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News » Not even Hot Rod's job lasts forever

Not even Hot Rod's job lasts forever

Not even Hot Rod's job lasts forever
Hot Rod Hundley talks like a man who has talked himself into something he never really wanted to talk himself into. Retirement. The longtime Utah Jazz announcer called his last game Monday night in Los Angeles when the Jazz exited the season with a 107-96 loss to the Lakers. When he flipped off the microphone, or however announcers leave the air these days, he closed the final page on a broadcasting career that began 42 years ago in Boston.

The Lakers, appropriately enough, were playing the Celtics for the 1967 season opener and Hundley, recently retired as a professional Basketball player, was providing color commentary for Lakers announcer Chick Hearn. No one, least of all Hot Rod Hundley, guessed that it was the beginning of a 42-year conversation. But he was a quick study, and sometime between the opening tip and the first shot he realized that one could talk the talk in the NBA a lot longer than one could walk the walk. Hundley's walk had lasted six years, all of his playing days with the Lakers, until he was forced to endure his first retirement at the age of 28. He sold Converse Basketball shoes for a while after that, but then came the call to join Hearn in the booth. What wasn't to like? He had a season ticket to every NBA game. Plus a regular paycheck. Plus the ultimate time-for-work line: "Gotta go to a ballgame." Hot Rod was recounting all this history to me this week at his usual breakneck speaking pace. Maybe at 74 he can't run the break like he once did, but when it comes to talking, he may have actually gotten faster. Even at that, recounting a 42-year career that has included play-by-play of nearly 4,000 games is no small task. First there were the beginning years with the Lakers, then five years broadcasting for the Phoenix Suns, and then the call from the new expansion franchise in New Orleans, the Jazz. First game the Jazz ever played, on Oct. 16, 1974 in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, Hot Rod Hundley was at the microphone. "I've got a beer mug that they gave everybody on our team from the first game in Jazz history," he says proudly. When the team moved to Utah in 1979, the voice of the Jazz packed up his beer mug and moved with them. In 35 seasons he's missed maybe 15 Jazz games, and none due to illness, a fact he's proud of but does not attribute to any sort of clever sleeping pattern, fat-free diet or other preventive maintenance. "I don't know, I just don't get sick very often," he says. "I've been lucky." He cites all the reasons it makes sense to get out now. There's the travel ? it wears on you ? and the snow in the wintertime ? that gets old ? and there's the desire to spend time with his grandsons, who are 9 and 6. Lost in the litany is the realization that for a 30-year-old those are precisely the reasons why you want the job. He also cites the appeal to get out on his own terms, in good health and good standing. He's already made it to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster ? the first former player so enshrined ? and this year his alma mater, West Virginia University, will retire his number. Encores get difficult after they've read the eulogy. So for Hot Rod it's time. Nothing stands still. Nothing lasts forever. Not even dream jobs. And as proof that I'm aging at exactly the same rate as Hot Rod, I find myself wishing he wasn't moving on. I'm no inveterate radio listener, but he is the voice of the Jazz, the only one I've ever known. No one will ever say "The Jazz" like Hot Rod. Larry Miller died this year. He was the heart of the Jazz. It's hard to see the voice go, too. Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2009


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