2016 has been a pretty good year for ESPN broadcaster Adam Amin.
It was his first year doing play-by-play on television for the network’s Major League Baseball coverage and his first season as ESPN Radio’s lead announcer for its weekly national NFL broadcasts.
Just six days after his 30th birthday, Amin will cap off the year by working his first Christmas Day NBA game, featuring Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Amin will be his typically busy self this holiday weekend, calling Saturday’s ESPN Radio broadcast of the Falcons-Panthers game at 1 p.m. Eastern, alongside Hall of Famer Bill Polian, before catching a 6:30 flight to OKC for Sunday’s broadcast.
“I’ve been doing two, three, four games a week just about every week from September until March for the last four or five years,” Amin told Awful Announcing.
With ESPN/ABC broadcasting five games on Christmas Day and its play-by-play team a bit reshuffled after Mike Tirico’s departure to NBC, Amin slides in and will call the first game of ESPN’s nighttime doubleheader along with Doris Burke.
Amin and Burke got to do a test run together on Dec. 13, calling the Minnesota-Chicago game when the Wolves came back from a 21-point deficit in Tom Thibodeau’s return to the Windy City. It was Amin’s first ever NBA broadcast, and he got to do it in his hometown at the United Center, where he watched so many games as a child.
“Everyone knew it was my first one, and they were really, really aware of that and did a great job of making me feel as comfortable as possible,” Amin said. “Because I think they could tell that I was a little nervous.”
In preparing for his first NBA game, Amin said he received advice from Kevin Harlan, Ian Eagle, Ryan Ruocco, and Dave Pasch about adjusting to pro basketball after calling other sports.
“All of them had a very similar process about figuring [out] doing NBA, just saying that you anticipate things happening a lot more at the NBA level,” Amin said. “Because if it’s a two-on-one break, they’re probably going to score. So just having that anticipation as part of your call is a major difference.”
Amin said he was really happy to have Burke there as part of his first broadcast, saying that “she was off-the-charts amazing” in helping him out.
“She said beforehand that you’re going to do great. This is going to be easy. You’ve done a million of these before,” Amin said. “She was so encouraging during the game. Just any time she felt like she wanted to do something, she would communicate non-verbally, which is huge for somebody like me, because I’m a big non-verbal communicator. So my comfort level with her was so strong from the start, and most of that is a testament to how professional she is and how much she cares about this product.”
Interestingly, Amin said that calling the NBA is like calling baseball in one regard, “because it’s okay to have a conversation in the middle of a game about Russell Westbrook,” Amin said. “It’s okay to have a conversation in the middle of a game about the Spurs, and a couple of possessions later re-focus your attention on what’s going on in the field.”
Westbrook will be Sunday’s main focus for Amin, Burke and the ESPN crew, and for good reason. Westbrook is, as of Friday, averaging a triple-double, and could be the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-1962 to average a triple-double over an entire regular season.
“To watch Westbrook do what he’s been able to do night in and night out and to put up the type of production he’s put up, this is historic level stuff that we’re potentially talking about here,” Amin said. “We’re going to gear a lot of our preparation and some of our elements toward showing why Russell Westbrook doing what he’s doing is so impressive.”
With each team having played around 30 games, we’re approaching the midway point of the season. Westbrook, as of Friday, already has 13 triple-doubles, which puts him on pace to have a historic amount of them. Robertson had 41 triple-doubles in 79 games in 1961-1962, the most in a single season, and Wilt Chamberlain is next with 31 during the 1973-1974 season.
Wilt’s 31 in a season is “certainly a mark that we’re kind of looking at and thinking ‘well there’s no reason why Russell Westbrook can’t reach that,'” Amin said.
ESPN will focus on Westbrook with different edits, footage, graphics and highlighting the historic significance of what he’s been doing, Amin said. The broadcast will also focus on how OKC is faring without Kevin Durant. who famously bolted from the Thunder for Golden State last offseason.
Christmas Day, Amin said, is when a lot of the casual NBA fans first start to really pay attention to the league, so giving the big picture of what’s going on in the sport will also be a focus.
“It’s nice to be able to hit the reset button and go back to the beginning of the season,” he said.
After Sunday’s NBA broadcast and Thursday’s call of the Alamo Bowl between Colorado and Oklahoma State, Amin will have done play-by-play for 115 events in 2016, according to his own personal records.
“It’s really shaped out to where I’ve done a lot of the things I always hoped to do and to cover all the sports that I wanted to cover,” Amin said, which definitely includes his first Christmas NBA game. “I’m a lucky guy to be able to do that.”