2019-20 represents Neil Funk's final season as Bulls play-by-play broadcaster


Neil Funk likes being the center of attention about as much as he likes calling a Bulls’ loss.

So Wednesday, as the accolades and well wishes poured in with news of his retirement following the 2019-20 season, proved difficult for him.

Funk just likes to do his work and go home. It’s that professionalism, not to mention his calls forever being linked to the Bulls’ glory years, that elicited such a heartfelt response from so many.

“Not only has Neil called games for some of the NBA’s greatest players, but he has had a career that makes him one of the NBA’s most trusted broadcasters of all-time,” Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “We thank Neil for his contributions that have consistently made our broadcasts among the best in the league, and wish him and his family the very best.”

Yes, this season really will be “Kaboom!” for Funk, who turns 73 in December.

The longtime play-by-play voice of the Bulls who often worked that signature phrase into his broadcasts, Funk will call a reduced workload for the second straight season. It’s his 29th with the Bulls, for whom he called five of the six championship seasons, and he first entered the NBA calling Julius Erving’s games for the 1976-77 Philadelphia 76ers.

“Emotionally, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” Funk said in a phone interview. “But I know I can see the finish line. I’ve done this so long. It’s such a big part of my life. And all of a sudden, it’s not going to be. As I get close to the end, I’ll have stronger emotions about ending this.”

Funk said the plan is to call all preseason and 52 of the 82 regular-season games, plus playoffs if the Bulls qualify. He’ll work 41 home and 11 road games alongside analyst Stacey King on NBC Sports Chicago, which is the exclusive home of the Bulls.

The Bulls will release the substitute announcer schedule for the games Funk misses at a later day.

“I was cleaning up some stuff and looking at analysts that I’ve worked with and thinking about the 3,400-plus regular-season games and 200-plus postseason games,” Funk said. “I’m thinking about all the guys that was doing this when I started---Chick Hearn with the Lakers, Johnny Most with the Celtics, Al McCoy with the Suns, Ralph Lawler with the Clippers. And everybody’s gone but Al, and he’s doing a reduced schedule this year. I said, ‘My gosh, how long have I been doing this?’”

After growing up in Indianapolis and graduating from Syracuse University, Funk called University of Illinois football and basketball games in 1971 and moved to the Kansas City Kings in between his two stints with the 76ers. He called the 76ers’ title season in 1982-83 and also spent three seasons calling New Jersey Nets games.

But after replacing Jim Durham as the radio voice for the 1991-92 season and later succeeding Wayne Larrivee on TV in 2008-09, he forever will be linked to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls.

“That’s the one thing I’ll always be able to cherish,” Funk said. “When I was cleaning out some stuff recently, I came across some old CDs put out by Time-Life with some of the NBA’s greatest calls in history. And it had Michael’s shot in Utah (in 1998) on there. I was lucky enough to be part of such history.”

“There’s some nostalgia,” Funk said. “But my health is good. And it had just been long enough. It was just time. There are some things I want to do with my wife. I’ll get a chance to see my grandkids, who are almost grown now. There are things we can do as a family that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do.

“And while I still enjoyed the games, it’s all the stuff around the games that I didn’t enjoy anymore.”

The Bulls said they plan to celebrate Funk throughout the season with in-game and on-air features.

“Whether listening to the radio or watching on TV, Bulls fans have always been able to count on Neil and his signature phrases to capture the excitement of the Chicago Stadium, the United Center, and any road arena,” Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate everything that he has done for the team and look forward to celebrating his accomplishments during his final season.” 

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