It does not seem to Alan Horton that he’s been doing it this long.
Watching big Al Jefferson operate in the low post still sees like last month. Describing Kevin Love hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Clippers in January of 2012? Wasn’t that last week?
“On the one hand it’s going so quickly,” Horton said. “But 1,000? That’s a big number.’’
Tuesday night in Memphis, Horton — who grew up in small-town Massachusetts but paid much of his dues in California — will call his 1,000th regular-season Timberwolves game.
One thousand games over 12-plus seasons with eight head coaches and countless players.
That’s a lot of games.
“I don’t know if it’s a surprise or not,’’ he said. “You kind of take the players’ mentality, just one broadcast at a time.’’
Becoming an NBA mainstay wasn’t necessarily Horton’s original goal. During a decade in San Diego, wanting to keep his options open, he did a little bit of everything, from high school water polo to an occasional San Diego Padres game.
He came to Minnesota in time for the 2007-08 Wolves season. From then through the summer of 2014 he called both Wolves and Lynx games. He does his broadcasts alone, working in stats and clips of interviews in with the broadcast of the game.
There have been a lot of Wolves games, but only one playoff appearance. To Horton, that doesn’t matter. It’s about the work.
“I’m watching the best athletes in the world play the greatest game in the world,’’ he said. “It’s incredible to see these guys play on a nightly basis. No matter the record, I have to prepare the same way. I’ll be on the air three hours every day. And whether they’re 10 games over .500 or 10 games under .500 I need to prepare for and do the broadcast the exact same way.”
That said, there are strong memories. Horton’s sense of time is measured in the players he talks about. Jefferson to Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, the return of Kevin Garnett to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
• Having grown up watching the Celtics, watching Jefferson — under Kevin McHale’s tutelage — become a low-post force. “He was one of the last guys with a just a tremendous post game,” Horton said.
• Love’s 31-31 game against the Knicks on Nov. 12, 2010. “Mind-boggling,’’ said Horton.
• Garnett’s return against Washington in February 2015, and his dunk on Blake Griffin a few days later. “Maybe his last career dunk,’’ Horton said. “Just electric.”
• He called unlikely 50-point games by Corey Brewer and Moe Williams.
• And, of course, the game-82 overtime victory over Denver that sent the Wolves into the playoffs in 2018.
And the game-winners. Horton has called 12 game-winning shots — or free throws — in his time. His top three:
• Love’s three-pointer that beat the Clippers.
• Wiggins’ near-halfcourt game-winner at Oklahoma City in October 2017.
• Rubio’s three-pointer that beat the Thunder in March 2016.
Over time the influx of statistical analysis has affected his job as much as the game, giving him more information as he prepares for a broadcast.
There is one more call to get to. Maybe Horton’s most famous. It came on Dec. 30, 2013, in a game at Target Center against Dallas. Down two late, Love appeared to be fouled by Shawn Marion on a potentially game-tying shot, but official Ed Malloy didn’t make the call — a mistake, the league later said.
Horton described the play. Than, as he watched the replay, he yelled, “Oh, that’s a foul!’ And, moments later, he yelled, “Oh, Ed Malloy!’’
The call went viral, with Horton being praised for his righteous indignation.
It’s not Horton’s favorite call, but he’s proud of it. Walking the line between passion and a detached description of the game isn’t always easy. Ultimately, Horton is painting a picture for his fans.
“I do take pride in that call,” he said. “When fans reached out they said, ‘You described it exactly the way I felt.’ ”