Chick Hearn

Francis Dayle "Chick" Hearn (November 27, 1916 – August 5, 2002) was an American sportscaster. Known primarily as the long-time play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, the legendary Hearn is remembered for his rapid fire, staccato broadcasting style, inventing colorful phrases such as slam dunk, air ball, and no harm, no foul that have become common basketball vernacular, and for broadcasting 3,338 consecutive Lakers games starting on November 21, 1965.[1] Additionally, Hearn started the now common tradition of estimating the distance of shots taken.

Of note is that most of Hearn's games in the television era were simulcast on both radio and television, even after most teams chose to use different announcers for the different media.



Early life and nickname

Hearn grew up in Aurora, Illinois in west suburban Chicago and attended high school at Marmion Academy and college at Bradley University. He earned the nickname "Chick" while an Amateur Athletic Union basketball player at Bradley, when teammates played a prank on him: giving him a shoebox to see his surprised reaction when he opened it and found not sneakers inside, but instead a dead chicken.[1]

He and his wife Marge were married August 13, 1938. They had two children, a son Gary and a daughter, Samantha, both of whom predeceased Hearn.[1]

Broadcasting streak

Hearn's broadcasting streak began on November 21, 1965. Hearn had missed the Lakers' game the previous night after having been stranded in Fayetteville, Arkansas by inclement weather after having announced a game between Arkansas and Texas Tech. Even that was only Hearn's second missed assignment for the Lakers since he had become the team's broadcaster in March 1961. He would not miss another until December 16, 2001. Over the course of the streak, Hearn was paired with several different color men, including Pat Riley, Keith Erickson, and Stu Lantz.

Hearn's streak of 3,338 consecutive Lakers games came to an end midway through the 2001-02 season when he underwent cardiac bypass surgery. Hearn recovered from his illness but suffered a broken hip after falling while putting gas in his car which extended his time away from the Lakers broadcast booth. Chick recovered from both issues and resumed broadcasting that season, receiving a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd upon his return. His final game was Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals where the Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets to win their third consecutive NBA championship.

Non-Laker work

Hearn was the long-time host of Bowling for Dollars on KTLA (1972-1977); KHJ-TV (now KCAL-TV (1978)). He called the closed-circuit television broadcast of the first Ali-Frazier fight in 1971. Hearn also did the play-by-play for basketball during the 1992 Summer Olympics.[2] Hearn was the color commentator for NBC Sports' coverage of the Rose Bowl from 1958–1961, and contributed to the network's coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament from 1957-1964. Hearn announced USC football and basketball games from 1956-61.,[3] and also served as the play-by-play broadcaster for USC football games on tape-delayed, syndicated telecasts during the 1973 season. Hearn also called UNLV Runnin' Rebels basketball games on KHJ/KCAL with Ross Porter from 1986 to 1990.[4] Hearn also served as an announcer in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, The Love Bug, The Simpsons, Rugrats and Garfield and Friends. Hearn was the radio announcer, whose voice could be heard blaring from the castaway's radio on Gilligan's Island.

Hearn can be heard on the Pink Floyd album The Wall (at the 4:07 mark of the song "Don't Leave Me Now" as "Pink" flips through television channels just before destroying his television set leading into the song "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 3"). This clip of Hearn appears to have been taken from an actual game between the Lakers and the Chicago Bulls which was probably recorded during the 1978-79 season.


During the summer of 2002, Hearn suffered a fall at his Encino, California home, and struck his head causing serious injury. Three days later, on August 5, 2002, Chick Hearn died of his injury. He was 85. He was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California next to his son Gary, who had died of a drug overdose,[5] and his daughter Samantha, who had died from complications of anorexia.[1][6] Chick and Marge would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on August 13, 2002.[1]


On May 9, 1991, Hearn became the third broadcaster to be inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.[7] In 1995, he was voted to be the 20th member of the American Sportscaster Hall of Fame by his fellow sportscasters.

In honor of his contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers, both the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles renamed a portion of West 11th Street between Figueroa Street and Georgia Street to Chick Hearn Court. This street currently runs alongside Staples Center's main entrance. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority further honored the broadcaster by changing the name of the nearby Blue Line station to Pico-Chick Hearn. His name was later hung from the rafters of the Staples Center, along side the retired numbers of past Lakers players, though with a microphone in place of a number.

Hearn also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hearn's star is located at 6755 Hollywood Blvd.

On April 27, 2010, Chick Hearn was honored with a bronze statue at Star Plaza outside Staples Center. A chair next to Hearn's statue behind the desk with the Lakers' logo is a part of the statue so his fans can sit down to have their pictures taken.


The particular phrases that Chick used during his broadcasts were labeled "Chickisms". Many are staples of basketball.[8] When a book of his memoirs was published in 2004, it included an audio CD with the calls as well as a Chick Hearn Rap-Around rap song created with the samples.[9]

  • 20 foot lay-up: A jump shot by Jamaal Wilkes.
  • Air-ball: An errant shot that fails to touch either the rim or the backboard.
  • (He sent that one back) Air-mail Special!: A strongly blocked shot, often sent high into the stands.
  • Bloooows the layup! : Missed a very easy layup.
  • Boo-birds: Fans who boo their own team when they play badly.
  • (He did the) bunny hop in the pea patch: He was called for traveling.
  • (You could) call it with Braille: An easy call for an official, e.g. a blatant foul.
  • (He got) caught with his hand in the cookie jar: A reaching foul.
  • (The) charity stripe: The free throw line.
  • (That player is in) civilians: The player is not in uniform.
  • (He's got 'em) covered like the rug on your floor: Really good one-on-one defense.
  • (They) couldn't beat the Sisters of Mercy: The team is getting beat badly.
  • (They) couldn't throw a pea into the ocean: The team's shooting is really awful.
  • (It'll) count if it goes ...: A player that is fouled in the act of shooting, or alternatively gets off a shot just before the buzzer sounded. It go-o-o-oes!: The shot is successful.
  • (That shot) didn't draw iron: A shot which misses the rim, but hits the backboard. Sometimes he would add but it drew a lot of flies.
  • Dime store score: A 10 to 5 score.
  • Dribble-drive: A player drives the basket while dribbling.
  • Finger roll: A shot where the ball rolls off the shooter's fingers.
  • (He) fly-swatted (that one): A shot blocked with force and authority.
  • Football score: A score resembling one often seen in a football game (e.g., 21 to 14).
  • (He threw up a) frozen rope: A shot with a very flat trajectory.
  • (We're) high above the western sideline: Chick's perch at the Forum, from which he called his word's eye views of the game.
  • Hippity-hops the dribble: A player dribbling the ball does a little hop step.
  • I'll bet you an ice cream: Hearn and Keith Erickson (his one-time color commentator) often bet ice creams on the outcome of a shot or game.
  • (He's got) ice-water in his veins: When a player hits a clutch free throw.
  • (It's) First and ten: Multiple players are sprawled on the floor after a physical play or diving for the ball.
  • (It's) garbage time: The (often sloppily played) final minutes when reserve players get a chance to play in a game that's out of reach (after it’s in the refrigerator).
  • Give and Go: A player passes the ball, makes a quick cut, and receives a return pass.
  • (In & out,) heart-brrrreak!: A shot that appears to go in, but rattles off the rim and misses. Sometimes it went in so far you could read the Commissioner's name from below.
  • He has two chances, slim and none, and slim just left the building: The player has no chance of success with this play.
  • If that goes in, I'm walking home: Similar to a prayer, when the opponent shoots a shot that is a prayer, a streak, or some amazing shot. (Usually on the road)
  • Leapin' Lena: A shot made while the player is in the air and off balance.
  • Marge could have made that shot: A missed shot that was so easy, Hearn's wife Marge could have made it. Marge was often referred to when a player messed up something that was easy.
  • Matador Defense: A poor defense that allows their opponent to drive uncontested through the lane to the basket.
  • (There are) lots of referees in the building, only three getting paid: The entire crowd acts as though they are the officials by disagreeing with a call.
  • (Like a) motorcycle in a motordrome: Ball spins several times around the inside of the rim, then drops through or goes "in & out".
  • Too much mustard on the hot dog: Describing a player attempting an unnecessarily showy, flashy play.
  • The mustard's off the hot dog: A player attempts an unnecessarily showy, flashy play which ends up in a turnover or is otherwise unsuccessful, such as a missed slam dunk.
  • My grandmother could guard him, and she can't go to her left!: Said of a slow, out of shape, or hurt player.
  • Nervous time: When the final moments of a game are pressure-packed.
  • 94-by-50 hunk of wood: The basketball court, based on the floor's dimensions. (Attacking 47 feet: The front court.)
  • No harm, no foul (no blood, no ambulance, no stitches): A non-call by an official when varying degrees of contact have occurred. (More adjectives means the non-call was more questionable.)
  • Not Phi Beta Kappa: Not a smart play.
  • ...Since Hector was a pup A very long time (e.g., the Lakers haven't had the lead since Hector was a pup.)
  • He's in the Popcorn Machine (with butter and salt all over him): Meaning that a defensive player got faked into the air (and out of play) by an offensive player's pump fake. ("Popcorn Machine" is a reference to an actual popcorn machine in the old Los Angeles Sports Arena, which was near the basket, but far away from the court. Thus, if the player went far out of play, he was in the "popcorn machine.") When Hearn guest starred as a mouse in the Garfield and Friends episode Basket Brawl, Odie literally runs into a popcorn machine.
  • (He's) on him like a postage stamp: Very tight defense.
  • Slam dunk!: Hearn's most famous phrase; a powerful shot where a player forces the ball through the rim with one or both hands.
  • (He was) standing there, combing his hair: When a player uninvolved with the action comes up with the ball and gets an easy shot.
  • (He) takes him to the third floor and leaves him at the mezzanine: A move where an offensive player pump-fakes a defender and draws a foul from the leaping player.
  • Tattoo dribble: A player dribbling the ball while not moving, as though tattooing the floor with the ball, as he waits for the play to develop.
  • This game's in the refrigerator: the door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard, and the Jell-O's jigglin'!: The game's outcome is set; only the final score is in question. Chick's variation on "the game's on ice."
  • Throws up a brick: When a player tosses up a particularly errant shot.
  • Throws up a prayer (... it's (or isn't) answered!!!): A wild shot that will need a miracle to score (and does or doesn't).
  • Ticky-tack: A foul called when very little contact has been made.
  • Triple-double: A player gets 10 or more (i.e. double digits) in three statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocked shots.
  • (On his) wallet: A player fell on his rear end.
  • Words-eye view: What listeners received while listening to Hearn call the game on the radio.
  • (He's) working on his Wrigleys. A player is chewing gum.
  • (He's) yo-yo-ing up and down: A player dribbles in one place as if he were playing with a yo-yo on a string.
  • (He's dribbling) left to right (or right to left) across your dial: To let people who were listening to radio know which direction the ball was going up the court.
  • (He's) alone, he sets, he fires, he gets!: Player not defended who stops, sets and shoots.

Nicknames for Laker players

Memorable calls

And the crowd stands for Kareem to get the ball. Everybody's waving their's in to Kareem. Kareem swing left...right-hand twelve-footer...GOOD!
—-calling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA record 31,420th point, pushing him past Wilt Chamberlain as the league's all-time leading scorer.
The new king of scoring has ascended his throne.
—-Shortly after Kareem's record-breaking basket.
37-2, ladies and gentleman. If you're just tuning in, no, I haven't been using any of the squeezing of the grape.
—-referring to the Lakers' colossal lead on the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter of a game between the teams on February 4, 1987.
To the left goes Magic...he's got it. He didn't shoot it...five seconds left. Magic down the middle, just what I thought. A hook shot at twelve, GOOD! Two seconds left! The Lakers take the lead on Magic Johnson's running sky-hook! Hooie!
—-calling Magic Johnson's "junior sky-hook" in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals.
Portland can put the champagne away and get out the bottled water, 'cause that's all they're gonna drink on their way home!
—-calling the Lakers' comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.


The rock band System of a Down named their song "Chic 'n' Stu" after Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz.


  1. ^ a b c d e Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn dies at 85. Associated Press, August 16, 2002
  2. ^ Chick Hearn - Biography
  3. ^ USC Annenberg Establishes Chick Hearn Scholarship Fund :: Legend announced USC football and basketball from 1956-61 before 40-year Lakers stint
  4. ^ "Newswire". October 18, 1990. 
  5. ^ Gary Hearn (1942 - 1972) - Find A Grave Memorial
  6. ^ Samantha Hearn (1947 - 1990) - Find A Grave Memorial
  7. ^ Basketball Hall of Fame biography
  8. ^ Rubin, Saul (2007). "You Know You're in California talk a good game". You Know You're in California When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the Golden State. Globe Pequot. pp. 11. ISBN 076273745X. 
  9. ^ Springer, Steve (2004). Chick: His Unpublished Memoirs and the Memories of Those Who Loved Him. Triumph Books. ISBN 1572436182. 
  10. ^ Wilt Chamberlain (biography) – NBA Encyclopedia, Playoff Edition.

External links

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