What makes March Madness one of the best sporting spectacles? Is it the David vs Goliath narrative that weaves itself onto millions of television screens as Cinderella teams take the national stage? Or is it when the impossible becomes reality and the March hoops entice the prospect of a game-ending buzzer beater? Or can it be the school spirit that drives fans into pandemonium for three weeks?
Cinderella runs, the long list of buzzer beaters, and the fans turn the annual event into a spectacle. But without CBS’s congenial announcer behind the mic, March Madness would not be the same extravaganza.
Jim Nantz has announced his retirement from calling March Madness games.
He is a broadcaster who has transported fans from their living room couches through the intoxicating madness that is the NCAA tournament. Nantz, who called his final National Championship game on Monday, will be missed from the sport, but his lasting legacy will span for generations. Nantz has called 32 Final Four games in his career, the most by any announcer. In an era of network-hopping broadcasters, nobody will have the stability and consistency to match Nantz.
Much like the Greek poet Homer and Maya Angelou, storytellers have the uncanny ability to shape the perception and attitudes of people, and Nantz is no different.
Since his first NCAA tournament game in 1986, a second-round clash between Duke and Old Dominion, Nantz has narrated the country through the heartbreaks and highlights of the tournament.
He told the story of the unthinkable when No.1 Virginia was upset in 2018 by UMBC, the first 16-seed in tournament history to do so. Nantz led the country through it with the simple line, “Shock and awe in college basketball.” He told the redemption story when Virginia, the following year, won the national title and capped the storybook ending with “Virginia with the all-time turnaround title.” He narrated the record-breakers when Florida became the seventh college to go back-to-back in 2007 and said, “As good as it gets, Florida’s the national champion.” He narrated the unthinkable in 2017 when Villanova won its second championship on a buzzer-beater courtesy of Kris Jenkins: “Give it to Jenkins for the championship, Villanova phenomenal, the National Champions!”
The list continues. Nantz has created an everlasting book of memories that gives people the chills. He has graced the sports community like the greatest storytellers of the world. And behind every great sports moment, there is a storyteller. For decades, Nantz has been that storyteller for every shock and awe March Madness has produced. He is synonymous with the tournament and the game.
As Nantz signed off for the final time on Monday, he left the audience with a heartfelt message: “One thing I learned from all of this is everybody has a dream, and everybody has a story to tell. Just try to find that story. But to you, everybody in the college game, our CBS family, my family, all the viewers: Thank you for being my friend.” Nantz showed how a storyteller can inspire the world by exploring the lives of those who dared to dream on the biggest stage.
Jim Nantz, thank you for being our friend.