It’s been quite a few months for Kevin Harlan.
Harlan’s voice has become synonymous with playoff basketball, whether it’s March Madness or the NBA Playoffs. And with that, the voice of the NBA on TNT has leaned into his role as the soundtrack for some of the sport’s biggest games and plays. But perhaps none bigger, at least this season, than calling Derrick White’s last-second buzzer-beater over the weekend.
White’s improbable tip-in helped the Boston Celtics force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. And for a moment, it appeared as if the Miami Heat had punched their ticket to the NBA Finals. But, not for Harlan, who stuck with the moment amidst the chaos.
Harlan detailed what was going through his head as he called White’s buzzer-beater. He recently spoke with The Athletic‘s Richard Deitisch and said that even though there was a lot going on, he tried to slow down the moment that White clinched the win for the Celtics. And it seemingly paid off.
“I’ve learned in my career to rarely trust my eyes and always trust the outcome. In other words, a shot that may look good isn’t, and a shot that doesn’t look great might be,” Harlan told The Athletic. “So the first thing you do with the horn and light is look for a reaction. I try to locate the official to see if he’s called it good. None of the three officials called it good. Because it was so close, I called what I saw. The putback is up after the missed shot by (Marcus) Smart. Buzzer sounded. Light is on. Play will definitely be reviewed, and then the pictures kind of took over. Stan (Van Gundy) came in and thought that it was not (good), and my role is not to combat that. My role is just to continue to watch the officials.”
And that’s what Harlan did. His play-by-play of the whole ordeal caused both Celtics and Heat fans to double-check what they were seeing. While both sets of fans may have thought they won the game, Harlan kept his poise.
“You are certainly susceptible there and pretty exposed,” Harlan continued. “I guess I trusted my instincts. I think every other broadcaster would have probably done the same. Some may have lunged a little bit in one direction or the other, but I just called what I saw. I have learned on split-second, tenth-of-a-second plays like that, guessing is going to be the wrong way to go. I try to use discipline as opposed to emotion. Sure, it would have been great to let one rip and call that historic make, but that would have been the wrong call. If I had called it one way and it would have gone the other way, that wrong call stands out. It would have been an injustice to Miami if the play was no good because they are going to the NBA Finals. So I kind of felt like being disciplined was the better way to go.”
Trusting his instincts is what got him this far. And it’s why he’ll be on the call for Monday night’s series-deciding game.