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Albert back in NBC court

Costas steps down to focus on Olympics, HBO series

Hoping to put more bite into its basketball coverage, NBC has restored Marv Albert as the network’s lead NBA play-by-play announcer starting with the 2000-01 season.

The once-disgraced sportscaster replaces Bob Costas, who will step down from NBC’s top NBA assignment at the end of this season. The Peacock said Costas needed more time to focus on his Olympics duties and the new HBO series he’ll host beginning in 2001.

Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports and Olympics coverage, made the announcement Tuesday.

Bouncing back

Albert’s career has experienced a remarkable revival after his admission in fall 1997 that he bit a woman during sex. NBC fired Albert after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the woman. He also ankled the Madison Square Garden Network, where he called New York Knicks games, after the incident.

NBC then moved Costas over from studio host to game play by play.

“The NBA and NBC are extremely appreciative of Bob’s stepping in more than two seasons ago,” Ebersol said. “He’s done a great job, as he always does.”

Albert began his road to career recovery in July 1998, when MSG hired him back to host the nightly sports news show “MSG Sports Desk” and handle some radio play by play for the Knicks. In February he signed a multiyear deal with Turner Sports to handle play by play for some National Basketball Assn. games on TNT and TBS.

The sportscaster returned to NBC in June, when he signed a new three-year deal to do NBA play-by-play calling and some Olympics coverage.

NBC initially said Albert would start out low on the totem pole of calling NBA games at the network. Costas and top NBC analyst Doug Collins lead the network’s NBA coverage this year.

Christmas package

“NBA on NBC” will return on Christmas with a doubleheader, including the San Antonio Spurs at the Los Angeles Lakers, which Albert and Collins will call. Costas returns to partner with Collins regularly beginning in January.

Costas will spend more time boning up on the Sydney, Australia, Summer Olympics, set for October, and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, slated for February 2002.

“When Dick asked me to step in, I told him it was my hope that eventually Marv would be able to return,” Costas said. “Basketball is his signature sport, and it’s only right that he return to do the games for NBC.”

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