Jim Durham, ESPN NBA voice, dies

Updated: November 6, 2012, 1:35 AM ET
ESPN.com

Jim Durham, ESPN's lead radio play-by-play voice on the NBA and a former broadcaster for the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks, died Sunday at his home in Tomball, Texas (outside Houston). He was 65. No cause of death was announced.

Durham had called NBA games on ESPN Radio since 1996. His final assignment alongside his longtime partner, Dr. Jack Ramsay, was Tuesday night's season opener between Boston and Miami.

Durham was the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Media Award winner in 2011.

In addition to his ESPN duties, Durham was the radio and television voice of the Bulls from 1973-91, including the first seven seasons of Michael Jordan's tenure with the team. His final season with the Bulls coincided with the team's first championship.

"The voice of champions," Jordan texted to ESPNChicago.com's Melissa Isaacson. "I will miss him."

Durham also called Chicago White Sox games on TV in 1989-90 and was the TV voice of the Houston Astros from 1983-85. He was the TV voice of the Mavericks from 1993-2001. In his career, he worked for NBC, CBS and Turner Sports in addition to ESPN.

Durham was the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year in 1979, 1989 and 1990 and won two Chicago Emmy awards.

"Jim was a respected play-by-play specialist who combined a tremendous gift for storytelling with a Hall of Fame voice," said Mo Davenport, ESPN Radio's senior vice president and general manager. "He's been a dedicated friend and a trusted teammate to so many at ESPN for two decades, and he will be greatly missed."

"Jim was an extraordinary professional," said John Martin, ESPN executive producer, radio remotes, who frequently worked on-site with Durham. "His talent for calling NBA on radio in vivid, descriptive terms was unmatched. When JD was so deservedly recognized with the Gowdy Award, he had the Hall of Fame career to go along with his long-established position as a Hall of Fame person. He was a sensational individual."

Durham is survived by his wife, Helen, their three children, Patrick, Richard and Tracy, and several grandchildren.

"I was so sorry to learn this morning of Jim Durham's untimely passing," Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Jim was the voice of the Bulls for 18 years and he was the best at calling a basketball game I ever heard. I loved the energy he brought to our broadcasts, the way he painted a word picture of what was happening on the court which made you feel like you were there, and his sense of humor. Most importantly, Jim was my friend and I will miss the conversations we had about the NBA, life in general, and his favorite baseball team ... the Chicago White Sox. On behalf of the entire Chicago Bulls organization, my deepest condolences to Helen and his entire family. He will be greatly missed."

Bulls executive vice president John Paxson also remembered Durham as more than an announcer.

"Jim was a true professional and class act and I'm sad over the news of his passing," Paxson said. "Over the years when he would broadcast one of our games for ESPN he never failed to spend a little time catching up on life with me.

"He did the games as a simulcast with Red (Kerr) when I first came to the Bulls in '85 and through the first championship season here. They were a terrific team but both were better people and great to be around. JD was an outstanding announcer with a steady voice and he knew how to call a game with the right balance of emotion and information. He was just a terrific person."

The Mavericks and Trail Blazers observed a moment of silence before their game at the American Airlines Center on Monday night.

"He's the true definition of a Hall of Famer," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "There is nobody who was better at radio. We were lucky when I first got the team that he was the broadcaster. . He was a class act all the way. You can't say anything but great things about Jim."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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