Original Sonics broadcaster Bob Blackburn dies
Bob Blackburn, 85, was the original voice of the Sonics and broadcast the 1979 NBA championship.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bob Blackburn, the original voice of the Sonics, died Friday of pneumonia. He was 85.
"He had battled to come back from so much for over a year," said Blackburn's wife Pat. "We're lucky to have had him for as long as we did."
Blackburn was a one-man production when hired by the team in 1967, remaining with the organization until 1992. The highlight was the Sonics' 1979 championship victory against the Washington Bullets.
Kevin Calabro replaced Blackburn after he retired.
"Quality guy, just a great, great guy," Calabro announced on his ESPN 710 radio show. "A great broadcaster, without question."
The Sonics retired a microphone in Blackburn's honor and always had him participate in team reunions, giving him a commemorative leather jacket for the franchise's 40th anniversary and a championship ring.
A private memorial service will be Jan. 23. The family will hold a public service on Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Bellevue.
"We had a great life," said Pat, who met her husband in college at Fresno State. They renewed their vows on their 61st wedding anniversary last June.
"We had six children and they all kept stats for their Dad," she continued. "I even kept stats for a little bit. We still call Bob, 'Voice,' that's his nickname. In fact our license plate is 'Voice1.' The whole family loved every minute of it."
Blackburn continued his spirited life long after leaving the Sonics. He traveled the globe with his wife as tour directors for cruise lines and as auctioneers, and he continued to promote the Sonics via appearances.
The Issaquah resident even rallied with fans in Olympia, protesting the team's move to Oklahoma City in 2008.
"A lot of people call me a young 78 because I still get around and do some things," said Blackburn in 2002 before his trip to the Galapagos Islands. "It's a wonderful way to spend a retirement."
For 20 years, he was the Sonics' only voice.
He called the 1979 champions and the franchise's only "rainout" in 1987, when a leaky roof halted the Sonics' game against Phoenix.
Bill Olden, longtime scorekeeper for the Sonics and Storm, worked periodically for Blackburn on the road as a personal scorekeeper. Olden, an industrial salesman, remembered working by Blackburn's side and having Slick Watts approach them to check into a game.
"We laughed," Olden said, pointing Watts to the official scorekeeper. "Bob was a big help to me over the years. Golly, he'd been there as long as I have. I came the second year. He was a big, instrumental part for the Sonics for many, many years. It's sad to see that he's gone."
Blackburn started his broadcasting career in 1943 in Santa Ana, Calif. His breakthrough was broadcasting football and basketball games for Oregon State when the school created its own station in the 1950s.
He was inducted into the Washington and Oregon sports halls of fame.
Blackburn is survived by his wife, six children, 19 grandchildren and two great grandchildren, who reside in Texas, Colorado, California and Washington.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.