Ian Eagle has been calling Brooklyn Nets games since long before they were the Brooklyn Nets and was celebrated this week for his 25 years behind the mic.
The Brooklyn Nets took time during Thursday’s game to recognize YES Network play-by-play man extraordinaire Ian Eagle on the occasion of his 25th anniversary broadcasting games for the club.
Eagle, a four-time New York Sports Emmy winner, is one of many broadcasters to emerge from the legendary Syracuse University program and started doing New Jersey Nets radio broadcasts in 1994, moving to television on the old SportsChannel alongside Bill Raftery.
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The duo spoke with longtime friend of the site Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson recently, talking about their first game together doing Nets games … a notable night in Toronto in early November 1995 that marked not just the first game of many on TV for Eagle and Raftery but also the NBA debut of the expansion Toronto Raptors.
The Nets were embarking on what would be their second straight 30-52 season under coach Butch Beard, who would be fired at the end of his second season in favor of former University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari, who came in as a combo GM/head coach.
The Raptors were embarking on their maiden journey through the NBA and got off to a stirring debut, beating the Nets at SkyDome — now known as Rogers Centre — by a score of 94-79.
The star of the night was veteran Alvin Robertson — for several reasons.
A former Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA caliber player, Robertson had missed two full seasons — 1993-94 and 1994-95 — with back problems before signing a prove-it deal with the Raptors before training camp in the fall of 1995.
Robertson scored 30 points in his first NBA game in 2½ years, adding seven rebounds, five steals and four assists in a landmark win for Toronto.
But as Eagle recalled to Robinson, that was not the most notable thing about Robertson’s day.
"“They beat the Nets at SkyDome and it happened to coincide with Alvin Robertson, who had been arrested earlier that day on an assault charge and our producer –“"
It was at this point Raftery corrected him.
Eagle resumed the narrative.
"“Arraigned on an assault charge and who do we get as our post-game guest?”"
As Raftery recalled:
"“He has a triple-double, like just what we need and we have to interview him.”"
"“So we ask him about the game, Bill asks him about the game and now I say, ‘Alvin, the arrest warrant earlier today …’ and he started looking and he says, ‘My lawyers have told me I cannot answer that question and we’ll just let the process play out’ and then Bill’s next question.“And he shifts his chair the other way so it’s like I’m not even there (laughs) and Billy, his follow-up question is … ‘Alvin, a triple-double, you’re back, baby!’ and that was it — he did not take any more of my questions and that was the end.”"
Eagle and Raftery still work together doing college basketball for CBS and continues to also do NFL work for the network as well.
Unlike so many in his business, Eagle is a joy to listen to because he doesn’t come off as just a paid shill for the team, but rather a professional broadcaster who calls the action as it is. It is a refreshing break from the norm among local broadcasters.
Even if the TV debut with the Nets had some hiccups.