When you are talking about a legend, the greatest NBA play-by-player of all time in Marv Albert, you should treat the end of his career with respect.
After half a century of broadcasting, there remains something special about hearing Albert’s iconic voice on a big playoff series, as it will feel when the Eastern Conference Finals begins Wednesday night.
Still, if you are Jeff Zucker — and you have added oversight of Turner Sports to go along with your CNN duties — you have to lead. That means making the right calls, not the easy ones.
After the conference finals ends, Albert, 77, has two more seasons on his contract. Zucker should tell Albert he can remain the No. 1 guy, do the All-Star Game and the conference finals in a farewell season in 2019-20.
TNT and the NBA should celebrate Albert’s career in any fashion Albert prefers. The Dirk Nowitzki low-key model or a more Derek Jeter-like celebratory tour.
For the final year of his deal in 2020-21, Albert could still come back for a small package of games. But in the same way Jeter’s preseason retirement announcement in 2014 eased any focus on his performance, the same could be accomplished with Albert.
The reason Zucker should be respectfully proactive is because those who watch the NBA religiously know that Albert is not at the same level as his prime. It is smart to jump out in front of the decision to avoid a grinding, uncomfortable finality with too many unforced turnovers.