Hall of Fame broadcaster Gary Bender, who has spent nearly two decades as the voice of Phoenix Suns local home game telecasts, will make 2010-11 his final season behind the microphone and retire from broadcasting.
Bender, whose first broadcasting opportunity came at a 1,000-watt radio station in Hutchinson, Kan., in 1964, will see his illustrious career come full circle as he returns to his Midwest roots to serve as a consultant to the Kansas University Alumni Association and the school’s Endowment Association. In his new role, Bender will advise both organizations on communications, programs, and events, and also serve as keynote speaker at awards programs.
“Gary defines the word ‘professional’ in the broadcasting industry,” said Suns President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Welts. “His class, talent and character have combined to give Suns fans 18 years of great memories and unforgettable moments lived through his words. He is part of our family, and the team and all Suns fans say ‘thank you’ for a job incredibly well done.”
Over more than five decades in the industry, Bender’s voice has provided the track for some of sports’ most indelible moments. As the longtime voice of the Final Four on CBS, Bender called two of the most famous finishes in the history of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. He was courtside in 1982 for Michael Jordan’s game-winner that lifted North Carolina over Georgetown in the title game, and in 1983 for North Carolina State’s improbable championship-clinching win over Houston on Lorenzo Charles’ dunk as time expired. And it was Bender who described the heart-wrenching race of speed skater Dan Jansen at the 1988 Winter Olympics on the day of his sister’s passing.
One of the most recognizable voices in sports broadcasting, Bender’s radio and television career spans 27 sports, three major networks, and some of the most storied franchises and institutions in sports. He has served as the voice of the University of Kansas, the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, and Phoenix Cardinals. Bender’s time with CBS, ABC and Turner Sports saw him broadcast not only the Olympic Games and Final Four, but also the Masters Golf Tournament, Sunday Night Football, and national NBA and Major League Baseball telecasts.
A 1962 graduate of Wichita State, Bender earned a master’s in television/film from the University of Kansas. He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Phi Delta Theta Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Bender joined the Suns family in 1993 for what he expected to be a brief stint; now in his 18th season handling play-by-play duties, he has broadcast more than 700 Suns games. The Suns will honor Bender during the club’s April 11 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at US Airways Center.
Bender is the author of Call of the Game: What Really Happens in the Broadcast Booth, and is currently working on a second book about his life in sports.