Legendary NBA broadcaster Mike Breen reveals favorite Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett memoriesSporting News — (Jordan Greer)
CHICAGO — ESPN broadcaster Mike Breen was overwhelmed enough receiving the 2020 Curt Gowdy Media Award, which is presented to members of the media who have made a significant contribution to the game of basketball. That he could share it with this year's Hall of Fame finalists only made the moment that much more special.
Breen, who has been calling NBA action for nearly three decades, was announced as one of the recipients of the award on Friday night along with Michael Wilbon, Jim Gray and the "NBA on TNT" crew. But what really touched Breen was the fact he will be recognized during Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend in August with a group that includes Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant.
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"I don't just say this because it's the case this year," Breen said, "but they were always three of my favorite players."
That means something considering Breen has been a familiar voice to Knicks fans since 1992 and the lead play-by-play man on NBA Finals broadcasts since 2006.
Given his extensive history with some of the league's greatest players, Sporting News presented Breen with the difficult challenge of choosing his favorite memory of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett. Here's what the 58-year-old had to say . . .
Kobe Bryant always 'put that work in'
When asked about Bryant, Breen immediately went to a classic Kobe buzzer-beater.
At the end of Game 4 of a 2006 playoff series between the Lakers and Suns, Bryant corralled a loose ball, found his spot near the left elbow and drained a fadeaway jumper in front of two helpless defenders. Breen delivered his trademark "Bang!" as the shot hit the bottom of the net.
"Everybody in the building — we knew it, the Suns knew it, the fans knew it, the refs knew it," Breen said. "He was gonna get the ball. And yet, he still found a way to get free and knock down the shot. I remember him, the way he turned, the way he pumped that fist after he hit the shot, the crowd going crazy."
Bryant's clutch plays never came down to just chance, of course. They were the product of incredible skill and countless hours of practice when no one was watching.
"It was all the work that went into that shot," Breen said. "That's why that shot was easy for him. Because he put that work in for that particular moment."
Tim Duncan was 'the most humble superstar in NBA history'
Duncan led the Spurs in a much different way than Bryant guided the Lakers, but "The Big Fundamental" found similar success, matching Kobe with five championships.
It wasn't a win that stuck out to Breen, though. He fondly remembers Duncan's Game 7 performance in the 2013 NBA Finals, a 95-88 loss for San Antonio. That defeat followed a heartbreaking Game 6 in which Heat guard Ray Allen drained a difficult corner 3-pointer to send the contest to overtime. (Duncan was not on the floor for that play.)
The Spurs refused to go quietly in Game 7 behind a terrific showing from Duncan (24 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and two assists), but LeBron James and the Heat ultimately shut the door in Miami.
"They were so deflated [after Game 6]," Breen said. "Even though they lost [Game 7], he came back and played so well."
San Antonio bounced back in 2014, finishing 62-20 during the regular season and throttling the Heat in an NBA Finals rematch. That 4-1 series win gave Duncan the final ring of his illustrious career.
"He was as great a teammate as I've ever seen," Breen said. "His humility, his team-first [mentality], how hard he played every night at both ends. I just found him to be the most humble superstar in NBA history. So my admiration for him is off the charts."
Kevin Garnett played hard 'every second'
Breen couldn't land on one Garnett game because, well, every game mattered to KG.
Regular season, playoffs, NBA Finals, scrimmage at the park — the matchup didn't change his effort level. When it was tipoff time, Garnett locked in.
"If somebody played 35 minutes, they didn't play 35 Kevin Garnett minutes," Breen said. "His 35 minutes were different than anybody else on the floor."
A 15-time All-Star, Garnett was known as much for filling the box score as trash-talking his opponents. Throughout his career, Garnett could be seen drenched in sweat, snarling at himself and banging his head against inanimate objects — and that was before the first horn. His intensity was second to none.
"I don't know if I've ever seen anybody who played as hard every second they were out there as much as Garnett," Breen said.