Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn (November 27, 1916 – August 5, 2002) was an American sportscaster who was the play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association for 41 years. Hearn is remembered for his rapid fire, staccato broadcasting style, associated with colorful phrases such as slam dunk, air ball, and no harm, no foul that have become common basketball vernacular. Hearn broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers games starting on November 21, 1965.
Most of Hearn's games in the television era were simulcast on both radio and television, even after most teams chose to use different announcers for the different media.
He and his wife Marge were married August 13, 1938. They had two children, a son, Gary, and a daughter, Samantha, both of whom predeceased Hearn. Marge Hearn died January 30, 2016, at the age of 98.
Hearn's broadcasting streak began on November 21, 1965. Hearn missed the Lakers' game the previous night after having been stranded in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by inclement weather after having announced a game between Arkansas and Texas Tech. Even that was only Hearn's second missed assignment for the Lakers since he had become the team's broadcaster in March 1961. He would not miss another until December 16, 2001. Over the course of the streak, Hearn was paired with several different color commentators, including ”Hot” Rod Hundley, Pat Riley, Keith Erickson, Dick Schad, Lynn Shackelford and Stu Lantz.
Hearn's streak of 3,338 consecutive Lakers games came to an end on December 16, 2001, in order to undergo scheduled cardiac bypass surgery. Hearn recovered from his surgery, but in February 2002, he suffered a broken hip after falling at a gas station, which further delayed his expected return to the Lakers broadcast booth. Hearn recovered from both issues and resumed broadcasting on April 9, 2002, receiving a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd upon his return. His final broadcast was for the Lakers' radio feed of Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals where the Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets to win their third consecutive NBA championship. His final Lakers-affiliated appearance was as the emcee of the team's 2002 championship parade in June.
Fletch: Plays himself interviewing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and while describing Fletch (Chevy Chase) in a dream points out "(Fletch) is actually 6'5" but with the afro 6'9", pretty good dribbler......this gritty kid from the streets of Harlem really creates excitement. $4 million a year, that's true, but he earns every nickel of it. Look how he shakes off four, five players with ease!"
Garfield and Friends: Voiced an announcer in the episode Basket Brawl (season 2 episode 14). The episode involved Jon, Nermal, and Odie trying to get picnic food past Garfield. Hearn voiced a mouse announcer named "Chick Mouse" while the game's audience was mice.
The Simpsons: Voiced himself in the episode "Homer Defined" while calling a Lakers game. In the game, Magic Johnson pulls a "Homer" when he slips on the basketball court yet the ball ends up going into the basket.
My Three Sons: Appeared as the announcer of a model airplane flight competition in the 1962 episode "Air Derby".
The Fugitive: Season one, episode 30 Appeared as TV Newscaster
Heaven Can Wait: Uncredited role as a radio announcer for the Rams-Steelers game.
Hearn can be heard on the Pink Floyd album The Wall (at the 4:07 mark of the song "Don't Leave Me Now" as "Pink" flips through television channels just before destroying his television set leading into the song "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 3"). This clip of Hearn appears to have been taken from an actual game between the Lakers and Bulls which was probably recorded during the 1978–79 season.
Before the playoffs in the 1986 season, Hearn released a 12-inch rap single "Rap-Around". The song features Hearn in the studio re-creating many of his most famous 'Chickisms' and was distributed by Macola Records (who distributed an early Dr. Dre/Ice Cube group "World Class Wreckin' Cru"). The song was played on Los Angeles TV and radio stations, including the Lakers' televised games .
During the summer of 2002, Hearn suffered a fall at his home in Encino, California, and struck his head causing serious injury. Three days later, on August 5, 2002, he died of his injury. He was 85. He was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, next to his son Gary and his daughter Samantha. Chick and Marge would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on August 13, 2002.
In honor of his contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers, both the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles renamed a portion of West 11th Street between Figueroa Street and Georgia Street (now L.A. Live Way) to Chick Hearn Court. This street currently runs alongside Crypto.com Arena's main entrance. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority further honored the broadcaster by changing the name of the nearby Blue and Expo Line station to Pico-Chick Hearn (this name change has since been reverted). His name was later hung from the rafters of the Staples Center, alongside the retired numbers of past Lakers players, though with a microphone in place of a number.
Hearn also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in radio. Hearn's star is located at 6755 Hollywood Blvd.
On April 27, 2010, Hearn was honored with a bronze statue at Star Plaza outside Staples Center. A chair next to Hearn's statue behind the desk with the Lakers' logo is a part of the statue so his fans can sit down to have their pictures taken.
On-air style and demeanor
Hearn was notable for his focus on calling play-by-play. He did not chitchat while the game was in motion. He was able to report clearly and rapidly, which he considered a gift. This style was especially well-suited for his notable simulcasts of Lakers games on television and radio, which were a tradition during his 40-plus year tenure. He was especially appreciated on radio because listening to the broadcast was almost like watching the game. Shortly after Hearn's departure, the simulcasts were ended, with some listeners complaining that his successor, Paul Sunderland, was difficult to follow for radio listeners. Sometimes this style made it difficult for his partners to get a word in edgewise; his seven-year color commentator, Keith Erickson, fondly reminisced at a ceremony commemorating Hearn: "Not being able to talk for eight years [as his partner], I thought this was a great opportunity to share a bit". He was formal, always referring to the Lakers' former owner as "Mr. Cooke" and the owner for much of his tenure, Jerry Buss by his full title – Dr. Jerry Buss or Dr. Buss.
The particular phrases that Hearn used during his broadcasts were labeled "Chickisms". Many are staples of basketball. When a book of his memoirs was published in 2004, it included an audio CD with the calls as well as a Chick Hearn Rap-Around rap song created with the samples.
...Since Hector was a pup A very long time (e.g., the Lakers haven't had the lead since Hector was a pup.)
He's in the Popcorn Machine (with butter and salt all over him): Meaning that a defender got faked into the air (and out of play) by an offensive player's pump fake. ("Popcorn Machine" is a reference to an actual popcorn machine in the old Los Angeles Sports Arena, which was near the basket, but far from the court. Thus, if the player went far out of play, he was in the "popcorn machine.") When Hearn guest starred as a mouse in the Garfield and Friends episode Basket Brawl, Odie literally runs into a popcorn machine.
Picks up the garbage and takes it to the dump: Picks up a loose ball and scores.
Pulling a Larson: A particularly inelegant play.
Rock the baby: An amazing slam dunk, in a regular season game in 1983, that Julius Erving scored over Michael Cooper.
Seventeen five-oh-five, standing at the Forum: When a play drew universal acclaim (17,505 was the seating capacity for the Inglewood Forum)
Slam dunk!: Hearn's most famous phrase; a powerful shot where a player forces the ball through the rim with one or both hands.
(He was) standing there, combing his hair: When a player uninvolved with the action comes up with the ball and gets an easy shot.
(He) takes him to the third floor and leaves him at the mezzanine: A move where an offensive player pump-fakes a defender and draws a foul from the leaping player.
Tattoo dribble: A player dribbling the ball while not moving, as though tattooing the floor with the ball, as he waits for the play to develop.
This game's in the refrigerator: the door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jell-O's jigglin'!: The game's outcome is set; only the final score is in question. Chick's variation on "the game's on ice." (Reportedly, he set a record for the earliest he's ever said this during the February 4, 1987 game against the Sacramento Kings, who were down 40–4 after the first quarter.)
Throws up a brick: When a player tosses up a particularly errant shot, particularly one that bounces off the front of the rim.
Throws up a prayer (...it's (or isn't) answered!!!): A wild shot that will need a miracle to score (and does or doesn't).
Ticky-tack: A foul called when very little contact has been made.
(On his) wallet: A player fell on his rear end. When Lynn Shackleford, color man 1970–77, who liked to sass his rather straitlaced senior partner, remarked once that a player had landed on his backside, Hearn admonished him in all seriousness, "That's his wallet."
Words-eye view: What listeners received while listening to Hearn call the game on the radio.
And the crowd stands for Kareem to get the ball. Everybody's waving their arms...it's in to Kareem. Kareem swing left...right-hand twelve-footer...GOOD!
— -calling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA record 31,420th point, pushing him past Wilt Chamberlain as the league's all-time leading scorer.
The new king of scoring has ascended his throne.
— -Shortly after Kareem's record-breaking basket.
37–2, ladies and gentlemen. If you're just tuning in, no, I haven't been using any of the squeezing of the grape.
— -referring to the Lakers' colossal lead on the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter of a game between the teams on February 4, 1987.
To the left goes Magic...he's got it. He didn't shoot it...five seconds left. Magic down the middle, just what I thought. A hook shot at twelve, GOOD! Two seconds left! The Lakers take the lead on Magic Johnson's running sky-hook! Hooie!
— -calling Magic Johnson's "junior sky-hook" in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals.
Kobe's down the middle, he's in deep. Throws to Shaq... SLA-A-AM DUNK! Portland can put the champagne away and get out the bottled water, 'cause that's all they're gonna drink on their way home!
Rubin, Saul (2007). "You Know You're in California When...you talk a good game". You Know You're in California When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the Golden State. Globe Pequot. p. 11. ISBN978-0-7627-3745-1.
^Springer, Steve (2004). Chick: His Unpublished Memoirs and the Memories of Those Who Loved Him. Triumph Books. ISBN1-57243-618-2.