There are very few in the world of sports that can say they were great in the field of play as well as one who can commentate it. The Utah Jazz had that kind of individual who was one of the all-time greats in college basketball, had a brief and solid career in the NBA and was one of the best ever calling games for the team when they were in New Orleans and in Utah for over three decades. This past Friday, that amazing voice was silenced.
Rodney Clark “Hot Rod” Hundley, the former West Virginia great, former NBA player and Hall of Fame play-by-play analyst for the Jazz in both New Orleans and Utah passed away on Friday. He was 80 years old.
According to the Jazz organization, Hundley passed away at his home in the area of Phoenix, AZ. Hundley had not been in public much because he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease over the past few years. Hundley was remembered on Friday night in Denver as the Nuggets held a moment of silence before their tilt versus the Jazz at the Pepsi Center, which the Nuggets won 107-91. The Jazz before their contest on Saturday versus the Oklahoma City Thunder at EnergySolutions Arena had a moment of silence for Hundley. The Jazz beat the Thunder 94-89 to snap a four-game losing streak. The players wore black strips on the left shoulder of their jerseys in memory of Hundley.
Hundley was the play-by-play analyst for the Jazz for 3,051 games from 1974-2009. He joined the franchise before their first season in New Orleans in the 1974-75 NBA campaign and joined the team when they moved to Salt Lake City in 1979-80.
Five years ago, the organization honored Hundley by hanging a banner in the rafters next to the retired numbers of former head coach Frank Layden (1); Legendary Owner Larry H. Miller (9); Hall of Famers Pete “Pistol” Maravich (7) John Stockton (12), Karl Malone (32) and Adrian Dantley (4); Jeff Hornacek (14); Mark Eaton (53); Darrell Griffith (35) and Hall of Fame head coach Jerry Sloan (1,223). The Jazz dedicated the press room in Hundley’s honor, naming it the Hot Rod Hundley Media Center.
Inside the media center was a mural that featured in bold letters his signature line, “You Gotta Love it, Baby!”
“Hot Rod was the voice of the Utah Jazz for 35 years and his voice was synonymous with Jazz radio,” team owner Gail Miller said in a statement on Friday.
“The expressions he used throughout the game broadcasts are legendary. He had a unique ability to make the game come to life so that you felt as though you could see what was happening on the floor when listing to him call games. Road was a very special talent and will be missed by our family as well as Jazz fans everywhere. Our thoughts and condolences are with the Hundley family.”
Hundley was born in Charleston, WV on Oct. 26, 1934. At a young age, Hundley was a wizard with the basketball. He averaged 30 points per game at Charleston High School, breaking the four-year record for the state and doing it in just three years.
He truly announced himself to many when he scored 45 points in the WV-Kentucky high school All-Star game.
The talented Hundley was named a high school All-American and his choices of where to attend college were limitless.
He stayed close to home playing for the West Virginia University Mountaineers from 1954-57.
In his freshmen season, Hundley scored a record 62 points against Ohio University and as a sophomore, where he averaged 23.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 30 games, he scored a varsity school record 54 points against Furman.
In his junior season, Hundley averaged career-best of 26.6 points and 13.1 boards per contest. He had 34, 20, 27, 40, 20 and 21 points in his first six games of that season.
Hundley finished his West Virginia career as the fourth player in NCAA history at that time to score 2,000 points in his career, accomplishing that in three seasons because freshmen back then could not play on the varsity squad.
The two-time first team All-American and currently holder of eight school records averaged 24.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per contest.
In 2000, Hundley earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in arts and sciences, 43 years after leaving for the NBA.
In 1982, he received the NCAA Silver Anniversary All-America Team for distinguished service for all that he had accomplished in his life up to that point and ten years later was inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
In Jan. 2010, WVU retired Hundley’s No. 33 making him and Hall of Famer and the NBA’s logo Jerry West the only players in the history of the University to have their jerseys retired.
Hundley, who also made a name for himself on the court with his antics of dribbling the ball behind his back, spinning the ball on his finger and bringing the ball around his back is the only Mountaineer to be drafted No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft, when he was selected at that position by the Cincinnati Royals back in 1957, though his rights were traded to the Minneapolis Lakers.
Hundley played for the Lakers both in Minneapolis and Los Angeles from 1957-1963, averaging 8.4 points per game. He made back-to-back All-Star appearances in 1960, where he had the best season of his career averaging 12.8 points, 5.3 boards and 4.6 assists per contest and 1961.
In 1960, he was teamed with West, who the Lakers drafted that season.
Due to knee issues, the two did not play together very long as Hundley retired at the age of 28 in 1963. He finished his six-year run in the league scoring a total of 3,625 points.
“Rod was not only a great basketball player, but one of the best play-by-play announcers in the game. He will be missed by all those he touched through his legendary career as will his colorful story-telling,” West said in a statement on Friday.
Upon his retirement, Hundley moved to the media side of the game, working four seasons with the Phoenix Suns and then with the Lakers for another four seasons.
In the early 1970s, he teamed with legendary play-by-play commentator Dick Enberg as they called syndicated college basketball games for TVS Television Network.
For five years, Hundley was an NBA announcer for CBS, where he called four All-Star Games and worked two All-Star Games for ABC radio.
He started his legendary run for the Jazz as mentioned in 1974 where he became the first radio and television voice for the team when they were an expansion team in New Orleans.
It was then he established his rapid-fire style of commentating and had such sayings like “from the parking lot,” pertaining when a player put up a shot from long distance.
His great broadcast work was honored in 1994 when the NBA awarded the legendary play-by-play man of the Jazz with their Distinguished Broadcaster of the Year award.
In 2003, Hundley received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, making him the only former pro basketball player to receive that honor.
In 200, Hundley was voted into the Utah Broadcast Hall of Fame.
Hundley became the full-time radio voice for the Jazz in the 2005-06 season when the NBA forced the Jazz to end their practice of simulcasting games on both radio and television. The play-by-play duties were taken over by current play-by-play voice of team Craig Bolerjack.
Unknowing, Hundley would be a trend setter as nearly all NBA teams moved radio broadcasters from courtside to perches high above the arena.
Unfortunately, the many walks up those perches to broadcast games put a serious strain on the hips and knees of Hundley and he announced his retirement on Apr. 24, 2009, effective at season’s end.
His last radio broadcast came on Apr. 27, 2009 when the Jazz fell to the Lakers in Game 5 of the opening round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs 107-96, losing the series 4-1.
Along with his great work on the microphone Hundley hosted his own Celebrity Golf Tournament to benefit the Salt Lake Shriners Hospital.
There are a number of teams in the league that have legendary voices that have captured the greatness of the many players for that respective team. Marv Albert of the New York Knicks, now with NBA on TNT. Current play-by-play commentator for the Detroit Pistons George Blaha. Eric Reid of the Miami Heat. The late Chick Hearn of the Lakers. Bill Worrell of the Houston Rockets and Bob Rathman of the Atlanta Hawks to name a few. Hundley is no different.
He was the voice when Maravich was dazzling fans in New Orleans. He was the voice that was heard when Stockton became the all-time leader in assists and steals. He was the voice when Malone became the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. He was the voice heard when Malone scored a career-high 61 points to go along with 18 boards and three steals on 21 for 26 from the field and 19 for 23 from the free throw line as the Jazz won 144-96 versus the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 27, 1990. He was the voice heard when Stockton had 20 points and 28 assists and eight steals as the Jazz won 124-102 versus the San Antonio Spurs. Malone in that game had 32 points and 18 boards. He was the radio voice when the Jazz clinched their first trip to the NBA Finals on a game-winning three-pointer by Stockton in Game 6 at the Houston Rockets 103-100.
Along with being the voice of the Jazz, he was an inspiration to all young broadcasters like the current NBA on ESPN/ABC and play-by-play commentator for the New York Knicks Mike Breen.
“He was a friend to all the young broadcasters who came up,” Breen said during the ABC telecast of the Houston Rockets versus the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon. “Just a great basketball life.”
Former Golden State Warriors head coach and current color commentator for NBA on ESPN/ABC Mark Jackson, who played for the Jazz in 2002-03 also on Sunday’s broadcast said Hundley “was a class man.”
He was a legend on the college hardwood. A brief career in the pros and then a legendary career as a play-by-play man with the Suns and the Jazz. He set a standard that has been respected by the Jazz organization, its players, the fans and fellow commentators. More than anything, he could tell a story that you want to hear from beginning to end.
“Basketball lifer. Every time you go to Utah, you would see him, he would always give you a great story. May he rest in peace,” NBATV analyst Dennis Scott said Saturday during “Gametime.”
“The NBA lost another legend in “Hot Rod” Hundley. Had the pleasure of hanging out with him for a while in L.A. Just a great guy. Sad loss for the NBA,” former Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw also said this past Saturday during “Gametime.”
Information, statistics and quotes are courtesy of 3/27/15 www.espn.go.com article “Jazz mourn loss of Hot Rod Hundley;” 3/28/15 2 a.m. edition of NBATV’s “Gametime” with Rick Kamla, Dennis Scott and Brian Shaw; 3/29/15 12:30 p.m. NBA on ABC telecast Houston Rockets versus Washington Wizards with Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Hundley; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Jazz#Retired_numbers; www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/20090427LAL.html; www.basketball-reference.com/layers/m/malonka01.html; www.basketball-reference.com/players/s/stockjo01.html/ Sporting News Official 2006-07 NBA Guide.