Someone got smart and put Gus Johnson on NBA playoff games


Gus Johnson

Gus Johnson
photo: Getty Images

Imagine trying to run a necessary errand before the start of the first playoff game on Monday. It’s the only time you have during the day to complete this task. They scramble, get it done and go home safely, but also aim to get home and see as much of the first game as possible. Then you click on TNT and you will be greeted by a familiar voice. That can not be! But it is so. Gus Johnson names an NBA playoff game. And after hearing that first “Rise and Fire,” it’s like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is all on one channel again.

Throughout the broadcaster renaissance of 2022, Johnson has been left out. Sure, he’s the voice of Big Ten Football on Fox, which is likely to continue as Fox ramps up its media rights again approval with the network and increasing its Property of the Big Ten network. Johnson also does NFL games for Fox, but Joe Buck’s role as the No. 1 play-by-play announcer is being filled by Kevin Burkhardt.

The voice of Big Ten football along with NFL assignments, while significant, still feels a bit small for a broadcaster as popular as Johnson. We love the Collinsworth slide, Romo getting totally footbally in the coolest way, and making memes about Mike Breen’s bang calls, but let Iowa come back from a 10-point deficit on a Saturday afternoon in October. People will be tuning in to see how it ends, but almost as much, if not more, for Johnson’s reactions to the game’s ending. The infamous Gus-gasim.

The enthusiasm makes him great for collegiate sports, but there’s another extremely exciting game that suits his broadcasting style perfectly, basketball – specifically the NBA playoffs. The opening weekend was thrill-packed, so why not let us tell one of the world’s most excited people about the game’s story as it unfolds. He was paired with Greg Anthony on TNT for the Philadelphia 76ers’ 112-97 win over the Toronto Raptors.

It was an unfortunate game to introduce Johnson to the world of the NBA playoffs. The Raptors were without star rookie forward Scottie Barnes in Philadelphia. Johnson came out of the gates firing. With the game tied at 22-all in the fourth quarter, Johnson dropped “22 twos, as Jay-Z would say.” Man has never called an NBA playoff game, and apart from a few occasional Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks games, the NBA doesn’t work at all. Still, he’s comfortable enough in a new environment and with a new broadcast partner to release a timely hint at a monster deep cut of Jay-Z’s debut album.

The NBA knew what they were doing by putting Johnson on a show. His social media team even compiled highlights of Johnson’s best calls of the game. A good cut, but they arguably missed the best moment as he reacted to Monty McCutchen’s three-piece look with the dark vest and beige jacket with matching polka dot bow tie (you’ll have to coordinate.) Once Johnson saw it, he could care less about it, whether or not Tobias Harris should be charged. This man is from Detroit, and there’s no way he’d move on without acknowledging that outfit. I just wish he’d said, “Monty, all we have to do is get you some buffs and you’re good for Saturday night.”

But you see, that’s what makes Johnson great. Not only his screaming or the games he names have a supernatural tendency towards exciting and amazing moments. It’s the little things that make him stand out, whether it’s an outfit or an opportunity to reference a deep album cut, Johnson looks for everything to create a better experience for the viewer.

His next playoff gig will be Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls Game 2. With three playoff games each night you can have confidence and believe that every game Johnson calls will be the game featured on my TV. I just need him to get a playoff buzzer-beater — preferably one that sends a team home, but beggars can’t be picky — just a gus-gasm as Tyrese Maxey, Zach Lavine, or someone drilling a jumper , while time is running out to get the slipper still fits,” energy from Johnson — and now that he’s doing NBA games at Turner, NCAA Men’s Tournament next year, let’s go folks make it work.

Because while Johnson makes Minnesota and Ohio State feel like a national championship, imagine him calling the Western Conference Finals Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors.

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