LOS ANGELES -- Chick Hearn, the legendary broadcaster who provided the lively soundtrack to more than four decades of Los Angeles Laker basketball, inventing a new vocabulary along the way, died Monday. He was 85.
Hearn died about 6:30 p.m. at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where he was admitted Friday night after falling at his home. He underwent two craniotomies to control brain hemorrhaging Saturday but never regained consciousness.
Hearn, who was instrumental in introducing professional basketball to Southern California sports fans when the Lakers moved west from Minneapolis in 1960, broadcast 3,338 consecutive games in a streak that began in 1965 before suffering a series of medical setbacks that began late last year.
On April 9, Hearn returned to his familiar seat at Staples Center, calling the play-by-play during a 30-point Laker victory over the Utah Jazz. Though his voice sounded weak at the beginning of the broadcast, Hearn sounded more robust as the game progressed, clearly enjoying the appreciative applause from the fans and the opportunity to entertain local radio and television listeners with his unique "word's-eye view" once again.
"This is the happiest I've been since I married Marge!" he exclaimed on the air, referring to his wife of nearly 64 years. Half a beat later, he was quickly back to business: "Shaq down the middle -- BLOWS THE LAYUP!!!"
Hearn remained with the Lakers through the clinching of their third consecutive National Basketball Association championship in June. It was the Lakers' ninth league title since arriving in Los Angeles, and from Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, Hearn had provided the colorful narration for all of them.
He was the effervescent common link to every chapter in the team's Los Angeles history. His distinctive high-speed delivery -- so fast, Hearn often announced a player had scored while the shot was still in the air -- was perfectly suited to the Lakers' fast-breaking "Showtime" playing style.
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