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Ian Eagle on 25 years of covering the Nets and how it’s molded his life

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NBA Store Hosts Celebrity Panel Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

It started with a dream - both literally and figuratively - and it turned into a reality.

Ian Eagle, the legendary voice of the Brooklyn Nets, will be honored during Thursday’s game against the Trail Blazers, as he celebrates 25 years of calling Nets games in New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Eagle, who turned 50 years old last week, reflected on the time with Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com.

In the piece, Dowd hits on several topics with Eagle — his career, his family, his famous co-workers, among the many topics.

Dowd writes how in the spring of 1994, Eagle had a dream that he was calling a Nets game in New Jersey, with his father in the stands. Four months later, there was an opening with the team radio and Eagle landed the job 10 days after dropping off a fresh new tape.

“I look back on it now, if I didn’t get that job, I don’t know what else I’d be doing,” said Eagle. “It provided a platform as a play-by-play announcer, that I’m not sure where I would have gotten the opportunity. Maybe it would have popped up, but there was no guarantee. I was on the talk show track.”

Dowd discusses how Eagle found a family in his co-workers, namely Bill Raftery, Mike O’Koren and Jim Spanarkel. But even more important — Eagle’s actual family grew by a sum of one a mere year before landing his dream gig. His son, Noah, following in his footsteps, both as a broadcaster and a student at Syracuse.

“He’s a true-blue Net fan,” said Eagle. “This is all he has ever known. He was born in 1995. He was at the playoffs during the ‘01, ‘02 run, so some of his earliest sports memories are that team. It made a big impression on him. I think basketball is his go-to sport because of the Nets and the experiences he had as a fan growing up and shaping him into the sports enthusiast that he is. That’s a big part of his life and my family’s life. I’ve been married now, this will be 26 years, and I’ve been doing this job for 25 years. The two are connected in some way.”

Then, he touched on the Jason Kidd days... The “glory days.”

“That team was a play-by-play man’s dream,” said Eagle. “Every night you’d show up and there was the chance that something that you’d never seen before would happen on the court, and it was up to you to come up with a creative way to describe it and find a combination of words that worked in the moment. And it challenged me as a broadcaster. I think it made me better. You had to be. You had to match the level of the play on the court and I feel with this year’s team as well. It’s raised the bar, and that’s all you ask for as a broadcaster. I don’t want to get caught into the same hackneyed descriptions or calls. I try to be creative. It’s whatever happens in the moment. That’s how I attack it. But when you have excitement on the court, it’s lends itself to taking some risks and finding fresh ways to do your job.”

Although the current team may not have the same success as that 2001-2002 Kidd team, Ian likes what he’s seeing. We’ll take his word.

“This team is so easy to root for, this current group,” said Eagle. “They play hard. They play an entertaining style. The broadcasts do themselves in certain ways. Kenny Atkinson has developed quickly as a head coach. You could tell how much it means to him, and that permeates around his team. It’s not hard telling stories when the players are likable, and this particular team is very affable.

And finally, he talks about the nature of covering sports in New York. To keep it simple: He always keeps it real. If you watch the Nets — or any game Ian covers — you don’t need me to tell you that.

“For me, I really try to find the positives in every team that I’ve covered. You can’t mislead the audience. We’re in New York. These are sophisticated basketball fans. They figure it out. Their eyes will indicate the truth to that. I’ve always looked at it that way. I feel like you’ve got to have credibility to do this job, and you pick and choose your spots. But when a team is easy to root for like this one, it’s not that challenging to get on the air and do these games.”

Thursday is going to be a night filled with good memories, and really just a day to give credit where credit is due. Ian Eagle is as good as they come, both as a worker and as a person. The many Emmy’s he’s received as a broadcaster can’t signify the type of person he is and the impact he’s had on watching Nets games over the past 25 years.

He deserves this moment.