We’ve all grown up with Marv Albert in our living rooms. But for Kenny Albert, it takes on the literal meaning. The younger Albert was born just as the elder Albert was attaining popularity in New York as a sportscaster.
Kenny arrived in February 1968, just weeks before the new Madison Square Garden opened–a place his dad would call his second home for more than 30 years. Two years after Kenny’s birth, Marv had his coming out party when the Knicks were on the run to their first championship. He would be at the mic providing the radio description of the exhilarating season.
While Marv is recognized as a legendary sportscaster, for Kenny, and his three siblings, he’s just dad. From his earliest age, Kenny recalls tagging along to the Garden as his father would prepare to call a Rangers or Knicks game.
“That was normal. That was what I grew up with,” Albert tells FishbowlNY. “I thought it was strange that people actually had dinner with their father, and going out with their parents every night. Because with us, it was more of a scramble.”
That dinnertime scramble was due to Marv’s commitment most nights at MSG and 30 Rock. By the mid 1970s, Albert was the main sports anchor on WNBC/Channel 4. Albert, 70, has maintained a breakneck pace to this day.
One way that the Alberts remained close without the standard dinner fare was with Marv bringing Kenny “to the office.” Occasionally the younger Albert would accompany his dad on short road games to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. One such trip, between the Rangers and Capitals, became a special birthday present for a six-year-old Kenny.
“It turned out the game got delayed about three hours because there was a problem with the ice,” Albert recalls. “The next day there was a big snowstorm back home, so we had to take the train home…We did a little bit of sightseeing. We took some pictures outside the White House, [and] some of the other normal stuff that you do in Washington.”
A year earlier, when Kenny reached five, the foundation was being laid toward his eventual lifelong dream.
“I got a tape recorder for my birthday and would set up my room like a TV or radio studio,” Albert says. “I would have the desk and the bed in between, and the TV on the other side. I would do games off the TV… It was really all that I ever wanted to do…It was just something that I loved.”
Kenny says his dad never discouraged the idea of his following in the “family business.” But adds that he never “wanted to make it seem like he was stirring me in one direction.” Albert, 44, says he was supported to do whatever he chose by his father and mom (Benita).
Once he chose his future, Kenny says he wanted to earn any sportscasting job on merit, not nepotism. He wouldn’t seek help from his dad starting out.
“No, not at all. I would have never asked him to do that,” Albert says. “I did that all on my own. I never wanted any favors like that.”
Therefore, a proud Kenny landed his first gig–the radio call of the minor league Baltimore Skipjacks.
By 1994, Marv’s son in the broadcast booth landing him with the first taste of the limelight. He has been a mainstay on Fox’s NFL coverage, as the number two announcing team with Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa. When Fox wrestled the NFC package from CBS, Fox sought a combination of veteran on-air personalities with lesser known names. Albert was in the latter category.
“I was one of the five or six, who were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” Albert remembers.
Albert is also part of the Fox’s Saturday Baseball Game of the Week coverage.
For all of Marv’s many accolades and achievements, Kenny has one-upped his iconic father. He is currently the only sportscaster in the country actively doing play-by-play for the four major leagues. Along with his Fox duties, he is a regular MSG Network voice. The torched passed directly from father to son as Kenny took over for Marv on the Rangers radio side after the 1994-1995 season. Albert also echoes dad’s famous pipes as back-up Knicks radio announcer.
Later, Albert loved the opportunity to work side-by-side with Marv as his stats and research man. Even when Kenny was already on his own professionally, he didn’t miss one more chance to join Marv for the 1992 Olympics Dream Team in Barcelona.
Of course, Kenny didn’t only have a famous dad. His uncles caught the sportscasting fever as well. Steve called NBA games for several teams, including the Nets. Like his older brother, he had a local news presence anchoring nightly sports on WOR/Channel 9. Al also went the NBA path, but he was most associated with his Showtime boxing assignments. Growing up, Kenny cherished those occasions when the family broke bread together.
“When I think back, it was like the first All-Sports radio station, Albert laughs. “Because there was just so much conversation going on involving the various teams, networks, and channels they were working for. It was always fun for me.”
Although the norm, it was fun for Kenny to have such a beloved father among fans for decades. Marv transcended any sport he called, becoming more popular than many of the players he mentioned on radio and TV. Kenny says, typically, the introverted Marv would leave the Garden to autograph seekers or want to chat about the game.
Kenny’s sister Denise has worked at NBA TV and remains active in broadcasting.
As for the next generation of the Albert legacy, Kenny is married with two young daughters.
Albert, whether talking casually or emphatically calling a play on the air, effortlessly mixes his own style with his best “Marv Albert” impression. But evaluating himself versus the elder statesman of sportscasters, Kenny is diplomatic.
“People generally think of him as one of the best all-time as far as basketball, and even hockey,” Albert says about his dad. “I’ll leave that up to others.”
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