Lakers Moments: Chick Hearn gives the play-by-play

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A familiar friend: Chick Hearn, the voice of the Lakers, called the shots from this vantage point at the Forum in Inglewood on June 3, 1982.

Hearn is one of the most iconic Lakers figures, even though he never was a player.

He was the team’s only play-by-play broadcaster in Los Angeles until his death at age 85 in 2002. He called 3,338 consecutive games, a streak that started in 1965 and ended in December 2001 after he had heart surgery. His distinctive high-speed delivery and inventive vocabulary made him one of the greatest play-by-play announcers in history.

Among Hearn’s phrases (his “Chickisms”) were ‘air ball,’ ‘slam dunk’ and ‘yo-yoing up and down.’ And when the Lakers had secured victory, Hearn would say, ‘This game is in the refrigerator. The door is closed. The light is out. The eggs are cooling. The butter is getting hard. And the Jell-O is jiggling.’


Hearn had a chance to say that often, as the Lakers won nine NBA titles with him at the mike. His last game was their victory over New Jersey that clinched a third consecutive championship in June 2002. He was enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

When Hearn died a few days after a fall at his Encino home, Magic Johnson summed up the feeling of many players: “I’ll never forget all those times when I needed a hug, when I needed a high five, he told me, ‘It’s going to be all right.’ He always uplifted me and uplifted other people, and I’ll tell you something, basketball and the Lakers, without him calling the games, it would have never been the same.”

Read more about Chick Hearn and his legacy in All Things Lakers, the Los Angeles Times’ interactive database of all things purple and gold.

-- Sarah Ardalani and Hans Tesselaar