Atlantans is a first-person account of the familiar strangers who make the city tick. This month’s is Steve Holman, Atlanta Hawks radio announcer for the past 39 seasons, as told to DeMarco Williams.
My first [Hawks] season was 1985–1986. I had hoped that I would be the longtime voice of the team. That had been my dream as a young broadcaster—to become that guy, like a Vin Scully [with the Los Angeles Dodgers] or Johnny Most with the Celtics or Chick Hearn with the Lakers. People that have been so-called “lifers.” That’s what I set out to do. And here we are, 39 seasons later.
Sportscaster Curt Gowdy owned the radio station in my hometown of Lawrence [Massachusetts], WCCM. They let me go there to practice after school, and they put me on weekends. And then, between my junior and senior years in high school, they put me on full time. From there, I got a pass to the Celtics games, and I introduced myself to Johnny Most and worked my way up to keeping score for him. Long story short, he lost his voice for a while in 1976, and I had to take over in the middle of a game. I did it several weeks more. That led to a job in Boston at the CBS station. And that led to my path to Atlanta in 1980, when a guy named Mike Wheeler, who was my program director at the CBS station in Boston, came to Atlanta and started WGST, the all-news station, and said, “Would you like to come to Atlanta?”
That Falcons team that I worked with in 1980 when I first got here, that was a great year. They went to the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys. Steve Bartkowski, William Andrews, all those guys. It was a great time to be connected with the Falcons. And then, when I started doing Hawks games, we had Dominique Wilkins and those great teams of the ’80s, with Mike Fratello as the coach. That was fun.
It all starts with Wilkins and all the great things that he’s done, and all the milestones I was able to call when he played back in those days. Doc Rivers was a great friend at the time, too. You have to remember that we were all kind of the same ages, and our kids were all growing up at the same time back then. Al Horford is one of the great Hawks of all time. And with this current group of Hawks, Trae Young is such a nice kid. He’s got a little baby now. It’s great seeing those guys have their families develop. Trae’s been with us for six years now. It’s kind of like a family. We travel together. There’s only 35 or so of us that travel. For seven months [during the NBA season], we’re kind of a family.
The thing that I’ve noticed about Atlanta sports, especially the Hawks over the last several years, is that we’ll go into different cities now and I’ll see people, kids especially, wearing a Trae jersey, or even an old Dominique jersey. Back in the day, we didn’t see that. But now the Hawks have built up a fandom all around the country—where we see people cheering for the Hawks, which really makes me feel good.
People tell me that they can turn the radio on in the car, and they can tell within a couple of minutes whether we’re winning or losing [from my voice]. I guess that shows that I’m the bridge between the players and the fans.
I think the city would just explode [if we won an NBA title]. Hawks fans have been so patient. If it happens this year, it’d be great. I know it’s going to happen at some point. I just hope I’m here to see it and call it.
What I try to do to stay healthy is, I walk every day. I walk between six and seven miles every day, just to try to stay ahead of it all. Like the players, you have to figure out how your body works.
I’ve never missed a game. Chick Hearn holds the record [for most consecutive broadcasts, at 3,338 games], and I feel like, physically and mentally, I can do it. [Editor’s note: Holman was at 2,916 straight calls at the start of the 2023–2024 season.] If I can stay healthy and just keep chugging along, and if God lets me do it, I’ll do it. I have no plans on stopping.
This article appears in our January 2024 issue.