NBC directors called right shots in coverage of NBA final series


The final Nielsen national numbers arriving today probably will verify that NBC carried the second-most watched NBA championship series in history.

The first five games of the Chicago-Seattle series did a cumulative 16.3 rating and 30 share, the second-highest five-game average, trailing the 1993 series between Chicago and Phoenix.

The overnight rating for Sunday's Game 6, taken from 33 major markets, was a whopping 20.9 with a 36 share, which, if it holds when all markets are tabulated, certainly would make it the most-watched program of the week for a second straight week.

Clearly, viewers in droves tuned in, but was what they saw worthwhile television? Largely, the answer was yes, as NBC turned in a pleasing, if not filling, job during its telecasts.

The striking part of the six-game series, from a television perspective, was the pictures. NBC's production team, led by producer Mark Wolff and director Andy Rosenberg, had virtually every important shot, from player and coach reactions to multiple replays of calls that could have gone either way.

Of course, the network got the most meaningful shot of the series, capturing Michael Jordan grasping the game ball as if it were an infant and crying uncontrollably on the carpet of the Bulls' locker room just after the championship celebration began. It was a moment that won't soon be forgotten and Wolff and Rosenberg showed exceptional judgment to have a cameraman follow Jordan.

Behind the microphones, things were a little less smashing, but still high-quality. Marv Albert was as polished as ever as the play-by-play voice, and, without the hype or the telestrator, analyst Matt Guokas quietly has made himself superior to his predecessor, Mike Fratello.

However, the usually refreshing Bill Walton wasn't in this series. Some of his criticisms seemed a bit labored, and his credibility took a hit during Game 4, when he disagreed with Albert and Guokas that Jordan's status earned him more respect with referees than other players. In that game, Jordan showed up an official in a display that might have earned other players a technical. Walton seemed to apologize for Jordan, and he should know better.

The less said about sideline reporter Ahmad Rashad the better, and we can thank NBC for de-emphasizing his role and giving more assignments to the brilliant Jim Gray, who, unlike Rashad, knows how to pursue and report a story and doesn't let his celebrity attachments pass for credibility.

One last thing: While no one expects "60 Minutes"-type coverage, viewers should expect to hear important league-wide issues addressed.

As an example, there was not one word during the series about the possibility of an NBA-sponsored lockout this off-season. The league and its players continue to bicker, albeit privately, over a collective bargaining agreement, and we've heard nothing from NBC. Of course, the network now can say that the season's over, but there was plenty of time for a story of some sort.

How about that Mel?

The passing of baseball broadcasting legend Mel Allen on Sunday drives home the point that the ranks of announcers who delivered the Grand Old Game into our homes and cars as members of the family, not just empty suits and shirts with great voices, is thinning.

Allen, who died at the age of 83 of an undisclosed illness, was, of course, best known for his 25 years as the voice of New York Yankees, serving as a living bridge between the fans and players like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle.

After he was inexplicably sacked by the team after the 1964 season, Allen did a season with the Atlanta Braves, and some work with NBC's "Game of the Week," before seeing his career get a rebirth in the mid-1970s. Then he became host of "This Week in Baseball," a syndicated highlights show that again brought the game home.

The baseball world is a much poorer place today for Mel Allen's absence.

Double bogey

Some members of the PGA Tour have taken exception to NBC analyst Johnny Miller's rather blunt criticisms of their game, and Greg Norman has been one of them.

By contrast, Miller, during a teleconference last week, fired a shot at CBS and its treatment of Norman, implicitly suggesting that the network glosses over the Aussie's failures.

"We don't try to build them up any more than what they are," said Miller. "If they've had six 80s in a row, we're not going to say they're playing well. I do feel like I've been fair to Greg Norman. I've pointed out that he's the best player in the world. He's had a lot of tough things happen to him, too. I feel, and I shouldn't say this, like he has been treated very, very specially by CBS."

In response, CBS senior vice president for production Rick Gentile fired back, saying, "It will be a sad day when we have to respond to Johnny Miller over our treatment of the game of golf. We do focus on stars. That's part of what we do in this business. NBC does it magnificently with the NBA and they will do it with the Olympics. If it's not about stars, then let Johnny Miller come cover my game."

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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