ESPN Remembers Jim Durham (1947-2012), the voice of The NBA on ESPN Radio (UPDATED with Social Media Reaction)

(At the bottom of this post, we have used Storify to gather the outpouring of condolences and remembrances of Jim Durham.)

Jim Durham, lead play-by-play commentator for the NBA on ESPN Radio since the package began airing on the network in January 1996, passed away over the weekend at his home in Tomball, Texas (outside of Houston). Durham was 65 and is survived by his wife, Helen, their three children, Patrick, Richard and Tracy and several grandchildren.

In 2011 Durham was honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Media Award, presented annually to members of the print and electronic media whose longtime efforts have made a significant contribution to the game of basketball.

“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 Senior Vice President and General Manager, ESPN Radio. “He’s been a dedicated friend and a trusted teammate to so many at ESPN for two decades and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his wife Helen and the entire Durham family.”

Durham’s final assignment for ESPN was last Tuesday’s season-opener between Boston and Miami. He worked the game with long-time partner, Dr. Jack Ramsay, who discussed his good friend’s Hall of Fame induction in this story.

“Jim was an extraordinary professional,” said John Martin, ESPN Executive Producer, radio remotes, who frequently worked on-site with Durham. “His talent for calling NBA on radio in vivid, descriptive terms was unmatched. When JD was so deservedly recognized with the Gowdy Award, he had the Hall of Fame career to go along with his long established position as a Hall of Fame person. He was a sensational individual.”

Prior to joining ESPN in 1992, where Durham also called college basketball Major League Baseball games, he had been the television voice of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks (1993-2001). He also served as radio and television commentator for the Chicago Bulls (1973-91), Chicago White Sox television play-by-play announcer (1989-90) and Houston Astros television commentator (1983-85). Additionally, Durham also handled sports announcing chores for NBC, CBS and Turner Sports.

Durham received Illinois Sportscaster-of-the-Year honors in 1979, 1989 and 1990, and garnered Chicago Emmy Awards in 1989 and 1991.

A Chicago native, Durham described the action during Michael Jordan’s first seven seasons, including the first of Jordan’s NBA championships. In this Front Row story from January, some of Durham’s more famous calls are included in a discussion of the current-day Bulls.

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  • Bob Ortegel

    I was an asst coach at Illinois State in 1970 and our radio pxp man was Jim Durham. I have known J.D. for 42 years. I worked side by side with J.D. for 8 years covering the Dallas Mavericks for 600+ games. He was one of my closest friends. The sports world and the radio and television industry have lost a superstar. Last night the Dallas Mavericks had a moment of silence prior to the tipoff of the Dallas Portland game. They also had a video of J.D. on the big screen. I will miss my good friend.

  • Marty Aronoff

    I had the pleasure of working with and being in the company of Jim Durham for many years. As much as his unique Hall-of-Fame broadcasting style set him above all play-by-play announcers, he was an even classier and totally delightful person to spend time with away from arenas around the country.