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Here is a link to my Tuesday column about Jim Barnett. The full text runs below:

I write this column with sadness. This is Jim Barnett’s last season as Warriors’ television analyst, his 29th. I should have written this column sooner to honor the man. I have been remiss.

From what I have read, from what I hear, Barnett and the Warriors made a mutual decision for Barnett to step away. He soon will turn 70 and that may be part of it, although he comes across young. His voice is young. His face is young. He knows his hoops and loves his hoops and he conveys that knowledge and love on air. He isn’t one of those guys always talking about what Oscar

Robertson or Jerry West or Rick Barry did. He is current.

I wish the Warriors and Barnett would make a mutual decision to cancel the first mutual decision. I don’t want Jim Barnett to leave. I bet you feel the same way.

Barnett is a perfect complement to play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is an enthusiast. Sure Barnett is enthusiastic, but he was the Celtics’ first pick in 1966, he played in the NBA for 11 seasons for seven teams, and he measures his enthusiasm for the Warriors with a vast history of personal knowledge. He is a walking hoops encyclopedia. He is honest. He praises the Warriors but he also gives concise analysis of what the Warriors did wrong, what they need to do better, and why. He is enthusiastic about the opponent, praising openly and wholeheartedly.

He is what I call an East-Coast-style analyst. On the East Coast — especially in New York — announcers place truth above rooting, although they also root for their team. When they are forthright about what their team did wrong, their praise rings even louder. When Barnett praises Draymond Green, you understand the praise fits into a large context, a context of every great player who played in the NBA. Praise from Barnett means something.

I once saw Barnett kick a ball into the stands. This was before I was a sports writer. He played for the Warriors from 1971-1974 and I swear he kicked a ball into the stands. He probably was worked up. He did things like that. He was different. Still is. He is a man always on the verge of having fun. John Havlicek nicknamed him Crazy Horse.

Sometimes I’ll see him before a Warriors game and I’ll ask him a basketball question, and he’ll lead me into the hallway outside the press room, and he’ll tell me to stand a certain way, and he’ll start putting basketball moves on me, Barnett wearing a coat and tie.

He might have makeup on because he’s going on air.

I’m standing there like a goof and there’s Jim Barnett wheeling and dealing as people walk by wondering who these two nuts are, and then he’ll drive past me with his imaginary ball and score his imaginary basket mounted on the hallway wall, and I want to applaud because I just saw Barnett travel down the corridor of years and become a player again for a moment, feeling it, doing it, being it.

And he brings that love to his broadcasts. You hear it in his voice. He makes a lay person understand hoops. He never uses jargon. He talks ball. Plain ball. He understands every position on the court, knows what each player should do every second of that 48-minute game, although I don’t believe he could coach. Too excitable. Excitable is good in a broadcaster.

And he’s smart. When the game approaches its conclusion, he explains time, tells us how basketball time works. Basketball time is different from real time. Barnett is a time explainer. We need a time explainer. He tells us how many possessions a team can get out of those remaining seconds and when the team needs to take a shot and why and which shot to take. And he’s usually right.

Why? Because he used play, played with time. And as he broadcasts, he projects himself onto the court and he gets the feel, understands how he would work the clock. And he tells us. This clock-management angle is one of his specialties and he gets us thinking a certain way — thinking like a player.

I ask him about retired players. I will ask him about Walt Frazier, his teammate on the Knicks. And he will smile. It’s almost love he shows. He calls Frazier a great player and a great man. Jim Barnett is what you call a universal liker. He is positive and optimistic. We need people like him in our lives, need people like him in our ears.

When I shake hands with Barnett, I tell myself, “I just shook a hand that touched a ball that Bill Russell touched.” I am experiencing basketball history through touch. We’re about to lose the touch and the sound.

 

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Comments

19 Comments

  1. sf9erfan

    Excellent article. I really enjoyed hearing about your personal interactions with Jim. From listening to Jim broadcast the Warriors’ games for as long as I can remember, I feel like I’m losing a family member “uncle Jim, the great story teller” that everyone huddles around during holidays to hear his experiences.

    March 11th, 2014 6:42 am

  2. Ben

    very nice piece Lowell, and well deserved. even if you’re a little late, i’m sure Jim will appreciate it. do they know the plan yet to replace him? will it be an all-KNBR TV broadcast team with Fitzgerald and Tolbert? think they’ll can Bob and just move Tim Roye and Tolbert to TV?

    March 11th, 2014 7:46 am

  3. Dennis

    Jim Barnett is my favorite “color” commentator in all of sports. The guy is probably the most honest broadcaster out there. I have heard east coast analysts. They aren’t that are not as honest as Barnett.

    I recently heard Barnett give an interview. He said that Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson should play each other, one on one, every single day for 40 minutes during the off season: it would make them both better players. They would become better defenders and learn better moves with the ball on the other side. I think he would have been a great coach.

    March 11th, 2014 8:22 am

  4. Ramiro

    I’ve listened to him for the past 25 years every game and not sure what it will be like once he’s gone….although I think we’ll miss him I am looking foward to what the Warriors new regime have in store for us next year?

    March 11th, 2014 9:12 am

  5. Mark M

    This is sad news indeed. I feel like we take his talents for granted, he has been around THAT long, that constant a professional He has been a fine source of entertainment and knowledge, even through many MANY bad years. Very sorry to see him go.

    Whom is to replace him? Barry? That’d be a kick!

    March 11th, 2014 9:36 am

  6. Stan

    Not only do I like Barnett,I notice the players always have feelings for JB. He’s the only announcer I’ve seen hugged by players while on camera as they walk by. I even used to post that Lacob when he bought the team should have made Barnett interim coach instead of the forgettable Smart. But did Joe listen then? noooo.
    And now? I think Barnett has to be up to West and Attle’s level as a team consultant. Even if I think Lacob is a afraid of strong personality’s like a Barnett or Barry having ties by means of actually teaching also.
    Yeah,I would like to see Jim go on as broadcaster. I think its a mistake. The A’s learned that with Fosse. Beloved announcers aren’t made..they are earned.

    March 11th, 2014 10:01 am

  7. Stan

    One more..Jim is a folksy. Loves that Folk music. Those are people you can trust. Would PP&M lie to us?..never.

    March 11th, 2014 10:03 am

  8. CohnZohn

    Stan, I believe the Warriors will employ Jim Barnett as a goodwill ambassador and team representative.

    March 11th, 2014 10:09 am

  9. chris

    great tribute to Lowell……..it will be very sad to see him leave. I’ve been listening to Jim since his days with Greg Papa going back to the exciting 1987 playoffs vs. Utah where a brawl broke out between the Warriors coaching staff and players against some of the Jazz fans following a game 2 loss putting the Warriors down 0-2 in the best of 5 series. Jim described perfectly why the incident happened while adding he did not believe in how everyone reacted. The Warriors came back and won the series in thrilling fashion 3-2 and then went on to play the Lakers where Sleepy Floyd made his famous record setting 29 point fourth quarter to save the Warriors from elimination……Jim was brilliant in that game and when Greg Papa misquoted the score saying the Warriors had just tied the game but was mistaken Jim said “who cares!”……….I’ve heard Jim say many times he kicked the ball into the stands in game.

    Another funny story from Jim was when he missed a flight to a game after being delayed for personal reason he actually snuck onto a plane and then after it landed he jumped out the back door down to the ground…….definitely a wild and crazy guy!!

    March 11th, 2014 10:12 am

  10. chris

    wups……great tribute to Jim, Lowell……..wish this blog had editing capabilities….

    March 11th, 2014 10:13 am

  11. Stan

    Jim Barnett,as I recall..actually did a drop kick. Reminds me my older (by 16 years)brother. And get this Lowell..Harbaugh shooting hoops with the Warriors?..I had to laugh. My brother was a Oakland CYO player back in the day..WAY back in the day. He shot that push shot like Harbaugh. Always used to get me how he could beat me one on one when I had the perfect 70′s jump shot,and he had that Bob Cousy of 1958 days push shot.

    March 11th, 2014 11:17 am

  12. Dr. Feelgood

    Our relationship is much like my marriage. I can tolerate it when you go insane, but when you wax poetic, it’s love.
    Thx for the great piece.

    March 11th, 2014 12:01 pm

  13. Steve the cat rescuer

    Barnett is the best color analyst I’ve ever heard – in any sport. Imagine a Bill King – Jim Barnett broadcast team! Wouldn’t surprise me if Lacob installs one of his kids as the next color analyst.

    March 11th, 2014 12:31 pm

  14. jAke

    Lacob has made some good moves lately. This is not one of them.

    March 11th, 2014 2:01 pm

  15. Neal

    Nice column Lowell and nice that you gave JB his props and recognition.

    March 11th, 2014 3:57 pm

  16. John Cavalli

    One of you best columns ever Lowell about my favorite basketball analyst of all time!

    March 11th, 2014 8:11 pm

  17. CohnZohn

    Thanks, John. Good to hear from you and hope you are well.

    March 11th, 2014 8:55 pm

  18. Matt in Newark

    This article articulates what Warriors fans have enjoyed for so many years. It was neat to have an ex-Warrior be part of the broadcast team because he was a link to the days of Rick Barry. His comments teach the audience about the fundamentals of basketball.

    He is optimistic but honest at the same time. I remember in last year’s playoffs that Barnett grew so frustrated with Jarrett Jack’s nonstop dribbling and turnovers that Jim bluntly stated, “They need to take Jarrett Jack out of the game.” A rooter wouldn’t say that.

    March 15th, 2014 12:28 pm

  19. Sara

    Fabulous article, equally fabulous man. I cannot remember a Warriors game without Jim Barnett calling it like it is. That said I cannot imagine a Warriors game and him not at the call. It may sound odd but it hurts my heart a little to think about (I am however, a female..so yeah..). I’ve been doing my best to cherish each game this season & dorkily taking pics of my television…memorable moments like when Monta crashed the pre-game or tonight when Coach Jackson jokingly offered JB a job & fist bumped him mid-game…but it won’t be enough come next season when our boy’s wit, personality, enthusiasm, knowledge, and flat out love of the game is no longer present each night. I’m just over here hoping for a change of heart :)

    April 4th, 2014 9:46 pm

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