7 Great Basketball Play-by-Play Tips

Basketball play-by-play isn’t rocket science. Broadcasting the sport is often easier than playing it.

With these seven simple tips, providing all-star caliber basketball play-by-play will be even easier.

1. Time and Score

New listeners don’t want to wait. Give it at least every 90 seconds. Pick an end of the floor and give the time and score every time the ball goes to that end. Or do it every time your team takes possession.

2. Pinpoint the Ball

Where exactly is the ball? It isn’t enough to say “Smith on the perimeter.” Instead, tell me, “Smith on the left wing or 15 feet out on the left baseline.” Use the markings on the court as reference points. You know the free throw line is 15 feet from the bucket and the three-point line is roughly 20 feet out (in high school and college).

It’s always surprising to me how often folks fail to even tell me if the ball is on the left or the right side of the hoop.

3. Description

This includes relevant action, movements, behaviors, sights, sounds, smells & emotions of players, coaches, fans and atmosphere.

4. Why does this matter?

This turns your broadcast into a story. Explain what’s at stake in this game, this moment, this possession, this play. Think of Why Does This Matter as the plots and sub-plots of your play-by-play story. To that, you need to add character development, which brings us to…

5. Who is important?

It develops the characters (teams, players & coaches) in your story. Instead of “Smith with the ball on the right perimeter,” say “Smith, the Cougars leading three-point shooter, with the ball on the right perimeter.” Or, “Jones, the All-Conference guard, directing traffic at the point.”

If you take away nothing else from this blog, remember to tell your listener a story, and not provide them with only a simple narrative.

6. Recap

People are constantly tuning in and out of your broadcast. Tell new listeners how the game got to this point. Do it every five to seven minutes and keep it brief. Ex: “The Celtics trailed by eight early but lead now 56-43 midway through the third.” Or, “Jones with 18, Jefferson High on top of Centennial 61-58 with three minutes to go.”

7. Use your voice as an instrument

Match your pacing to the speed of the action. Use inflections and pauses for emphasis and dramatic effect. Be appropriately energetic & excited but never scream.

This is the toughest component of basketball play-by-play to master because it comes only with experience. Still, if you are aware of it, you’ll expedite your development.

These are all easy-to-implement suggestions. Do it and see your basketball play-by-play take a big step forward! These suggestions are also outlined in the STAA Play-by-Play Pyramid. Download your copy here.

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