Here’s Part II of my interview (click here for Part I) with David Steele, the television play-by-play announcer for the Orlando Magic. In this segment, David talks about the most memorable Magic game he’s ever seen and more.
Before announcing a basketball game, how do you get prepared?
The thing is, Eddy, you’re preparing all the time. Now there is so much information available. Your website is one great option to see what opinion-makers are saying and what other people are saying and writing about the Magic and other teams in the NBA, so you just got so much out there to take advantage of and so I do. I read a lot and talk to people a lot. As far as the game preparation, I got a routine that I go through for every game. I’ve been doing it, like you said, for a long time so I just get into that game-day mode and get my scorebook, my notes together for the game that night, and I got a lot of information on just a few sheets of paper. I probably use less than 50 percent of it, but that’s not really the point. It’s all about preparation, and then you try to use the information that you have at the right time. That’s really the key. One of the keys to being a good broadcaster … it’s one thing to have all that information but to be able to pull it out at the right time and use it when it’s most pertinent, those types of things can make for a good broadcast. They can separate a good broadcast from a bad one.
Could you talk about your relationship with Matt Guokas, your colleague?
Yeah, well, it takes time to develop a relationship and a friendship. I think this will be our seventh year broadcasting together and we spend a lot of time off the air together during the season. We talk a lot. We talk about sports. We talk about politics. We talk about our families, so we know each other — personally — really well so going on the air, it’s like an extension of every day life. We’re focused on talking basketball for that two or three hours, but we have a relationship as friends off the air so that makes it very easy to go on the air and it’s like two guys that know each other, respect each other, and like each other, watching a basketball game and telling what they see. I have a great deal of respect for his knowledge of the game and his historical perspective. There’s not too many people walking around the face of the earth that have the historical perspective that Matt Guokas has on the NBA. I love to tap into that and we just have a good time. We enjoy it.
What led you and Guokas to be interested in advanced statistics? It’s no secret that you guys are one of the few broadcasting teams in the NBA that readily use metrics like effective field-goal percentage and other stuff on the air.
I guess it’s just that we really love the game of basketball. We really are curious about why teams succeed, and why players succeed, and why teams don’t succeed. Players who appear to be putting up numbers but maybe aren’t as effective or as efficient as other players, why that appears to be true so I don’t know. We’re both analytical in that regard. Matty really drives it, though. He’s such a numbers-cruncher and I’ve always been a stat geek, too. I try not to overload the broadcast with that because I know it can be annoying to some viewers, so there’s a balance there. But still, I think to have that type of information available and not let the public, the viewers, know what you know, I think it’s a mistake. We try to not get too deep in the weeds, because some of these numbers we really don’t understand what they mean but we know they indicate trends and they indicate certain commonalities and so we try to balance it with just good, solid analysis.
Do you find that the viewers are receptive to the numbers?
Yeah, it’s difficult for me to say. But yeah, I think generally-speaking we get positive feedback. People don’t tell you when they really don’t like it. They’ll tell you to your face. Maybe there’s some stuff out in the blogosphere that I don’t see but when they’re talking to us, we generally get favorable feedback.
Was there a Magic game you covered that was most memorable to you?
Yeah, a lot of crazy things happen like that. What about Shaq pulling down backboards? You talk about things that stand out. In Phoenix, I think it was on a Sunday afternoon, I was doing radio at the time and Shaq pulls down this backboard and there’s like a 20 or 30 minute delay. You’re on radio, so you don’t really have a studio to throw it back to. I was bobbing and weaving while they were trying to figure out how to repair this goal that Shaq brought down. It was something that we never seen anybody do before. That was a memorable game, and then he did it again in New Jersey. Those types of things you remember.
Also, the game against San Antonio a few years back when Dwight [Howard] caught a lob from Turkoglu. It was a play I’ll never forget because I’d never seen that before, and there’s a good chance you’ll never see it again. There were 0.7 seconds left in the game, and they’re inbounding the ball from mid-court. It’s Tim Duncan, it’s San Antonio, it’s Dwight Howard soaring above the entire San Antonio defense — including Duncan — and winning a game on a slam dunk. That’s a memorable game, as well.
I recall, too, Matty saying he thought he remembered Chamberlain doing it one time on an inbounds play like that from mid-court, but that was the only comparable memory that he had. He couldn’t remember who it was against or what the specifics were, but he did remember Chamberlain doing something similar. That’s the kind of company that Dwight Howard is in.
What do you think the Amway Center defines for the Orlando Magic?
Well, it marks a new beginning. It marks the end of an era, and the beginning of a new era. I think it’s just a great thing that we’re going to have this spectacular new building, and also we’re going to put a great basketball team on the floor at the same time so things came together really well to start a new beginning for the Magic and NBA basketball in Central Florida. The building is spectacular, and I think the team is going to win a whole lot of games and at some point is going to win at least one championship in that new building.
How lucky is it for you, as a broadcaster, to see talents like Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Tracy McGrady in the prime of their careers?
Yeah, I have been very fortunate to work for a franchise — first of all — that has great ownership and great leadership and then has been able to put some very good teams on the floor. You mentioned, even in the early days, those were fun teams to watch. Even before Shaq, even though they didn’t win a lot of basketball games, they scored, they had personality, they had flair, they had Scott Skiles, Terry Catledge, Jerry “Ice” Reynolds, Reggie Theus in year one. They were fun teams to watch play basketball. They were very entertaining. Then you had Shaq and Penny in those years. Penny stayed there through the late-’90s and we still had some good teams, and then McGrady came aboard in 2000 and he was one of the top players in the league at that time, then the Howard era started in 2004 so that’s been 21 years of excitement and I’ve been very blessed.
What do you think of the moves the Miami Heat made in the off-season?
Yeah, one thing I’ve learned through experience — being around this for 21 years — is that you can’t just count on what appears to be a sure thing as a sure thing. After we went to the Finals in ’95 and then again played in the Eastern Conference Finals in ’96, you felt like with Shaq and Penny you were going to win a championship at some point in the next three or four years. Then Shaq leaves and you’re searching for an identity for a few years. Then in 2000, when the Magic signed McGrady and Grant Hill, I remember feeling like the Magic were going to be one of the premiere teams in the Eastern Conference, if not the NBA, for the next five or 10 years. Grant Hill is injured, the team is basically a .500 team throughout most of the McGrady era, just a good basketball team that didn’t reach the greatness that I thought they would.
I would just caution everyone that gets carried away with what Miami did. It looks good on paper and it certainly wouldn’t surprise anybody if they did go out and win multiple championships but you got to play the games, so we’ll see what happens.
I like to thank David for taking the time to answer my questions.