Steve Albert is retiring after 45 years in the broadcast booth. He covered numerous sports, including boxing and basketball, and most recently served as play-by-play voice for the Phoenix Suns for five seasons.
“It was a great way to wrap up the career,” Albert said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I’m so happy it closed out on a positive note. This was not an easy decision for me to step away, but I just felt it was the right time. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, and it’s a bit of a shock to the system, particularly after devoting basically my entire life to the profession. It’s somewhat bittersweet. I’m going to miss calling the games and I’m going to miss all the camaraderie and hanging out with all the great people in the league. But the travel lifestyle was the major factor in the decision. But I really had a blast being here for the last five years. The team had its ups and downs, mostly downs. Never made the playoffs in my time here. I didn’t take that personally, but there were some really fun moments.”
Albert also spent a large chunk of his career in boxing, calling some of the most high-profile fights for almost a quarter of a century.
“It was very interesting,” Albert said of his boxing gig. “So many highlights, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I did Showtime Boxing for 23, 24 years, and worked with some unbelievable guys. Doing the Mike Tyson fights and the Holyfield fights – I think The Bite Fight stands out the most, when Tyson took a chunk of Holyfield’s ear. It’s still unbelievable to think about what happened that night. To be ringside, to call that ghoulish event, is still confounding to me. I thought, ‘From now on, I’m going to have to wear a football helmet every time I do a Tyson fight.”
Albert recalls going to his hotel that 1996 night in Las Vegas and slumping onto his bed.
“It was so deafening in the arena that night, so wild and frenetic after what had happened, after what we had experienced,” he said. “I remember just staring into oblivion, still wearing my tux, just dropped my briefcase, and I said to myself, ‘This is absurd. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t call a fight where a guy is a cannibal and bites a guy’s ear off.’ I said, ‘This is it. I got to check out.’ And 14 years later, I finally did.”
Albert said there’s one key difference between covering boxing and basketball: the blood.
“The major difference between doing the boxing and the basketball was I didn’t have to cover up any of my drinks or coffee for blood when I was doing basketball,” he said. “The first thing you do when you sit down, you get there a few hours before each fight and the place is empty, and you take all your drinks and you line them up in front of your notes and you put index cards on top of the cups, on top of the drinks, to cover up the blood. The next day I’d come home from wherever – Vegas, England, Mexico – and I’d bring my clothes into the cleaners in New York and the cleaner would say, ‘What the heck happened to you? Did you get into a fight? Were you in a knife fight?’ There was blood all over my clothes – and it wasn’t from me cutting myself from shaving. It was from the fighters. That was one nice thing with basketball I didn’t have to worry about.”