The Weird Stuff That Happens When You're An NBA 2K Commentator

Photo:  Minas Panagiotakis | Getty
Photo: Minas Panagiotakis | Getty

NBA broadcaster Kevin Harlan should be famous for his work on actual live basketball games. Turns out for a lot of people he’s known as being the only voice they ever hear coming out of a video game.


Harlan sat down with the Just Not Sports podcast the other day to talk about his decade’s worth of appearances in the NBA 2K basketball series, and how this has led to some strange interactions with fans, players and even members of his own family.

“We’ve got the youngest of our four (kids), he’s now in college, but he played a lot when he was younger”, Harlan says. “But he would purposefully turn down the sound because ‘I get too much of my dad,’ he would say, ‘just around the house, let alone now I got to hear him in a game when I want to kind of mellow out a little bit and have some fun.’”

Course, everyone else’s household leaves the commentary running. “I cannot tell you how many people I come in contact with, dads and moms, who will say, ‘Gosh, we hear your voice all the time in our house.’ And I go, well, that’s nice to say, thinking they watched a CBS or TNT game. And they’ll go, ‘No no no, with the 2K game, my son or daughter play this 2K game, like all we do is hear you screaming in the basement.’”

The most interesting thing he talks about, though, is how he and the other commentators come up with things for the video game end up being re-used in actual NBA broadcasts. “I keep a notepad by me when we’re taping, because Brent Barry, or Greg, or Clark, or Steve Smith, or Chris, or Doris, they say stuff that I keep and use in real broadcasts”, he says. “It’s not just, like, stuff coming out that’s like pre-destined to be down this road. They say whatever they say. There’s a topic that’s thrown out, and we go at it and mix it with the game that we’re calling and seeing on the screen, they say some real, good, thought-provoking stuff.”

Oh, and anyone wondering what he thinks of the game itself might be disappointed to hear that, despite the length of his tenure working with 2K on recording lines for the series, he’s never played it. “Well, I have never played the game”, Harlan says. “In fact, I have seen very, very little.”

“Couple times I’ve sat down [with my son] and watched him play through the years. I’m so amazed at what is going on, and know what’s going on. I’m very aware of what is happening technology-wise, editing-wise, content-wise, editorially.”


“But I’ve not really sat down, and I wouldn’t know how to play the game with the gizmo.”

You can catch the entire podcast here.


Luke Plunkett

“I wouldn’t know how to play the game with the gizmo” is just beautiful.