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Hundley to emcee Naismith rites again

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Hot Rod Hundley

Hot Rod Hundley

Utah Jazz broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley has emceed the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame ceremonies three times.

The third time, in 1985, "My opening line was, 'If you wonder why I'm back, I'm trying to buy my way in here.' "

This week, Hundley will be in Springfield, Mass., again to emcee some of the 2003 Enshrinement Weekend ceremonies — and to receive the 2003 Curt Gowdy Electronic Media award.

Hundley has made it into the hall of fame, at least the media wing, and he earned his way rather than buying it, as he joked 18 years ago.

Hundley will receive his award Thursday, bringing his three daughters with him to share in his shining moment. "I'm all excited about it. It's the ultimate in this business," he said.

He will also preside over the induction celebration on Saturday, when Hundley's mentor, the late former Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn, represented by his wife, joins Robert Parish, James Worthy, Meadowlark Lemon, women's electee Leon Barmore, veteran's electee Earl Lloyd and international electee Dino Meneghin.

Hundley, who enters his 30th season with the Jazz this fall, also plans to attend Friday night's enshrinement ceremony, which will be shown live on NBA TV and on tape Sunday on ESPN, and a dinner Saturday night.

Hundley, 68, the only regular play-by-play voice the Jazz have ever had, in New Orleans or Utah, was the first player chosen in the 1957 NBA draft and played for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers for six years. He was twice an NBA all-star and was a three-time All-American in his career at West Virginia University.

He recalls playing against inductees Lloyd and Lemon and, of course, pays homage to his former partner Hearn whenever he calls a game.

Hearn once told Hundley he stole some of his lines. Hundley replied, "Not some of them, all of them."

Hundley had done some college broadcasting with Dick Enberg and was working for the Converse shoe company when the Lakers called about a job as a color analyst with Hearn. Hundley accepted over the telephone. Two years with Hearn convinced him that his "ultimate goal was play-by-play" broadcasting. "I thought I could do it," he said.

He moved on to a color job with the Phoenix Suns and soon was thrust into an emergency play-by-play situation when the team's broadcaster was killed in an auto accident. Hundley remembers his first call, the Suns getting the tip and Dick Van Arsdale scoring on a layup. "I made it sound like we won the world championship," Hundley says, laughing. "The first thing you have to learn is to control your voice, the ups and downs, and not try to overpower."

The broadcast put such a strain on that famous smoky, rasping Hundley voice that he gave up cigarettes the next day.

Colangelo didn't give him the full-time job. "I went back to the analyst job," Hundley said. Later, Colangelo told him he didn't think Hundley's voice would last if he did play-by-play.

Then came the play-by-play job with the New Orleans Jazz when they began operations, and Hundley spent five years in Louisiana and the past 25 in Utah.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com