Basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

Packer worked as an analyst or commentator of color for each of the Finals from 1975 to 2008.

CHARLOTTE, NC – Billy Packer, the Emmy-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Finals for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82 years old.

Packer’s son, Marktold the Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical problems, and eventually died of kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the rise of college basketball. He worked as an analyst or commentator of color for each of the Finals from 1975 to 2008.

Mark Packer said: “He really enjoyed doing the Finals. “He made an appointment at the right time. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to participate in something that, frankly, he would watch anyway, is a joy to him. And then college basketball almost started with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and I think that became the catalyst that sent college basketball fans into a frenzy with March Madness.

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that earned him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first quarterfinal in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the final that year in John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the announcement team in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in the title game. That game remains the highest-rated game in basketball history with a rating of 21.1 Nielsen, estimated to be watched by 35.1 million people.

Packer came to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s principal analyst until the 2008 Finals.

Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports, said Packer is “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and sets the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball League.”

“He has had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy style, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinion, but always focused on the game. Although passionate about basketball, at heart, Billy is a family man. He left part of his legacy at CBS Sports, through college basketball, and most importantly, as a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. He will miss everyone very much.

Packer was inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Packer was considered a controversial figure during his broadcast days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, especially on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“When I was a kid, I was a huge NC State fan when growing up, I would watch a game and the next day I would say, ‘You’re definitely going to play for NC State, aren’t you? ‘ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer says it doesn’t matter what school he went to – most fans feel the same way about his father.

“He would cover the game in North Carolina and the Tar Heels fans would say, ‘you hate North Carolina,’” Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans will say, ‘you hate us.’ And Billy almost took a hit from there. I mean, people will love him. But he honestly doesn’t talk nonsense.” Basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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