Ian Eagle Discusses Overcoming Obstacles During Standout 2020 Performance

Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel
Ian Eagle. | Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Ian Eagle has the perfect solution for those of you who still mispronounce his first name. Just think Brian, without the B or the R.

"This is what I have to explain to people all the time," Eagle said with a laugh.

Complex problem, meet simple solution, explained in a clear, entertaining fashion. That's Ian Eagle, play-by-play announcer, to his core.

Despite facing several challenges as an announcer this year, including working with new analysts during the NBA and NFL seasons and because of COVID restrictions, Eagle enjoyed another stellar year doing play-by-play in 2020. Whether he was calling Kyler Murray's hail mary to DeAndre Hopkins for CBS or Damian Lillard's epic run during the NBA bubble restart on TNT, or Nets games on YES, or college basketball games, Eagle brought his trademark unique diction and interesting insight to every game he covered. That's why he was named The Big Lead Play-by-Play Announcer of the Year for 2020.

"I think for any play-by-play announcer this year has been ridiculously unique and it's forced you to BYOJ -- bring your own juice," Eagle told The Big Lead. "Normally at a sporting event the stimuli can trigger the energy level, the emotion, and there is very little of that this year. I think most announcers have tried to figure out where is their range, how can they best be the conduit for the event that they’re covering, whether they’re on-site or remote, and try to make it sound and feel as normal as possible."

That hasn't been easy without fans, but is hardly the only issue he's faced this year. Because of COVID, all announcers face the challenge of not being able to meet in person with their broadcast teams for production meetings, the lack of crowd noise facilitating their calls, and inaccessibility to players and coaches for interviews in the lead up to games. That has created a need to adapt on the fly, which Eagle has had to do and then some in 2020.

During the NBA bubble restart, Eagle called games with Stan Van Gundy for the first time. This NFL football season, he's got a new partner in Charles Davis. Usually it takes a full season to develop chemistry between play-by-play announcer and analyst. Eagle helped facilitate that it in a few games.

"It was that feeling of this is something completely new, completely different, and my goal is to make that smooth, to make sure everybody's comfortable and that I'm putting them in a position to succeed," Eagle said. "It's not just about me at that point. It's about us, together. and how we're working as a team. That is always of the utmost importance and a major priority for me."

Eagle also called an NBA game right before quarantine alongside his son Noah, who is the radio voice of the Clippers. Their dynamic continues to evolve as the younger Eagle makes inroads in the same profession as his father.

"We were already very close, but now the dynamic is at another level based on the fact that we have these shared experiences," Eagle said. "Whatever pride that you feel for your own work pales in comparison to what you feel for your kids."

It was a remarkable year for Eagle despite all of the challenges he faced. Those issues won't disappear overnight with COVID continuing to spread across the country. But it doesn't matter if he's calling the NFL, NBA, college basketball, or anything else, you can count on Eagle to provide interesting, accurate play-by-play no matter the situation. Just remember how to pronounce his first name correctly.