‘Roundball Rock,’ Beloved NBA Theme Song, Will Return On Fox Sports

Written by John Tesh, and being synonymous with NBA on NBC in the 1990s, the song will return to college basketball games.

John Tesh performs with vigor.
Gene Blevins / Getty Images

Written by John Tesh, and being synonymous with NBA on NBC in the 1990s, the song will return to college basketball games.

“Roundball Rock” is the theme song, written by John Tesh, that’s long been associated with the era when NBA games were broadcast on NBC. This was a period of time that featured Michael Jordan’s run as the most dominant player in the league. The song was used by NBC from 1990 through 2002, when the NBA rights package was obtained by ABC and ESPN.

NBC has used the song occasionally after that, mostly when it covered basketball games during the Olympics — and the broadcaster played a snippet of it during an NFL game last season. Tesh, for his part, has continued to perform the song in concert. But now, “Roundball Rock” is returning to broadcasts of live basketball games.

USA Today’s For The Win reported Friday that “Roundball Rock” is being revived by Fox Sports for its broadcasts of college basketball games. The song will be used on “select” games, starting with a triple header of games this weekend. There’s no word on what type of deal Fox made with Tesh, or with NBC, for the rights to the music.

The song was written and released in 1990, when the melody came to Tesh — and he got on the phone, and sang the song into his answering machine. “Roundball Rock” was part of the soundtrack to all six of Michael Jordan’s NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, continuing into the era of the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Lakers teams — who won three titles in that period.

Rapper Nelly sampled “Roundball Rock” in 2004 for his song “Heart of a Champion.” The song was also used as the basis for a Saturday Night Live sketch in 2013, which set silly lyrics to the instrumental tune. Jason Sudeikis played Tesh in the sketch, along with his fictitious brother, “Dave.”

Tesh has been known to tell the answering machine story — and even use his original answering machine tape — in live performances of the song.

Tesh, best known at the time as the co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight, launched a musical career in the late 1980s as a New Age musician. With some help from his friend Yanni, he later struck out on his own as a solo performer and composer. In addition to his music, Tesh hosts a radio show called Intelligence for Your Life, and “Roundball Rock” is used as the theme song for the show.

The theme song currently used by NBC for Sunday Night Football was written by decorated film composer John Williams.