Billy Packer, Legendary College Basketball Announcer, Dead at 82

Billy Packer, a longtime college basketball commentator and the voice of the NCAA Tournament, died on Thursday night, his family announced. He was 82 years old. Packer's son, Mark, told the Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized for the past three weeks in Charlotte and had multiple medical issues. Mark also said that the cause of death was kidney failure. 

In his career, Billy Packer covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS. He provided color commentary on every Final Four from 1975-2008 and won a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993. "He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours," Mark Packer said. "He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness."

Billy Packer was the son of longtime basketball coach Anthony Packer, who spent 16 seasons as the head coach at Lehigh. The younger Packer attended Wake Forest where he was named to the All-ACC Team in 1961 and 1962. And before starting his career as an announcer in 1972, Packer spent time as a coach. 

"I made up my mind halfway through my career that someday I won't be doing this anymore. One of the things I said to myself was that I really enjoy the research and studying the game and having the opportunity to interface with people I respect that really know the game and its history. And if I didn't enjoy doing that, I'd want to stop," Packer told The Athletic in 2019 (per ESPN). "There's a point where you say, OK, I've enjoyed my run, and now it's time to go back and do the other things I enjoy. The last game I've seen in person was the last game I broadcast. That was the [2008] national championship game between Memphis and Kansas."  

North Carolina basketball released a statement about Packer who called three of the Tar Heels' national championships. "From Phil Ford's MVP and Michael [Jordan]'s shot to Sean May's heroics in St. Louis he called many of our greatest moments and was on the national TV call for three of UNC's NCAA titles," the school said. "Condolences to Mark and the entire Packer family and his many friends and broadcast colleagues."