George Eddy, the inimitable voice of basketball in France

George Eddy, Canal+'s historic basketball commentator.


It’s a voice like no other. “Ohlalalalalalala! », “Badaboum”, “He shot from the parking lot! »… For a long time, the onomatopoeias of the Franco-American commentator of Canal + have left the small screen to enter the everyday language of basketball fans.

French mixed with an American accent, and earthy expressions. “If I have one thing, it’s a big mouth”says George Eddy all smiles, in the documentary dedicated to him by the channel – from which he made his fortune in the broadcasting of this sport.

The bench and the backbench have been summoned to sing his praises, at a time when “Mister George”, 66, approaches retirement. “The words he used, his excitement and his passion […] Every time you watched a basketball game, you knew when it was George commenting. Her voice was unique.pays tribute to Tony Parker, the best French player in history.

Read our interview (2015): George Eddy: “I was the last dinosaur”

Like all French orange ball enthusiasts from the mid-1980s, the former San Antonio Spurs point guard in the NBA was fed up with comments from George Eddy. “George was our basketball reference”, explains Evan Fournier, one of the leaders of the current France team. Even astronaut Thomas Pesquet has stars in his eyes when he explains “growing up listening to you” to the commentator – on the sidelines of a meeting at the last Eurobasket, where George Eddy commented on the matches of the Blues for the last time.

Gouaille and encyclopedic knowledge

The “You rocked my childhood”this son of an American father and a French mother who grew up in Florida before arriving in France to pursue a career as a professional player is accustomed to it. “But every time I hear it, it makes me happy”blows the enthusiast, in the documentary by Clément Repellin.

After thirty-eight years of career, George Eddy is not quite done with basketball comments. But the one who received the Robert Busnel-Yvan Mainini Trophy, the highest distinction in French basketball, in October, after entering the French Basketball Academy – “the French Hall of Fame”, we say to the FFBB federation no longer comments on the matches of the Blues, nor the NBA, the North American Basketball League – Canal+ no longer has the broadcasting rights. But it will broadcast the NBA Paris Game match at the Accor Arena in Paris between the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls on January 19. With George Eddy as commentator, of course

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For a long time, in France, NBA and George Eddy were inseparable. Landed on the nerve at Canal + in January 1985, because he saw that the channel which had just launched was going to broadcast the American championship, the former shooter – who notably played in Caen, in the first division – convinced Charles Biétry, then sports boss of the encrypted channel, to give him a chance. Passionate about the NBA since his childhood, with a then fledgling resonance in France, George Eddy brings his banter and his encyclopedic knowledge of basketball.

“Like Canal, my way of commenting was new and different”breathes the one who learned his new job on the job. “Everything is new with George. He brings color to the air, like his great expressions”exhibited in the documentary Eric Besnard, journalist at Canal+.

“We all grew up with him”

Eccentric, the one who quickly became just “George” for French basketball fans, gathered around him a community of night owls (the meetings were broadcast at night, French time), while the NBA was developing internationally, on the wings of a certain Michael Jordan. Guide to the star of the Chicago Bulls during his first visits to Paris, George Eddy remains associated with the mythical number 23.

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“George embodied the NBA. He was the NBA in Franceassures Eric Besnard. I’m not going to say he was as popular as Jordan, but close. » If in the United States everyone dreamed of “be like Mike” (“to be like Michael [Jordan] “), on the grounds of France, we redid our actions with the voice of the commentator of Canal +. “Doing an action commented on by George Eddy is a form of pride and accomplishment when you are a playerassures Nicolas Batum, the captain of the France team. Because we all grew up with him. »

A pioneer in his own way, the godfather “George” has a string of godchildren, and all the French players who have played in the NBA one day can cite a “What a stratospheric dunk! » or one ” Oh dear ” marked them. After Jordan, this native of Alabama fell in love with the Blues – he arrived in France in 1977 – accompanied the emergence of Tony Parker in the NBA, to the highest level.

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“It has been my passion and my reason for being professional for thirty years: to make American basketball known at first, then to promote all the sneakers, and in particular the French team and the ProA [le championnat de France] »insisted George Eddy in 2015.

At a time when the French team assumes aiming for the Olympic coronation in 2024 at home, and when a Frenchman – Victor Wembanyama, 19 – announces himself as a future star of world basketball, the commentator, who continues to survey the playgrounds (basketball courts), knows that the seeds he has planted in French basketball for nearly forty years have hatched.

Mister George: The Extraordinary Life of George Eddy, by Clément Repellin (Fr., 2023, 118 min.).


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