Like many new Charlotteans, Hornets announcer Eric Collins is a Ohio native that loves the Queen City

 By Cameron Lee

March 28, 2022

Marv Albert’s “Yes!” and Mike Breen’s “Bang!” have long been a part of the NBA lexicon, but over the past few years phrases like “Hum diddly dee!” and “How do you do!?” have spread like wildfire on social media. In a world where basketball fans get highlights through instantaneous, bite-size videos on their phones, the exuberant commentary of Hornets play-by-play announcer Eric Collins feels like it comes from another era. The Cleveland, Ohio native, who isn’t even on social media himself, first came to Charlotte in the late ‘90s as a Chicago Bulls sideline reporter, when the city looked a lot different than it does today. 

​​”I would only be at the South Park hotel and the Coliseum, and that was it. So I was up and down Billy Graham…I thought downtown Charlotte was South Park,” Collins said. 

Collins became the team’s television play-by-play man in 2015 replacing longtime “Voice of the Hornets,” Steve Martin. He still expresses his gratitude from when the torch was passed and Martin moved back to radio before retiring in 2018. 

“Collins became the team’s television play-by-play man in 2015 replacing longtime ‘Voice of the Hornets,’ Steve Martin.” Photo: Alex Cason

“A lot of people would ask Steve, ‘Hey, what do you think about Eric?’ And if you look back on it, there’s no way he could’ve possibly known, you know, if I did a good job, because when he was on the air, I was on the air. But he would tell people, ‘I think he’s doing great. He’s unbelievable,’ and that helped me a lot,” Collins said. 

Collins’ emphatic calls have now been heard by millions across the globe, and his journey in broadcasting has also been well traveled, having covered everything from Olympic baseball to college football, Major League baseball, and World Cup softball. He’s even done play-by-play for NCAA basketball, where he famously called the upset of No. 1 seed Duke against unranked Stephen F. Austin State University in 2019. 

Born and raised in Cleveland, Collins worked in Chicago with the Bulls and White Sox for two decades, before arriving in Charlotte in 2015. 

“Chicago was good to me, but it was just too big. It was too hectic. It was too competitive. It was too cold,” Collins said. “I love the weather [in Charlotte]. And I never realized in my life that you didn’t need to be cold and miserable for six months of the year. And the people are always super nice, you know? So it felt like home to me.” 

Collins was recently celebrated with a bobblehead night alongside his broadcast partner and Hornets great, Dell Curry. Curry has of course, played a pivotal role in Collins’ ascension in Charlotte, although Collins admits it was when they went from a three-person booth (with Stephanie Ready) to a duo, their chemistry grew. 

Talking Dell Curry and Eric Collins bobblehead given to the first 5,000 fans on March 19.

“Believe it or not, you know, you need to have space to breathe, to feel comfortable to have a good broadcast. And when it was just the two of us…we could just experiment a little bit together,” Collins said. “We’ve always had a lot in common. We’re both similar age wise. We both kind of fell in love with basketball and the NBA. He started playing in the early ‘80s. I started falling in love [with the NBA] in the early ‘80s.”

While Collins and Curry further developed their rapport in year three, there’s no question that Collins’ popularity has risen since LaMelo Ball arrived in Charlotte. With the ferocious dunks of Miles Bridges and additions of Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, there’s been far more buzz in the Queen City in recent years. 

“His talent is clear to a blind man, you know, it’s just, it jumps off the page,” Collins said of LaMelo Ball. Photo: Alex Cason

“His talent is clear to a blind man, you know, it’s just, it jumps off the page. He just looks different than most people. He plays the game differently than most people,” Collins said of Ball. “He wants to get everyone involved. He wants to get a highlight, you know, for everyone. And I think guys just love that style of basketball– fast and free.” 

Collins has grown with the Hornets over the years, and when recalling some of his most thrilling moments doing play-by-play for the team, he referred to a turning point for the franchise in 2019. 

“There was a Devonte’ Graham buzzer-beater in Madison Square Garden that he hit. That was awesome. Just because we were a young team. We’re just kind of figuring things out,” Collins said. “Kemba had left and we’re trying to find a reason to smile again. And then for Devonte’ Graham to hit a shot in the world’s most famous arena…I think I unleashed, ‘He’s got the guts of a cat burglar.’” 

Another call that sticks out for Collins is when Miles Bridges absolutely demolished Clint Capela in an April 2021 game against the Hawks at The Hive. 

“I think it gets lost, the fact that the Hornets actually lost that game, but that was a fun call…Miles just destroyed Capela, and he was one of the best defenders in the last 15 years in the NBA,” he said.

Collins’ profile has risen in recent years, but his story probably isn’t much different than many new Charlotteans, as an Ohio transplant who moved to the city for work and got quickly acclimated.  

“You take New York and LA and Chicago and have it. I’d like to be in a city like Charlotte, this size, where you can do whatever you want to do in a big city, but still have the feel of a smaller city,” said Collins. 

We can only hope that means “Hum diddly dee!” and “How do you do!?” will be a part of the Charlotte Hornets basketball lexicon for many more years to come. 

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