CLEVELAND — Joe Tait, the voice of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball for generations, died March 10 at the age of 83 at his home in Lafayette Township, according to the Cavs.
On March 7, his longtime friend, sports columnist Terry Pluto, revealed in the Plain Dealer that Tait was in hospice care at his home as he dealt with kidney failure, blood clots and a cancerous tumor.
Tait was born in Evanston, Illinois on May 15, 1937. He got his career in broadcasting while attending Monmouth College, starting his radio career and getting his first play-by-play experience at the local station. A few other sports broadcasting ventures, including work with Indiana University football and the Indiana Pacers, led Tait to Cleveland in 1970, where he would begin a long and memorable career with the Cavaliers.
Tait, working at what is now WTAM, also announced Tribe games from 1973-79. He did play-by-play for the Tribe on television from 1980-1987, and he also was the play-by-play voice of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Rockers from 1997-2004.
But Tait was best known for being the voice of the Cavaliers, a role which he held for years, calling his 3,000th game in 2008 and spending 39 seasons behind the microphone.
Kids and adults have imitated Tait's calls in driveways and gyms across Northeast Ohio: "To the line, to the lane..." "Wham with the right hand!" "Sights it. Shoots it. Got it."
The Cavaliers radio broadcast section was deemed the Joe Tait Perch in 2011 during a special “Joe Tait Appreciation Night,” and a commemorative banner was hung in the rafters in his honor. Tait was also inducted to the Cavaliers Wall of Honor as part of the Class of 2019.
Tait was recognized numerous times over the course of his long, successful career, earning the 2010 Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and throughout his broadcasting career he has been honored with a number of awards, including Ohio Sportscaster of the Year in 1974, 1976, 1978, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2004.
“The Voice of the Cavs” was the recipient of the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and is a member of the Media Hall of Fame (Ohio), Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Cleveland Sports Legends Hall of Fame, Lorain Sports Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Press Club Hall of Fame.
Tait retired at the end of the 2010-11 season for health reasons.
He leaves behind his wife and three children, countless fans and great memories.
The Cavaliers released the following statement on his passing:
“The Cleveland Cavaliers mourn the passing of one of our beloved founding fathers and the original, long-time voice of the franchise – Joe Tait.
From the team’s inception in 1970 through the next four decades, the Basketball Hall of Famer informed, entertained and inspired generations of Cavs fans – painting a picture of the game with an unmatched mix of passion, precision and humor.
A dedicated husband and father – generous with his talent and spirit – Joe received every major sports broadcasting award there is over the course of his career in Northeast Ohio. And like some of the most legendary Cavaliers he chronicled, Joe joined them with his own banner hanging in the rafters of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
A friend and mentor to many over the years, Joe Tait wasn’t just a member of the Cavaliers family; he was a part of the Cavs story like no one else and his voice and unique, candid perspective reverberates throughout the team’s history. He will be dearly missed.
Joe was also famous for his dry wit and his pragmatic view of life and probably wouldn’t have wanted a big, sentimental sendoff. So, to paraphrase the legend, himself – Let’s not say: ‘goodbye.’ Let’s just say: “Have a GOOD night, everybody!’”
RIP Joe Tait, Cleveland legend and kind, funny soul. You will be missed.— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerr) March 11, 2021
Faithful my teacher, mentor and friend died today. 30+ years ago we simulcasted #cavs #nba games for a year; I learned how to make a delivery, “get in and get out” I saw him this morning he was breathing on his own and seemed at peace #rip #allforone #thevoiceoftheCavsjoeTait— Jim Chones (@chones22) March 10, 2021
Terribly saddened by the passing of the legendary Joe Tait. No one in my 40 plus years as a broadcaster have I respected more, or held in higher regard than Joe. Spent 14 years together calling @cavs. The wonderful memories we shared will live forever. Much love, Joe. Miss you— Michael Reghi (@MichaelReghi) March 10, 2021
Not Joe Tait too 😔— Larry Nance Jr (@Larrydn22) March 10, 2021