By David Brickley
As Laker fans know Paul Sunderland followed Chick Hearn on T.V in the 2002-03 season, and Joel Meyers was the Lakers radio play-by-play man.
In 2005, Sunderland was fired. The Lakers promoted Meyers up to T.V. and hired 26 year-old Spero Dedes to take over radio.
Dedes was a man that understood the legacy of Chick Hearn, calling Chick the gold standard for not only Lakers broadcasts, but in all of sports broadcasting.
He realized the legacy of the job, and never forgot the man that once called 3,338 consecutive Laker games.
In 2009, we talked about following the legend of Chick Hearn, “Sitting in that chair, believe me there is not a night when I walk into Staples Center, and I don’t try to kind of pause, and realize where I am, and where I’m at, to be able to sit in that chair.” Dedes said.
Anybody that heard Dedes on the radio as they were driving home from work or going out to grab a bite during a Laker game understands his talent.
A true professional that painted the game beautifully, Dedes allowed drivers across Southern California to visualize the game as it was happening.
You always knew where the ball was, what the score was, how much time was left and what the atmosphere was like at the stadium.
Dedes brought you into the arena with him.
A man that knew what he wanted to do in middle school as sports broadcasting was simply in his blood.
For college, he decided to go to Fordham University in New York, a university that is known as one of the best broadcasting schools in the entire country, right up the road from Yankee Stadium.
Dedes graduated from Fordham in 2001, adding his name to the great list of alumni including Vin Scully (Dodgers Announcer), Mike Breen (ABC’s Lead NBA Announcer), and Michael Kay who is the Yankees TV play-by-play man.
After graduation, Dedes did radio for the AFL’s New Jersey Gladiators and was the New York Jets beat reporter at WFAN radio in New York.
He then would land multiple opportunities including going to Athens, Greece as a reporter/play-by-play announcer for the 2004 Olympics.
When Joel Meyers was promoted from the Lakers radio booth to TV, Dedes heard of the radio opening for the Lakers:
“Initially I felt like I had no shot at the job, but my agent at the time convinced me to send in my materials to the Lakers. A month and a half later they flew me out for an interview. Probably the most nerve racking three hours I have ever experienced in my life. A couple days later I got the call that I had been hired for the job. That was probably the most euphoric phone conversation I have ever had. I can’t even describe what I felt. Just picture getting your dream job at the age of 26!” Dedes said.
The common thing you hear about Dedes is how humble he is, how he respects the broadcasting profession, and how he always treats everybody he comes across with the utmost respect.
He knew that the Lakers were one of the best franchises in all of sports, and realized where he was his first night on the job:
“My very first game [with the Lakers], we were in Denver for the opening game of the 05-06 season. Kobe hit the game winning shot with just a couple of seconds left. I was just so through the roof with adrenaline and excitement.” Dedes said. “On the plane, Kobe came over to my seat and tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘How’d your first game go?’, and gave me a little wink. I just thought to myself ‘My god where am I? I’m on a plane with Kobe Bryant, the guy just hit a game-winning jumper!’ It was just a neat little experience.”
As a senior in high school I also had sports broadcasting in my blood. In 2005, when I heard about Spero becoming the Lakers radio play-by-play man, I immediately wanted to know his story.
For me, Spero has always been someone I looked up to, being so successful at such a young age, and having the talent to back it up. He is also Greek, as am I.
Any Greek will tell you, we stick together.
I finally reached out to him my junior year of college, and asked him for advice. He was more then willing to answer any question I had, and took time out of his busy schedule to walk me through sports broadcasting, and how to make it in the business.
Dedes has been my mentor throughout the last few years, whether it was giving me advice, recommending me to an employer, or simply giving me a pep talk so I too could realize my dream some day.
He’s an amazing broadcaster, but an even better person.
When you watch a team like the Lakers you expect excellence. From Jerry West to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are expected to put the best talent out on the floor each and every season.
When you grow up on Chick Hearn and Vin Scully, Los Angeles won’t settle for mediocre talent in the broadcasting booth either.
There will never be another Chick Hearn, as there will never be another Magic Johnson. But Spero Dedes proved to Los Angeles, and the Lakers organization after six seasons that he was the real deal.
The same organization that fired Meyers so Dedes could be the face of the Lakers alongside Stu Lantz on the telecast, is the same organization that has let him go.
Dedes was promoted to be the face of the Lakers broadcast team next season, which would lead to a smooth transition to their new network with Time Warner in the 2012-13 season.
A network that will pay the Lakers $3 billon over the next 20 years.
Reports say that the Lakers wanted Dedes to be exclusive with the Lakers, and refused to let him miss a few games a season to call March Madness or the NFL on CBS.
In this day in age, all of the best broadcasters have multiple gigs. Dan Patrick has his morning show and NBC’s Football Night in America. Marv Albert does the NBA on TNT and Westwood One Radio. Kevin Harlan also broadcasts the NBA on TNT and the NFL on CBS.
The list goes on and on.
Just like the normal citizen, most of us have more then one job, or more importantly, more then one passion.
The Lakers wanted Spero to be Chick Hearn, and do nothing but call Laker games.
However, times have changed, and Laker fans understand that. Wouldn’t you rather have one of the best call 95% of Laker games, then none of them at all?
Dedes decided to go to the Knicks where he will call all the radio games and move up to TV when Mike Breen does ABC’s NBA nationally televised games. Breen is yet another broadcaster that has more then one gig.
Dedes will now have the freedom to explore other opportunities in the business.
A bitter sweet moment, as he will go back home closer to friends and family, and be free to continue to spread his wings in other areas of broadcasting.
However, he will also miss L.A. as he spoke on back in 2009:
“I Love L.A., I just love everything about it. I really have got acclimated to Southern Cali life, the lifestyle, the pace, I don’t see myself ever going back to Jersey, I think that’s for sure.”
As the new announcer of the New York Knicks, Dedes will call games 20 miles from where he was born in Paramus, New Jersey.
There is no doubt in my mind that Dedes will soon follow the great national hosts you see on the big networks, such as Jim Nantz, Al Michaels, and Marv Albert.
Phil Jackson retiring is a blow to the Lakers as they lose a man that brought five championships to the city of Los Angeles. A true superstar has been lost on the bench.
Unfortunately, the Lakers just lost a superstar in the booth as well.
Here is some reaction from Laker fans on Spero Dedes leaving the Lakers broadcast booth:
Spero was a Greek national treasure. Shame LA couldn’t hang on to him. The voice will be missed.- Fernando Rios
Somewhere Chick Hearn is rolling over in his grave – Milton Castillo
I can’t even think straight. Spero is a star and was the future of the Lakers broadcast team. How could this happen???!!! – Kelly Brickner Granado
He was the man… he will be missed! One of the up and coming broadcasters in sports, Spero, Good luck in NYC. I always will remember: “It’s a purple and gold carnation in the magic kingdom” – Michael Walker
Yeah, can’t say that I’m happy about this. – Wesley Ryan Davenport
Nooo. I was hoping Spero would take over Lakers TV. Ahhh. Spero is the best play-by-play announcer since Chick Hearn – Andre
Dislike. Hopefully the future free agent decisions wont be as bad as this one – Jason Slowik
Really bummed by this news – Apvcl
Spero could have been the voice of the Lakers for 40 years – Biggusreddus
Man Spero was awesome – Jimmy H
Spero Dedes was the one that should have replaced Chick Hearn. The mustard is off the hot dog on this one Lakers! – Rick
Horrible move by the Lakers to not let Spero work on other projects. It would only bring more viewers and more fans to the Lakers broadcasts – Dcjunior4