If only all commentators were as “excited” as the Bob Costas/Al Michael pairing in the legendary (at least in my mind) movie Basketball. Anyway, on to the rankings/opinions.
1) Jay Bilas: Intelligent, honest, fair, and sarcastically funny.
2) Sean Farnham: The next star. If I had to nitpick, I’d like to see a little more personality.
3) Stephen Bardo: ESPN kept him calling low-level games. A guy this good needs a bigger spotlight. I’m happy he has the chance to do huge things at the Big 10 Network.
4) Bill Raftery: I miss him with Bilas. They were a great team. I keep expecting Raftery’s entertainment value to decline as he ages, but it never seems to happen!
5) Doris Burke: She’s always been knowledgeable, but in the last few years, her personality has really come out, and it’s great. She seems to be a lightning rod for criticism, yet I never actually hear what exactly is being criticized beside “Doris Burke Sucks!” I’d like to think nobody would assess her ability based on anything having to do with her gender, but that would be me living in a dream world.
6) Dan Bonner: He takes it back to the days of good, solid information. He never makes it about himself, and is tremendous with x’s & o’s.
7) LaPhonso Ellis: He would have ranked higher if he didn’t shave his dreads (kidding!). No one sounds like they are having more fun calling a basketball game than this man. Keeps getting better.
8) Doug Gottlieb: He’s a very intelligent analyst, and I would have ranked him higher except for his seeming desire lately to make comments purely designed to strike a nerve and draw attention to himself. Stay away from the Skip Bayless/Stephen A. Smith world, Doug…Stay away!
9) Jim Spanarkel: Very underrated. Falls into the Dan Bonner category.
10) Cory Alexander: He could be rising quickly. I believe this is just his second year calling ACC games, and he’s already proven more than adept at x’s and o’s and has a natural feel for the game, plus a fun personality.
11) Mike Gminski: He’s improved in the last couple of years with his x’s and o’x. He’s always been good with commentary.
12) Fran Fraschila: I’ve always enjoyed him, but honestly can’t think of anything positive or negative to say about his commentary. Not sure what that means, haha.
13) Adrian Branch: See “Fran Fraschila.”
1) Dick Vitale-Just to make it clear, Vitale is my #1 ambassador for the game of college basketball. No one loves and appreciates the game more. But…Vitale calling a game is an embarrassment. He makes it all about himself and says little to nothing about what’s going on.
2) Len Elmore-Listening to Elmore call the Duke-Kentucky 1992 game compared to how he calls games now is all the proof anyone needs. He always seem to favor one team against the other, and calls games as either approving or disapproving of plays rather than anything fair.
3) Bill Walton-If you want comedy gold, watch games involving Bill Walton. If you want a simple layup described as the great basketball play in the history of the world, watch games involving Bill Walton. If you want to hear about ancient Mayan architecture or the Grateful Dead 1974 Tour, watch games involving Bill Walton. If you want anything involving color commentary/x’s and o’s, look elsewhere.
4) Dan Dakich-His knowledge and intelligence is indisputable. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone call games with as much pure ego as Dakich. Rather than analyze, he presents judgment.
5) Bob Knight-Knight is a huge name, and at times gives good x’s and o’x. But clearly his mind isn’t what it used to be, and becomes extremely frustrating for the viewer to deal with.
Need to See More (Not a Ranking):
-Reggie Miller: I’ve only heard him call NCAA Tournament games (though I’ve heard him call a ton of NBA games), and I know I’m in the minority, but I find him extremely entertaining and knowledgeable. I think I’m in the minority, but hey, it’s my list!
-Greg Anthony: He’s still working on finding his voice. I think CBS should have let him work some lower level games before pairing him with Jim Nance as the #1 team.
-Shane Battier-See “Greg Anthony.”
-Jason (Jay) Williams: He has a ton of potential. Could be rising up the ranks soon. It’s obvious how much preparation he puts into his job.
-Kara Lawson: She has the potential to be very, very good, but reminds me of when Doris Burke started. I want more personality, Kara!
-Dino Gaudio: Hasn’t made any impact on me.
-Miles Simon: Hasn’t made any impact on me.
-I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of other guys, which basically means they haven’t made any impact on me.
-Most of the play-by-play announcers are unbelievably good at their job, calling the action and setting up for the color commentators for analysis. I’d put all of them in the positive category without any ranking necessary, but two stand out.
Positive: Dave Pasch: See “Bill Walton.” I stated that Walton doesn’t actually talk about basketball. He avoids this topic for good reason, because this is him TRYING to talk basketball. Pasch deserves some kind of humanitarian award for having to deal with this kind of thing each broadcast.
Negative: Mike Patrick-He’s good, except for the fact that he forgets or mispronounces everyone’s name, has no idea what’s going on in the game, and gives tones of false information to viewers. He used to be one of my favorites, but I think it might be time for him to call it a day.
This used to be a joke of a job, and there would be a ton of eye candy who didn’t and couldn’t do their job if their lives depended on it. Times have changed, as well as the professionalism required. Sideline reporters are now as prepared and knowledgeable about the game as any play-by-play announcers, commentators or studio analysts.