This will be Marv Albert’s 25th NBA All-Star Game, and if it’s up to him, it will not be his last.
The 78-year-old is in the second to last year of his contract, but has no plans on his end to step away as the lead voice of TNT.
“It’s still fun,” Albert said. “I love the preparation, I still do. It’s been a sad year with the loss of David Stern and Kobe Bryant.
“I still thoroughly enjoy what I am doing in every phase: the preparation, the games, the wonderful people I work with. It’s a great life.”
Albert has been TNT’s lead play-by-play man since 1999 and has called every All-Star Game since 2002, retaking the reins after a two-year stint from Bob Costas.
He has been around the sport long enough where he recalls offhand Adrian “Odie” Smith winning the All-Star Game MVP in 1966 because that honor came with a new car. The Cincinnati Royals point guard simply refused to pass the ball in a game that included 14 future Hall of Famers.
“If you go back and look at the older games, I know you won’t, but if you did you could just see how much slower the game was,” Albert said. “It’s become too much schoolyard in recent years because of the skill level and the athleticism has taken such a giant leap.
“The skill level is just so different, too many passes off the backboard. In recent years it’s got out of hand, too many players trying to put on a show.”
The NBA has attempted to fix that. They ditched the standard Eastern versus Western Conference format in 2018 for a draft, with the highest vote getters from each conference as captains. On Sunday, the latest game structure will be unveiled.
Each quarter will start with a 0-0 score and count as a separate matchup. The fourth quarter will be untimed and a target final number — 24 points higher than the leading team’s cumulative score — to determine the winner. The 24 is a tribute to Kobe Bryant, as are the jerseys — Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team will all wear No. 24, while LeBron James’ team will all wear No. 2 to honor Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who died with the Lakers legend and seven other people in a helicopter crash last month.
“They want to improve and innovate, so they came up with a new format. I think it’s going to make the game better,” Albert said. “It’s an intriguing experiment. I thought it was getting a little too much showmanship and not real basketball.”
Speaking of not real basketball, Albert had some rare kind words for the Knicks after his contentious split from the franchise in 2004 after 35 years as their play-by-play man. Albert thought the impending hire of Leon Rose as team president was a wise choice, as long as the longtime agent brings in a coach that will energize a starved fan base.
“It’s moving in the right direction. I think Mike Miller is doing a really good job in a really difficult situation. But I think they would have to go with a more experienced and successful NBA head coach to get the fans more excited,” Albert said. “They are desperate for any signs of progress, so be it a Jeff Van Gundy or a Tom Thibodeau or Mark Jackson, names that have been mentioned.
“Because the Knicks have been so bad, it’s a great job for an elite coach because any success will be celebrated. They could eventually take the next step but they have to find the right person. It’s been such a long drought and it’s not that easy to change the makeup of a franchise, so you have to start with an elite coach.”
Albert said he is taking his own future in stride.
“I feel really good right now,” Albert said when asked if he had a retirement timeline. “I have a contract that extends [into next year]. I would have to say I take it year by year.”