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Jim Durham, longtime voice of Bulls, dies at 65

Broadcaster Jim Durham was Bulls’ play-by-play man for 18 seasons (1973-91). | Getty Images

Broadcaster Jim Durham was the Bulls’ play-by-play man for 18 seasons (1973-91). | Getty Images

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Updated: December 7, 2012 6:19AM

It wasn’t the type of news coach Tom Thibodeau was expecting or was prepared for, so his reaction Monday to the death of former Bulls play-by-play man Jim Durham at 65 was one of complete surprise.

‘‘Geez, that’s too bad,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘My condolences to his family. A great, great guy, a legend in the NBA. That’s sad news. I’m sorry to hear that.’’

Durham, a Chicago native, had been doing games for ESPN, but he called Bulls games from 1973 to 1991 and White Sox games in 1989 and 1990.

‘‘I was so sorry to learn this morning of Jim Durham’s untimely passing,’’ Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. ‘‘Jim was the voice of the Bulls for 18 years, and he was the best at calling a basketball game I ever heard. I loved the energy he brought to our broadcasts, the way he painted a word picture of what was happening on the court, which made you feel like you were there, and his sense of humor.

‘‘Most importantly, Jim was my friend, and I will miss the conversations we had about the NBA, life in general and his favorite baseball team . . . the Chicago White Sox. On behalf of the entire Chicago Bulls organization, my deepest condolences to [his wife] Helen and his entire family. He will be greatly missed.’’

Durham died Sunday at his home in Tomball, Texas. The cause of death wasn’t announced, but he had called the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat season opener Tuesday for ESPN.

Bulls legend Michael Jordan texted ESPN with this statement: ‘‘The voice of champions. I will miss him.’’

Among Durham’s most memorable calls during his days with the Bulls was when Jordan made a game-winning shot over the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Craig Ehlo in the 1989 playoffs.

Durham, who also called games for the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Astros, is survived by his wife, Helen; their three children, Patrick, Richard and Tracy; and several grandchildren.

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