Photo provided by Dave Shore/ESPN-AM
Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, joins Mychal Thompson and John Ireland on a Lakers’ radio broadcast earlier this season.
Andy Garcia, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Hasselhoff, Ric Flair, Mario Lopez, Lisa Leslie, Flea, Adam Levine, Dyan Cannon, Richie Sambora and Richard Lewis walk into Staples Center to watch a Lakers’ game.
Only one of them can be a guest analyst on the KSPN-AM (710) radio broadcast, sitting next to John Ireland and Mychal Thompson.
Who’ll it be? By now, it may depend on who’s already done it. Most of that list above has.
A regular second-quarter segment called the “Third Chair” has evolved into one of the more entertaining elements of the radio coverage this season. It’s a device that Ireland, in his first year doing play-by-play, has enjoyed bringing to the party so listeners get a chance to share in some of the ever-present celebrity buzz.
“We have to give the listeners a sense of who’s in the building,” said Ireland, who tracks down the guests with KSPN sideline reporter Dave Shore and producer Jarred Digglio.
“The TV side has tried it, but hasn’t always been successful. Old-school listeners may be upset we don’t always follow the game, but I think it’s been about 80 percent positive.”
The second quarter of the contest has proven to be the easiest entry and exit point, with media timeouts already in place during the game’s three-, six- and nine-minute marks. The trick for Ireland and Thompson is to keep up with the game while letting the guests jump in at appropriate moments.
“The debate I always have: Is it worth adding the third voice at the expense of what’s going on the court?” said Ireland. “There’s time during dead balls, but we’re at the mercy of the flow of the game, so it becomes an interesting dance to do.”
For tonight’s Lakers-Thunder broadcast, the KSPN crew tried to track down Magic Johnson but it ended up being actor Dennis Haysbert who joined in.
Haysbert, who says he gets out to about 10 games a year, answered Ireland’s question about whether the Lakers had enough to make a run for the title this year: “That’s a loaded question. You can’t answer that in a negative. It all depends on their bench. I think they have the starting team to do it.”
Ireland’s dream grab would be to get Denzel Washington from his courtside seat to come up.
Jack Nicholson would be a “pipe dream,” Ireland concedes.
“We started this by setting up appearances in advance, but it’s been like a red carpet kind of thing where a bigger name would show up and so now we wait until before the game starts before we decide,” Ireland said. “Tom Petty has said he might do it, and Jeanie Buss (the head of Lakers’ business who has been on) says she thinks she can get David Beckham. All we can do is throw them a Hail Mary and see what happens.”