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ESPN NBA play-by-play man Mike Breen says he's the 'luckiest guy in the business'

By Jimmy Traina
May 29, 2019

The NBA Finals between the Raptors and Warriors get under way Thursday on ABC. It will be Mike Breen's 14th straight year doing play-by-play for the Finals. It will be his ninth year overall and sixth in a row calling the action with analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson,

Breen, who is also the television voice of the New York Knicks, recently joined the "Sports Illustrated Media Podcast" hosted by Jimmy Traina to talk about his run as the league's top voice, what it's been like working with analysts from Van Gundy to Hubie Brown to Bill Walton to Walt "Clyde" Frazier and much more. Breen also opened up about how blessed he feels to be doing what he does for a living and how his passion for the NBA is as strong as ever after calling games for 28 seasons.

Listen to Mike Breen on the SI Media podcast here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunesSpotify or Google Play.​​​​ The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jimmy Traina: You grew up as a Knicks fan and then you ended up becoming the Knicks play-by-play guy and now you're calling your 14th NBA Finals. Is it all still just as satisfying today? You've been doing this for 28 seasons. Even though the Knicks are bad, does this still live up to hype as your dream job? Is it ever too much for you? Because I would think during the season, doing the Knicks and then the ESPN work, maybe it's a lot with travel, you have kids, etc. Or is it still the greatest thing in the world?

Mike Breen: When you're walking into the building or when you sit down and get ready for the opening tip, it's the same thrill every night. I'm not gonna kid you. Obviously, calling a Finals game is a little more thrilling than a Knicks-Suns game in March when both teams have been out of the playoff hunt for two months. But I fell in love with the game when I was  little because you just never knew what was going to happen -- whether it was a team with this unbelievable team performance that they put together, whether it was an individual who played the best game of his life. It's a wonderful team game to watch and when it's played beautifully, to me, there's no better sport. So I get that thrill, but especially as a kid growing up loving the Knicks to be able to sit courtside at midcourt at Madison Square Garden, it truly is amazing.

What I try and do every once in a while is I go up in the stands, go about 20-25 rows up and sit in the seats when the fans are first allowed in. And you get to see different reactions. You get to see the curmudgeon Knicks season-ticket holder for the past 30 years. You get to see a kid come in with his dad for the first time in his life. You get to see a family where this is what they do every single Tuesday night. And to see how much they can't wait to get in their seats and watch their favorite team, it's a great reminder to me that I have the greatest job in the world and I really do feel that. I know it sounds corny and cliché. But I think I'm the luckiest guy in the business because I'm calling the team that I grew up loving and the sport that I love more than any other.

JT: And even though it's the greatest job in the world, does the travel ever get to you or the schedule during the season when you're doing Knicks and ESPN, or you have it down pat where it's not a problem for you at all?

MB: The travel every year gets a little harder as you get older. We all have our horror stories of delays of sitting on airplanes that go nowhere of cancellations of missing connections and lost luggage. That's all part of it. It is easier from the team standpoint with the Knicks because you get to fly on the team charter, so you get to be a spoiled brat pretty quickly doing that. But that's really the only part. Like any job, you have you're things that are a pain in the neck, whether it's travel, whether it's lack of sleep., etc, etc., but that's all such minor stuff compared to the the privilege of being able to call these games. Jimmy, in my wildest dreams I never ever thought that I'd be calling the NBA Finals this amount of years in a row. I've been blessed far more than I certainly deserve. And it's something I really try never to forget.

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