By Dan Bernstein–
The last thing Derrick Rose wants to do is talk about his game. Ask him about any of his violent dunks or contortionist rushes to the rim, and he looks like you just told him he’s headed to a three-hour dentist appointment.
That’s ok, though, since we have Stacey King.
In his third year as the Bulls’ full-time TV analyst since replacing the late Johnny “Red” Kerr, King has refined his craft and found his voice just as Rose has risen to the ranks of the NBA’s elite. He’s the perfect complement, in fact, that has made the experience of watching Rose and the Bulls increasingly entertaining.
Some great pro athletes are naturally flamboyant – their games and personalities are expressive and colorful in and of themselves, and good broadcasters learn to take a less-is-more approach in describing them. Some players suck all the air out of postgame press conferences by describing every emotion they felt at every moment of their obvious wonderfulness.
Rose is not that guy. His style of play is straightforward and straight forward. His is lean, spare basketball, unadorned by affectation. Even his spectacular moves have a purpose, as he does what he has to when he needs to. He is a minimalist amid the baroque.
It creates an ideal framework for King’s celebratory courtside explosions, during which his feelings as a fan are real as can be, and phrases become repeated trademarks only after the fact – nobody could script that stuff. He’s entirely worthy of the new soundboard on the team’s website, which I defy you to click around on without smiling.
The nuts and bolts of the job have to be there, too, and they are. His telestrated breakdowns have polished nicely, he is quick to point out Bulls’ lapses and deficiencies, and he does not get hung up on officiating.
(I do have two quibbles, both minor: his occasional use of “hisself” instead of “himself” has to stop completely, and the term “point guard” has the stress on the former word, not the latter)
And now, with Rose seemingly poised for superstardom and the Bulls a relevant contender, King must be careful to avoid the pitfalls that others have not.
Catch phrases all too quickly can become crutches, and cute can get cloying. He has to make sure his emotional level matches the moment, and he’s not overreaching to be the show. We all cringe, for example, when we hear Dick Vitale howling “Awesome with a capital A!!” after a mundane alley-oop dunk by somebody you’ve never heard of in a Maui Classic game between New Mexico and NC State. Where do you go from there when something really merits it?
If he resists the pull toward caricature, King should settle into his position for the long term. He’s not national-networky, and that’s a good thing. Neither was Kerr, nor the Knicks’ Walt Frazier, the Celtics’ Tom Heinsohn, the Lakers’ Stu Lantz or others who have become civic fixtures.
A generation of Bulls fans is finally emerging from the fading glory years. This spring, we’ll be thirteen years removed from the last championship. There are Bar Mitzvah boys this year that weren’t alive when Michael Jordan was a Bull.
Derrick Rose is a star for a new time, and the guy through whom we can really enjoy him may be one, too.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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