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Joe Tait, Voice Of The Cleveland Cavaliers, Dies At 83

Legendary Cavaliers broadcaster Joe Tait, whose wry wit and signature calls defined Cleveland basketball for a generation, died Wednesday at age 83.

He fought a lengthy battle with kidney disease and liver cancer and had recently gone into hospice care. Information on memorial services is not yet available.

“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,” the Cavaliers said in a press release.

Tait’s play-by-play in key moments became frequently quoted in the city, like his signature “Wham! With the right hand!” on a dunk, and this reference after Craig Ehlo’s game winning three pointer over Utah in 1991: “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! And he comes from Lubbock, Texas!”

Tait was hired by the Cavaliers for the team’s inaugural season in 1970 and was fired during the 1980 to 1981 season by owner Ted Stepien. Fans responded by holding a Joe Tait Day during the home season finale.

Tait spent the next several seasons broadcasting for the New Jersey Nets and Chicago Bulls before returning to Cleveland when the Gund family bought the Cavaliers in 1983. Tait remained with the team until his retirement in 2011.

His broadcast booth in the Cavs home, now called Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, was dedicated as Joe Tait Perch in 2008 when he called his 3,000th Cavs game. The team also raised a banner for Tait next to the retired numbers of the franchise’s greatest players.

Tait also called Cleveland Indians baseball games on radio from 1973 to 1979 and for television from 1980 to 1987. Tait also broadcast many high school basketball games in his career on local stations throughout Northeast Ohio and served as play-by-play man for the University of Mount Union football team in Alliance for 30 years, retiring in 2016.

A native of Illinois and resident of Medina County, Tait is survived by his wife Jean, three children and numerous grandchildren.

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