Behind The ScenesNBA

Mike Tirico has a (subway) ticket to ride, calling Sunday NBA games on ABC, ESPN, in NYC & Brooklyn

ESPN's Mike Tirico (Rich Arden / ESPN Images)
ESPN’s Mike Tirico (Rich Arden / ESPN Images)

For veteran ESPN play-by-play commentator Mike Tirico, there’s not much he hasn’t done in his career since joining the network in 1991.

However, this Sunday, Mike will experience two firsts:

He’ll call two NBA games in the same day, beginning with an exclusive ABC presentation of the host New York Knicks versus the Los Angeles Clippers at 1 p.m. ET. Then, Tirico will head to Brooklyn, N.Y. to call his first game at the new Barclays Center when the Nets play the San Antonio Spurs — owners of the NBA’s best record this season — at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

The kicker? Tirico will hop on the subway to travel from Madison Square Garden to Barclays. (At least that’s the plan, pending the winter storm hitting the Northeast this weekend).

Front Row had the opportunity to catch up with Tirico to discuss his weekend of firsts and his subway ride — an excellent adventure indeed.

Are you surprised this is the first time you’ve called two NBA games in one day?
I’ve done stunts like three different sports in four days, between golf, college football and NFL, but not the NBA. I’m looking forward to it. I know [ESPN NBA play-by-play voice] Mike Breen and [ESPN analyst] Jeff Van Gundy have done the two games in one day a couple of times on Christmas Day — they’ve shown me up a little. Seriously, how neat is it that we can have these two big NBA games in the same day on our air? We have such a great crew, too. They really deserve all of the credit. We have some of the hardest working people in television and it’s a pleasure to be a part of the team.

How do you prepare to call two games in the same day?
Usually my preparation for any game is done the night before, so this isn’t that much of an issue for me. The night before, we’re able to brush up on several things pertinent to the game, especially when the teams aren’t playing the previous night. Also, in most cases I’ve seen these teams before, so I’m familiar and up to speed on injuries and top storylines. What I enjoy most about the NBA is the best stuff for the telecast can be gathered an hour before the game by meeting with coaches and players to confirm your thoughts or ideas.

What are your thoughts on taking the subway from Madison Square Garden to Barclays? Do you ever worry about being recognized when you’re out and about?
In New York, it’s not a problem. There are people a thousand times more recognizable than me. So, ducking into a subway won’t be a problem at all. It’s always fun when our viewers — who are really our customers — see you and interact with you. There are so many nice people that want to share their love of sports and without them we wouldn’t have this job, which is a labor of love.

The forecast calls for blizzard conditions this weekend in the Northeast. Is there a backup plan in the event you’re to Barclays?
[Analyst] Jon Barry is my partner for the Nets-Spurs telecast and JB can probably handle the entire game by himself. I’m not too worried and we haven’t really discussed a backup plan. There is a ton of time to get over to Brooklyn. The subway will make it quicker anyways.

How do you adjust to working with so many different analysts, especially analysts who are so different — like Hubie Brown and Jon Barry, your partners on Sunday?
You know, it’s interesting because I’ve never thought about that. The nature of working with them so often makes it easy. Hubie is the ultimate X’s and O’s analyst, while JB has stayed so current with the players in the league. I worked with JB when he first started and we’ve been working back and forth for a while. It’ll be a piece of cake.

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