2 years later, Albert returns to NBC

Once-banished announcer shuns Fox for NBA, Games

June 30, 1999|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

Marv Albert, who was banished from broadcast sports television nearly two years ago after his conviction on assault charges, will return to NBC Sports and the NBA.

The network announced yesterday that Albert, a 20-year NBC veteran, will return to call NBA games next season, as well as boxing in the Summer Olympics next year and men's hockey during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

For Albert, who had been wooed by Fox to do NFL games, the chance to return to the sport he has been most closely associated with, basketball, and the network he has been identified with, NBC, were too strong to pass up.

"I love the NFL, but, to me, the NBA is everything," Albert said in a national conference call. "It meant a lot to me to come back. Walking back into the building at 30 Rock [NBC's New York headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza] was a thrill, though the security guard did stop me."

Albert will not, however, return as lead NBA announcer, a post he had held from 1990, when NBC got the NBA contract, until his firing in 1997. NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said Albert will team with a yet undetermined analyst on one of four announcing teams that will call the league's schedule.

Albert will work on at least 12 of the 14 weekends that NBC will have NBA regular-season games next season, Ebersol said, and will have at least four weeks of postseason assignments as well.

"We wanted him to come home, and clearly this is a happy day," Ebersol said. "I can't tell you how happy this has made all the employees here at NBC."

Yesterday's announcement is the final step in the remaking of Albert's image, which was tattered after his guilty plea in September 1997 in Virginia on charges that he assaulted a former girlfriend.

Albert vigorously denied the charges before the trial, but after his guilty plea, he was fired by NBC and resigned from Madison Square Garden Network, where he had worked for three decades as the voice of the New York Knicks and Rangers.

However, MSG soon rehired Albert as host of its nightly highlights show and, this spring, Turner Sports brought him aboard to call NBA games. He will continue with Turner and MSG, in addition to his NBC duties.

Ebersol said he had kept in regular contact with Albert and fostered a hope that the popular announcer would someday return to NBC.

"We did what we felt we had to do at the time, but, most importantly, Marv did what he had to do," Ebersol said. "I made it emphatically clear that it was my most earnest desire to have Marv back."

Albert, who subsequently remarried and received therapy, said he bore no ill will toward NBC or Ebersol.

"I didn't take the attitude that they did this to me. I understand what had to be done," Albert said. "I felt I'd be working, but I never took it for granted that it would be here [at NBC]. It was a distant hope, and that's why it's so thrilling to me to have this happen. It's a weird, nice feeling."

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