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Bob Harris 2006

With time running out at the 1992 NCAA East Regional championship game, Duke basketball star Christian Laettner was not the only one who made history. Bob Harris’ description of Laettner’s buzzer-beating basket to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four has become one of the most famous broadcasting calls ever in intercollegiate athletics. The Duke-Kentucky overtime thriller was televised by CBS Sports, but it is Harris’ definitive radio call that usually accompanies the videotape in promos, advertisements, special features, documentaries and other broadcast reflections on the classic NCAA Tournament finish. A clip of Laettner’s shot at the Basketball Hall of Fame included Harris’ description, and it was once rated as the second most recognizable basketball call ever, behind Johnny Most’s “Havlicek stole the ball, Havlicek stole the ball” in a Boston Celtics game.

Harris entertained radio audiences as the play-by-play voice of the Duke Blue Devils for more than four decades. A native of Albemarle, he moved to Durham in 1975 to work for WDNC as a salesman. He also hosted a sports talk show and served as the color man for several Duke football games, before getting the opportunity to do his first play-by-play for the Blue Devils at the Big Four Tournament in January 1976. When veteran announcer Add Penfield was unable to make a trip to Maryland a few weeks later, Harris got the nod again. He was behind the microphone for virtually every football and basketball game through the 2016-17 basketball season.

Working from his “crow’s nest” perch overlooking the floor in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and from press boxes and courtside tables at arenas all over the country, Harris witnessed many of the signature moments in Duke history and brought them to life for his listeners. Final Fours, ACC championships, classic confrontations with archrivals, buzzer-beaters and blowouts, more than 100 NCAA Tournament games, several football bowl games — Harris has been on hand for it all, providing Duke fans with its team’s story every night, win or lose. His popularity among fans was such that many muted the audio on television broadcasts to listen to his account. When Duke fans hear “How sweet it is!” they don’t think of entertainer Jackie Gleason who made the phrase famous, but of Harris punctuating his call of a momentum three-pointer or dunk on the Duke Radio Network.

A three-time broadcaster of the year in North Carolina, Harris was influenced early by pioneers Penfield, Ray Reeve and Charlie Harville, as well as by Brooklyn Dodgers broadcasts that he could pick up on summer nights during his Albemarle youth. He followed the exploits of Hal Bradley’s Duke teams in the mid-1950s, UNC’s 1957 NCAA title team and Everett Case’s program at N.C. State, the school he attended in the early 1960s. He became a full-fledged Duke enthusiast when he began working for the radio team in 1975-76, and there hasn’t been anyone more loyal to the program in the 40+ years he’s been on the job.

Along with his game broadcasts, Harris hosted the weekly coaches’ television shows and conducted daily interview programs with the coaches for local and internet broadcast. And he has been extremely involved in community service, with countless celebrity appearances as well as behind-the-scenes work for a host of charitable causes.

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