I was saddened to hear about the sudden passing of play-by-play man extraordinaire Jim Durham. As a kid growing up in Chicago, I used to listen to him do his play-by-play of Chicago Bulls basketball games. This was long before the Jordan years, but Jim still made Bulls basketball sound exciting. It was partly because of him that I, too decided to become a sportscaster.
When I was in college, I would turn down the sound of games I watched on TV and do my own play-by-play. Sometimes I would even record it. Once I got up the nerve to call him out of the blue at the radio station where he worked. I made up a story about doing an assignment about sportscasters. I just wanted to meet Jim Durham. He graciously agreed to meet me, and even listened to my rather primitive play by play. He asked, “Where did you do this ?”. I told him at home. He remarked, “If I could do the games this well from home, I’d never leave the couch. ” He couldn’t tell it, but I lit up inside with a huge glow. “If the great Jim Durham thought I could do this, then maybe I can.”, I thought.
Sure enough, I embarked on a broadcasting career that has now lasted 35 years. I would run into Jim from time to time at NBA games, and a few years ago reminded him of our first meeting when I was still a student. Although he didn’t recall, he was still the same gracious man who encouraged me years ago. No doubt his kindness was the secret to his long and enduring career, and the catalyst for my own.
Thanks Jim. I’ll miss you and rest assured. I will pay it forward just like you did.