Room For One More? Bulls' Funk Hopes To Experience Third Championship Season

Posted: June 11, 1993

Some broadcasters work an entire career without ever associating with a championship team or superstars.

Neil Funk is an exception.

In Funk's first season in Philadelphia after moving from Kansas City, the Sixers won the 1983 NBA title. Last season, his first with the Chicago Bulls, they won their second straight title.

During his years in Philadelphia and now in Chicago, Funk worked games with Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.

"How lucky can you get?" Funk said from Phoenix, where he is doing play- by-play for Chicago's WMAQ-AM during the NBA Finals. "It's been a strange ride, but an enjoyable one. Any time you get a chance to watch Michael Jordan for 100 games (each season), you count yourself lucky. He never ceases to amaze you."

Funk had no problem talking with Jordan during his two-week boycott of the media (team announcers usually are treated as part of the family). Jordan refused to do interviews until Wednesday night, when he spoke with NBC-TV's Ahmad Rashad at halftime of Game 1 of the finals.

"He probably would have been talking," Funk said, "except the book came out (saying Jordan has lost $1.2 million in golf wagers). Michael just simply feels that at this point he doesn't need to answer any questions about his private life.

"Even after he denied being in the (Atlantic City) casino until 2 a.m., the press wouldn't leave it alone. He just got tired of it."

Two Funk impressions after seeing Jordan play every day:

"I had heard how competitive he was, even in practice," Funk said. "This is my 17th year in the league and I can't remember a guy who practices just as hard as he plays every single day. This guy is unbelievable.

"(Second), his ability to concentrate, with everything that goes on around him, is just amazing. I don't think anybody, unless they actually travel with this team for a year, could appreciate all of the outside things that surround this team. It's like traveling with Michael Jackson, if not worse. When we arrive in Detroit on a Saturday night at 10:30 in a hotel out in the middle of nowhere and there's 700 people standing in the lobby just to look at him, it's amazing."

Funk expects Jordan and Barkley to operate in their spectacular fashions in the finals. Two keys in the series, in Funk's view, are how the Bulls defend Kevin Johnson and how the Suns handle Scottie Pippen. Off the first game, the Bulls were more effective: Johnson was held to 11 points, Pippen poured in 27.

Funk's switch from the Sixers to the Bulls was odd in that broadcasters

rarely go from television play-by-play to radio unless it's a demotion. Funk is critical of the way PRISM, SportsChannel Philadelphia and Channel 17 handled the Sixers' announcing twosomes. Funk and Steve Mix were one TV team, with the late Jim Barniak and Jack Ramsay working Sixers games on cable.

"They should have had the same (two) guys, especially on television, no matter what the outlet was," Funk said. "They would be the 'Sixers guys.' There just weren't enough (Sixers) games (for him) the way they had it divided up."

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