Chick Hearn

Chick Hearn

Hearn in 1963
Born Francis Dayle Hearn
(1916-11-27)November 27, 1916
Aurora, Illinois, U.S.
Died August 5, 2002(2002-08-05) (aged 85)
Northridge, California, U.S.
Cause of death Injuries suffered in a fall
Occupation Sportscaster
Years active 1957–2002
Spouse(s) Marge Jeffers
(m. 19372002; his death)
Children Gary

Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn (November 27, 1916 August 5, 2002) was an American sportscaster. Known primarily as the long-time play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, Hearn was 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, and for broadcasting 3,338 consecutive Lakers games starting on November 21, 1965.[1] Additionally, Hearn started the now common tradition of estimating the distance of shots taken Of note is that 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.

Life and career

Early life and nickname

Hearn was born and raised in Aurora, Illinois, in west suburban Chicago, and attended high school at Marmion Academy and college at Bradley University. He earned the nickname "Chick" while an Amateur Athletic Union basketball player at Bradley, when teammates played a prank on him: giving him a shoebox to see his surprised reaction when he opened it and found not sneakers inside, but instead a dead chicken.[1]

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.[1] Marge Hearn died January 30, 2016 at the age of 98.[2]

Broadcasting streak

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 midway through the 2001–02 season when he underwent cardiac bypass surgery. Hearn recovered from his illness but suffered a broken hip after falling while putting gas in his car which extended his time away from the Lakers broadcast booth. Chick recovered from both issues and resumed broadcasting that season, receiving a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd upon his return. His final game was Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals where the Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets to win their third consecutive NBA championship.

Non-Laker work

Hearn was the long-time host of Bowling for Dollars on KTLA (1972–1977); KHJ-TV (now KCAL-TV) (1978). He called the closed-circuit television broadcast of the first Ali-Frazier fight in 1971. He also did boxing commentary for Forum Boxing cards in Inglewood in the 1980s, usually appearing alongside former featherweight contender Ruben Castillo. Hearn also did the play-by-play for basketball during the 1992 Summer Olympics.[3] Hearn was the color commentator for NBC Sports' coverage of the Rose Bowl from 1958–1961, and contributed to the network's coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament from 1957–1964. At the time, Hearn handled the sports desk of the local news program on Los Angeles' NBC affiliate, KRCA (now KNBC). Hearn announced USC football and basketball games from 1956–61,[4] and also served as the play-by-play broadcaster for USC football games on tape-delayed, syndicated telecasts during the 1973 season. Hearn also called UNLV Runnin' Rebels basketball games on KHJ/KCAL with Ross Porter from 1986 to 1990.[5]

Television and movie work

Music work

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 the 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".[6] The song features Chick 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 Wrecking Cru").[7] The song was played on Los Angeles TV and radio stations, including the Lakers' televised games .[6]


During the summer of 2002, Hearn suffered a fall at his Encino, California home, and struck his head causing serious injury. Three days later, on August 5, 2002, Chick Hearn died of his injury. He was 85. He was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California next to his son Gary, who had died of a drug overdose on June 1, 1972,[8] and his daughter Samantha, who had died from complications of anorexia on May 24, 1990.[1][9] Chick and Marge would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on August 13, 2002.[1]


On May 9, 1991, Hearn became the third broadcaster to win the Gowdy Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. He later became the first broadcaster elected to the Hall in 2003.[10] In 1995, he was voted to be the 20th member of the American Sportscaster Hall of Fame by his fellow sportscasters. He was inducted by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1997.

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 Staples Center's main entrance. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority further honored the broadcaster by changing the name of the nearby Blue 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, Chick Hearn was honored with a bronze statue at Star Plaza outside Staples Center.[11] 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 Laker games on television and radio, which were a tradition during his forty-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.[12] Sometimes this style made it difficult for his partners to get a word in edgewise; his seven-year color commentator, Keith Erickson, fondly remininsced 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".[11] He was formal, always referring to the Lakers's former owner as "Mr. Cooke".


The particular phrases that Chick used during his broadcasts were labeled "Chickisms". Many are staples of basketball.[13] 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.[14]

Nicknames for Laker players

Memorable calls

And the crowd stands for Kareem to get the ball. Everybody's waving their'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 gentleman. 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.
Portland can put the champagne away and get out the bottled water, 'cause that's all they're gonna drink on their way home!
-calling the Lakers' comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn dies at 85. Associated Press, August 16, 2002
  2. Marge Hearn dies at 98; widow of former Lakers announcer Chick Hearn Los Angeles Times January 31, 2016
  3. Chick Hearn - Biography
  4. "USC Annenberg Establishes Chick Hearn Scholarship Fund".
  5. "Newswire". October 18, 1990.
  6. 1 2 Ostler, Scott (April 17, 1986). "Chick's Laker 'Rap' Will Surely Tweak Ears of Celtic Fans". Los Angeles Times.
  7. "Google Image Result for". External link in |title= (help)
  8. "Gary Hearn (1942 - 1972) - Find A Grave Memorial".
  9. "Samantha Hearn (1947 - 1990) - Find A Grave Memorial".
  10. "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – Hall of Famers".
  11. 1 2 "Los Angeles Lakers unveil Chick Hearn statue at Staples Center".
  12. "Laker Simulcasts Are History". latimes.
  13. Rubin, Saul (2007). "You Know You're in California 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. ISBN 0-7627-3745-X.
  14. Springer, Steve (2004). Chick: His Unpublished Memoirs and the Memories of Those Who Loved Him. Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-618-2.
  15. " Wilt Chamberlain Bio".
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