Rod Hundley, who was a former NBA player and went on to become an announcer for the Utah Jazz, died on Friday afternoon at his home in the Phoenix area. Hundley was 80-years-old, and had struggled with Alzheimer’s disease at the time of his death.
The Utah Jazz announced Hot Rod’s death, which was appropriate considering he had worked for the organization for 35 years.
Hundley’s love of basketball started when he was a young man, showing off his skills on the court as a player for his high school team in Charleston, West Virginia. He averaged an astounding 30 points per game, and went on to break four state scoring records in only three short years. Rod was named as a high school All-American, and as a result was offered scholarships to some of the nation’s top universities.
Ultimately, West Virginia University would acquire the young stand-out, and during his time at WVU, the Mountaineers would make their first NCAA appearance in 1955. Hundley would go on to help the team make a total of two more NCAA appearances, and lead them to a number 4 ranking in 1956. In January of 2010, WVU retired Hundley’s jersey number 33, making him one of only two only players in the history of the school to receive that honor.
Hot Rod would take his career to the next level when he signed to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1957. He would play for the team until he retired a short six years later due to several knee problems. Hundley was only 28-years-old at the time of his retirement, but he left his mark by scoring a total of 3,625 points, 1,420 rebounds, and 1,455 assists.
After his retirement, Rod moved into the announcing booth for Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers before moving to New Orleans to join the Jazz organization in 1974. The Jazz played in New Orleans until 1979, then they made a move to Utah where they would find their permanent home. Hundley became a fan favorite over his 35 seasons with the team, with his famous sayings like “from the parking lot for a long-distance shot,” and “you gotta love it baby!”
The Jazz honored Hot Rod in 2010 by hanging a banner up in the rafters next to the retired numbers, and by also dedicating the announcers booth to him. ESPN reports that as part of the tribute, the Jazz redecorated the press booth in Hundley’s honor. Part of the decorations included photos from his career, some of his famous sayings blown up as quotes, and a large mural.
Jazz owner Gail Miller made a statement about Rod’s death to ESPN.
“The expressions he used throughout the game broadcasts are legendary. He had the unique ability to make the game come to life so that you felt as though you could see what was happening on the floor when listening to him call the games. Rod was a very special talent and will be missed by our family as well as Jazz fans everywhere. Our thoughts and condolences are with the Hundley family.”
[Photo courtesy of NBA]