The Real Deal New York

The Voice

Sportscaster Marv Albert’s penthouse — now on the market — shows his personal side
By Zachary Kussin | July 04, 2014 07:00AM

You might expect that famed sportscaster Marv Albert’s home is a trove of one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia.

And, in some ways, you’d be right. His duplex penthouse on the Upper West Side houses treasures far more priceless than run-of-the-mill items like posters and ticket stubs. There’s a photograph of him seated at a table with Prince Albert of Monaco, Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing. Another photo shows Albert with Jack Nicholson courtside at a Los Angeles Lakers game, and yet another depicts Albert interviewing President Obama on the White House’s basketball court.

On a bookcase, he has a basketball stamped with the name of NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Also on display are 12 shiny Emmy awards — three of which belong to his wife, Heather, a former ESPN producer.

But here’s the thing: The impressive collection — immaculately arranged on the walls, as well as on a built-in bookcase — is limited to Albert’s home office. The rest of the 3,550-square-foot apartment is minimalist in tone, with large, mostly bare white walls and neutral rugs and furnishings. There are no basketball photos in the penthouse’s public rooms; instead, photographs depict the smiling couple. Instead of shiny trophies, white orchids catch the sunlight streaming in through the living room’s large windows.

“If people come here, I’m not necessarily taking them up to the office,” Albert said. “It’s all for me; that’s my ‘down memory lane’ type thing.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the office is Albert’s favorite place inside his spacious digs at 150 Columbus Avenue. And no wonder — together, the items tell the story of his long sportscasting career. Some highlights: For 37 years, beginning in 1967, he was the voice of the New York Knicks on radio and television. He was also the lead play-by-play announcer for the NBA on the NBC network for most of its 12-year run, beginning in 1990. Now he’s the lead announcer for pro basketball games on TNT — a position that he’s held since 1999.

Albert’s job is far more demanding than simply showing up at sporting arenas and calling what he sees. When he’s home during the regular season, he’s often working in his office: A fair amount of research goes into the trade — statistical information on the players, as well as their anecdotal stories. He keeps the hand-written notes neatly organized on pads; they provide for quick and informed commentary on air. When not in use, he keeps these stored in a closet in his office.

Also in this room: A photo of the teenage Albert posing next to the Knicks’ Jim Baechtold — his favorite player at the time — during his days working courtside as a ball boy for the Knicks, which is where he got his start. “My dream was to be a play-by-play announcer and a writer for the New York Times,” Albert said of the career ambitions he set for himself at age 6. “So I was one of two.”

Soon, however, all these treasures, as well as the rest of the couple’s belongings, will be packed up and moved downtown. The couple listed the digs for $16.5 million in May in order to move to a bigger space in trendy Tribeca. Adam Modlin of the Modlin Group has the listing for the three-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom spread with a terrace, which the couple bought for $2.4 million in 1996, according to records.

The couple bought the penthouse while the building was still under construction. They were not married at the time and lived in separate residences; they set their sights on the Upper West Side — an area they loved — for an apartment to share.

The location also came as a throwback for Albert, who in his youth worked on a radio show at nearby WABC. “It’s going back to my roots because I spent so much time in this area,” he said, adding that Lincoln Square was desolate at that time. “If you saw a picture, you wouldn’t recognize it.”

At the time of their purchase, the home had a different look. Its layout included smaller rooms and ornate Italian marble details — altogether, the apartment was partially built in a “traditional” style, Heather said. They were able to tell the contractors to stop their work; instead of ripping out what had already been installed, they began on a yearlong renovation that gave the penthouse a contemporary touch.

Along with the crisp white walls, the home’s interior boasts mahogany paneling in the kitchen and the library — the latter of which doubles as a guest room, with a fun color-blocked rug with soft shades of green, blue, red and yellow. Rooms on the duplex’s lower floor — especially the kitchen, living room and dining area — are quite spacious. The living room fits three sofas and three chairs; its long walls display select statement pieces of art, including black-and-white photographs of floral arrangements, which help lend to the minimal aesthetic.

The unfussy surroundings hide some surprises, including a screen that lowers from the living room’s ceiling — a big hit for movie night with their young grandkids. In the master bedroom, a television rises out of a chest at the foot of the bed. When tucked away, the bed looks out to the city skyline. Albert’s own bathroom — there are two en-suite master baths — has a television in the mirror.

“I’m a CNN fanatic, so when I get up in the morning, I want to see it,” he said.

The home’s standout feature, however, isn’t its interior. Just off the living room is a 1,500-square-foot terrace that’s landscaped and irrigated and has city views from three sides. During the summer off-season, Albert likes to relax and read here — during basketball season, he’s typically out of town three days each week. “You can just sit out there,” he said. “It’s so quiet and peaceful.” Of course, the airy space — with a large trellis, tables and lounge chairs — readily doubles as an entertainment area when friends (and their dogs) come over for barbecues.

The easygoing Albert smiles as he recounts his youth in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, where he grew up in a four-bedroom house and, true to his sports-loving nature, was an active youngster. He played stickball and basketball with his two brothers, who are also sportscasters, as well as roller hockey against children from neighboring streets. But he had his sights set on another borough for when he grew up.

“I always knew I wanted to live in the city,” he recalls. “To me, it was always very exciting: movie theaters, Broadway, the park, everything. It was stimulating to me.”

And a city dweller he remains. He and Heather share good memories of their time spent uptown, but they are excited to make new memories in the Tribeca apartment.

“We ended up falling in love with Tribeca,” said Albert happily, sitting at the circular wooden table — a fixture that seats six — in the dining area with expansive city views. “Sometimes it’s just nice to make a change.”