heal. Hill, now with the Orlando Magic, had an audition last week at ESPN in Bristol, Conn.

Sean Elliott figures to be another candidate. Longshots would include Greg Anthony, Tim Legler and Fred Carter, who mainly did studio analysis for ESPN last season. Jack Ramsay has done radio commentating for ESPN for years but probably doesn't figure to be a candidate for the TV job.

Michaels, who has worked "Monday Night Football" since 1986, was asked about his new assignment by John Madden at halftime of the Oakland-Denver game Monday night.

Michaels got in a promo for his first assignment, the Lakers' 5:30 game on Christmas Day, and added: "It's going to be great."

Michaels is best known as a football and baseball announcer, but he called some college basketball for ABC in the late 1980s and was originally seen in the Los Angeles market as a basketball announcer, replacing Dick Enberg on delayed telecasts of UCLA games in 1973.

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