LOS ANGELES – Chick Hearn, who made phrases like ”slam dunk” and ”air ball” common basketball expressions during his 42-year broadcasting career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died Monday night. He was 85.
Hearn, the only play-by-play announcer the Los Angeles Lakers ever had, died at 6:30 p.m. at Northridge Medical Center Hospital, team spokesman Bob Steiner told a grim-faced news conference outside the hospital.
Hearn was taken to the hospital Friday night after falling and striking his head in the back yard of the Encino home he shared with his wife, Marge. The two would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on Aug. 13.
Surgeons operated twice on Saturday to relieve swelling in his brain, but he never regained consciousness.
”Chick, we’ll miss you dearly, Quite simply, you’re the best,” said Mitch Kupchak, the team’s general manager and a former player, his voice breaking.
About 100 fans gathered outside the hospital, and many broke into tears when they heard Hearn had died.
”The city of Los Angeles has lost an incredible icon,” said former Lakers star Jerry West, now the Memphis Grizzlies president of basketball operations. ”For all of the years he’s been around as the voice of the Lakers, he helped capture so many special moments for fans everywhere.
”He was a real joy to be around as a person. He certainly helped me appear to be bigger than life. More importantly, he was a true, great friend. I will miss him.”