By Giancarlo Navas/ Staff Writer
We don’t often think of who is behind the microphone, as people narrate and bring life to the already infinitely exciting world of sports. Men like Jose Paneda, the Spanish play-by-play radio broadcaster for the Miami Heat, have stories of heartbreak and triumph, just like the athletes he narrates for.
Born in Miami Beach, Jose Paneda is the son to two Cuban parents who where exiled from the island on their honeymoon.
“They went to Mexico on their honeymoon and never went back. They didn’t even open their gifts,” Paneda said.
Paneda’s parents lived in a home with four other families, but they made it work. Almost half a decade later they got their own home.
“My parents worked very hard, I never felt that I missing anything. We all made it work,” Paneda said. “There were some very difficult economical moments, but we got together and got through it.”
Paneda has become the Spanish broadcaster for the three-time champion Miami Heat for 25 years, he would go on to never miss a day of work, would call several NBA all-star games, NBA finals and be the Spanish broadcaster for the 1992 dream team’s first ever game in Portland.
“It was bone chilling. Hair raising. Every adjective you could think of,” Paneda said.
Paneda has gone on to work with Pat Riley and Doctor J, play golf with his childhood hero Don Shula, meet two Presidents of the United States and go to a mass done by Pope John Paul in the Vatican. All from a boy who came little Havana.
“He is one of the great stories I have seen unfold,” Eric Reid, television play-by-play broadcaster for the Miami Heat, said.
Paneda’s rise to success wasn’t just difficult through childhood. After he graduated from FIU with a bachelors in business administration he was struggling trying to find what he wanted to do from there.
“I had to work odd jobs. I’ve sold shoes at dadeland and cut cows’ eyes for the museum of science to explain the retina of the eye and what the lens was,” Paneda said.
Before Jose Paneda was one of the premiere Spanish broadcasters in this country, he was packaging cow eyes for a museum.
“I had to work, it was tough out there,” Paneda said.
When Jose finally landed a job with the Miami Heat it wasn’t even in broadcasting. Jose was selling season tickets for the team.
After the first year of the franchise, the Miami Heat were looking for a new Spanish radio broadcaster and Jose was interested.
“I said that I wanted to do it and my boss told me I had no chance, but Billy Cunningham told him to let me try,” Paneda said. “So I went to Radio Shack and bought a tape recorder and I recorded a preseason game.”
Soon after, Jose Paneda was the official Spanish radio voice of the Heat and has been for the last 25 years.
“He’s a risk taker. And he gave it a shot. He’s earned himself a very very nice niche,” Michael Baiamonte, college classmate and the Miami Heat in stadium announcer, said. “Its not a surprise to me how good he has gotten.”
Imagine growing in a city with no professional basketball team or relevant collegiate basketball team all your life and then suddenly becoming the flagship play-play broadcaster for a brand new professional team.
“He has made himself one of the best, most knowledgeable, most prepared NBA broadcasters around,” Reid said. “The only thing he loves more than the team is his family.”
Jose is a devoted husband and father to two boys.
“It’s been difficult with all the travel that I do. I’ve been away from home four years with all the travel that I do,” Paneda said.
All that travel and his 25 year marriage with his wife Ana is still going strong.
“All that she’s done and the sacrifices she has made for our family has been tremendous,” Paneda said.
His wife Ana, who is a FIU alumna as well as her husband Jose isn’t the only one who has sacrificed in the name of family.
“For a guy with such a demanding travel schedule, the sacrifices he has made for his family have been incredible. He’s always a part of what was going on with his sons lives,” Baiamonte said. “He’s been an instrumental part of their lives, even though he has a job that takes him away from them.”
Through all the struggles and through all the hardship, Jose Paneda has come out on top. From the financial difficulties when he was growing up, to the uncertainty of his career to even the doubt of his bosses, Jose has succeeded brilliantly.
Paneda and Baiamonte once were classmates in a marketing class at FIU, two young men having no idea where they would be.
“I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me where Jose and I would be today back then,” Baiamonte said.
Crazy might be an adequate word. Narrating the battles with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, being a part of history as he announced the dream teams first game, the conquest of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal and the coronation of the king LeBron James.
“He has lived a storybook life and I know he made his parents proud,” Reid said.
Out of little Havana, born from Cuban exiles and doubted before his career started, Jose Paneda has made more than just family or FIU proud. He has made Miami proud.