Jim Durham broadcast Illinois State basketball games from 1970 to 1973 before he was hired by the Chicago Bulls. (Photo courtesy GoRedbirds.com)
By Eric Stock
TOMBALL, Tex. - A legendary sports voice who got his start calling Illinois State basketball games has died.
Jim Durham died at his home near Houston on Sunday. He was 65. A cause of death wasn't announced.
Durham got his start at WJBC as a part-time announcer while still in college. He became the Voice of Illinois State basketball in 1970, where he chronicled Doug Collins' All-American career, before broadcasting Chicago Bulls games starting in 1973. At the time, he was the youngest play-by-play voice in the NBA.
He remained the Voice of the Bulls through the first of the Bulls' six consecutive NBA titles in 1991.
Durham had called NBA games on ESPN Radio since its inception 1996, working as recently as last Tuesday when he called the season opener between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
Durham also broadcast games for the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox.
Former WJBC Operations Manager Don Newberg said during Durham's start in radio, he initially shied away from play-by-play work.
"When we would talk to him about it, he always said, 'I don't think I could do that. I'm not sure I'm good enough to do that.' Well, I guess he was, wasn't he?," Newberg said.
Former WJBC News Director Steve Vogel was a news anchor during Durham's afternoon show in the early 1970s. Vogel said Durham never took himself too seriously.
"Jim claimed he could step outside the WJBC studios on a warm, spring day and by sniffing the air he claimed he would tell us whether we would have tornadoes that day. Something about the scent of magnolias in the air," Vogel said. "Never was sure if he was totally putting me on or not," Vogel said.
Durham was named the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year in 1979, 1989 and 1990, and won two Chicago Emmy awards.
Durham was named the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Media Award winner in 2011.
According to ESPN, Durham is survived by his wife, Helen, their three children, Patrick, Richard and Tracy and several grandchildren.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.