Jim Durham, ESPN’s lead NBA radio voice, died Sunday at his home in Tomball, Texas. The cause of death was not announced. He was 65.
Durham started calling games on ESPN Radio in 1996 and was a former broadcaster for the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks. Tuesday night’s season opener between Boston and Miami was his final assignment alongside his longtime partner, Dr. Jack Ramsay.
The death of Durham was felt around the league, especially by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
”Jim was the voice of the Bulls for 18 years and he was the best at calling a basketball game I ever heard,” Reinsdorf said in a release. ”I loved the energy he brought to our broadcasts, the way he painted a word picture of what was happening on the court which made you feel like you were there, and his sense of humor.”
Durham was the radio and television voice for the Bulls from 1973-91, including Michael Jordan’s first seven seasons with the team. His last season was when the Bulls won their first NBA championship under Jordan’s leadership on the floor.
Jordan called Durham “the voice of champions” in a text message to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com. “I will miss him,” he added.
Durham had an extensive career, including calling Chicago White Sox games on television from 1989-90 and being the voice of the Houston Astros from 1983-85. He was also the voice of the Mavericks from 1993-2001.
Durham’s decorated career was highlighted by winning the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2011. He won two Chicago Emmy awards and Illinois Sportscaster of the Year in 1979, 1989 and 1990.
Durham was well respected by executives in the offices of ESPN.
“Jim was a respected play-by-play specialist who combined a tremendous gift for storytelling with a Hall of Fame voice,” said Mo Davenport, ESPN Radio’s senior vice president and general manager. “He’s been a dedicated friend and a trusted teammate to so many at ESPN for two decades, and he will be greatly missed.”
The Mavericks and Trail Blazers observed a moment of silence before their game Monday night at American Airlines Center for Durham.
“He’s the true definition of a Hall of Famer,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “There is nobody who was better at radio. We were lucky when I first got the team that he was the broadcaster. . He was a class act all the way. You can’t say anything but great things about Jim.”
Durham is survived by his wife, Helen, their three children, Patrick, Richard and Tracy, and several grandchildren.