With national broadcasts having exclusive television coverage for the remainder of the NBA playoffs, Kevin Calabro’s third season as the TV voice of the Portland Trail Blazers is officially complete. The longtime Seattle SuperSonics broadcaster has endeared himself to Rip City with his extensive knowledge and undying passion, in addition to his infectious energy. This is no small task considering he and Lamar Hurd replaced the popular “Mike and Mike” duo in the summer of 2016.
Calabro, an Indiana native, recently sat down with Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune for a wide-ranging look at his career. Among the highlights:
On his introduction to broadcasting:
“Our high school had a radio station, and I really wanted to be involved somehow in radio,” he says. “I’d always listened to major league baseball games — Harry Caray in Chicago, Jack Buck in St. Louis, Bob Prince in Pittsburgh. That was the beauty of living in Middle America. We could pick up radio signals from all over the country. I listened to all these great announcers late at night on a crackling transister radio. I was pretty enthralled with that.”
On declining to relocate with the Sonics to Oklahoma City:
“I had 21 years under my belt,” he says. “If I didn’t ever get another opportunity to do an NBA team ... I felt I had enough equity in the market to go out and do some other things and freelance a bit.
”And I didn’t like the way it all went down (with the team’s move away from Seattle). Forty-one years of history, a championship, multiple Hall of Famers, a great rivalry with Portland — it didn’t make a lot of sense.”
On the transition to Portland:
“The first year was a little rough,” Calabro says. “You try to get acclimated to the city and the team and to get to know everyone. That was the most difficult part.
”The first couple of years, Portland fans were a little apprehensive and suspicious of the guy from Seattle. This year, people are welcoming me into their homes now as a Blazer broadcaster.”
On the state of the Blazers:
“With Paul’s passing (last October), it would have been easy for folks to go their separate directions,” he says. “If anything, the opposite has happened. I’ve observed people really coming together when it could have gone so many directions. You see the way this team has knitted together so closely, and has come together through adversity — that’s going to make you a stronger organization altogether.
”I like all (the players). It’s one of the most cooperative bunch of guys I’ve worked with, with terrific personalities. It’s led by the attitude and grace of countenance and maturity of their leader, Damian Lillard, and I put CJ McCollum right there in the same category. I’ve known (coach) Terry Stotts since he was an assistant coach with the Sonics in the mid-’90s. He has a great group of assistants. I feel blessed to be with this group. When you have that kind of character, ultimately you can win with it.”
On the future:
“As long as my body holds out, I’ll keep plugging along,” he says. “I see guys like Ralph Lawler (of the L.A. Clippers) retiring at 81. George Blaha (in Detroit, 74) and Al McCoy (in Phoenix, 86) have been doing it a long time. God bless those guys. They are phenomenal. I don’t know if I have that kind of staying power, but we’ll see.”
You can read Eggers’ full piece here.