(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
Hot Rod Hundley acknowledges the Utah Jazz crowd before he broadcasts his final game for the team last April. The Basketball Hall of Fame play-by-play man played six years for the Lakers and then worked with Chick Hearn from 1967-69.
Four of the six games that one-time Chick Hearn sidekick Hot Rod Hundley has agreed to do as a fillin for Stu Lantz on the Lakers’ TV coverage are in the books, and he’s still smiling.
The 75-year-old retired with a year left on his contract after 35 years doing games for the Utah Jazz, most of them on TV. His relegation to radio calls left him discouraged — and sent to the rafters in most NBA arenas. That, and the travel, just caught up with him.
Until the Lakers called him a week ago to see if he could sub on the KSPN-AM (710) radio broadcast for Mychal Thompson, who needed to go back to the Bahamas for the funeral of his mother, Hundley was content playing golf in Arizona. Then the Lakers called him back a day later, knowing Lantz had to miss the current five-game road trip, plus another home game, because his wife was having ankle surgery. Hundley thought it would be fun.
Until he was reminded of what NBA travel was like. He’s sitting around in the Ritz Carlton Central Park in New York City today trying to kill some time before the Lakers play the Nets in New Jersey on Saturday night. The flight from Milwaukee to Newark, N.J., last night wasn’t all that great, either.
“We were on our way to land for the last 10 minutes, and I was looking out the window,” said Hundley. “The plane didn’t seem to be landing gradually like it normally does. Then all of the sudden — boom — we’re right on the ground. I’m looking out the window again wondering what’s going on? It was a little scary, made me a little uneasy. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like being on the road so much any more. Sometimes those NBA trips would be 10 games over two weeks. The hard part is in between games. Especially at my age.”
Especially when you consider that Hot Rod was on a Laker team flight back in 1960, going from St. Louis to Minneapolis, and had to land in a snowy cornfield because of a blizzard and the fact all the electricity went out in the plane and the backup generator of the DC3 went out as well.
We caught up with Hot Rod on Thursday at the Ritz Carlton Central Park and he says he’s having fun — for now — and can’t believe how much Kobe Bryant has grown up since the first time he saw him until now, considering he’s seen him make the game-winning shot in OT in Milwaukee less than 24 hours ago.
But he also has worries on this trip — like, he could lose his luggage.
“All the bags I have say ‘Utah Jazz’ all over ‘em,” said Hundley. “My garmet bag and my other big bag … I gotta talk to the hotel staff and make sure they know it all goes with the bags marked ‘Lakers’ or else I gotta get some duck tape and put it over the Jazz logos.”