The news that ESPN Radio announcer Jim Durham, 65, had died Sunday at his home in Tomball, Texas, hit Thunder radio announcer Matt Pinto hard.
Pinto worked with Durham for three seasons on the Dallas Mavericks broadcasting team in the mid-1990s, and their friendship was why the Thunder used Durham to fill in for Pinto for a couple of games in November 2008 when Pinto's wife had a baby.
“He was one of the gold-standard broadcasters,” Pinto said Monday. “I was pretty blessed and felt very honored to cross his path and work with him.
“He was a really quality person that had no airs about who he was or what he did. He always seem to have time for people in the industry to share whatever insights and knowledge he had about the game. His style was very simplistic, very straight forward. He had intonation in his calls that all of us learned from.”
Pinto replaced Durham as the Mavericks TV voice when he moved to ESPN Radio in 1996. His last assignment for ESPN was Tuesday's season opener between Boston and Miami. The cause of his death was not announced.
Pinto said he didn't know that Durham had been ill. “I knew he had some heart issues in the past,” he said. “In fact, the season I transitioned from radio to TV in Dallas was because he had missed some time due to heart surgery.”
A Chicago native, Durham broadcast Bulls games from 1973-91, including the first seven seasons of Michael Jordan's tenure with the team, and delivered several classic calls. “The voice of champions,” Jordan texted to ESPNChicago.com's Melissa Isaacson. “I will miss him.”
In 2011, Durham received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. He also served as a baseball broadcaster with the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.