Every kid in New York does Marv. And, as with the NBA wave of first-name IDs (Magic, Michael, Akeem), Marv Albert is known throughout the city simply as Marv. He is a cult hero. He has been doing Knicks games on radio or TV or both for 23 years -- nearly half his life.

For every kid in the playground who imitated a Clyde steal or a Pearl spin, there was another with his fist near his mouth describing the action: "Stolen by Frazier. Downcourt Bradley. DeBusschere in the corner. Yesss!"

"It's flattering," said Albert, 47, who along with NBC Sports opened nationally with the NBA on Saturday. "People come up to you in the airport and do an impersonation. I usually give them a rating -- a strong 8 or a weak 6. {Bob} Costas does a strong one, Billy Crystal too.

"Usually it's of me doing Knicks radio in the '70s." (He also does Rangers hockey.)

No doubt those impersonations include the legendary "Yessss!" which is how Albert often signals a basket, or "Yessss! And it counts!" when there's also a foul on the play.

Now, thanks to NBC's new deal with the NBA, a nation can discover what New Yorkers have so long known: Marv Albert is the basketball announcer. He brings a rare combination of excitement, knowledge, humor -- and impartiality.

On national telecasts, impartiality usually isn't an issue; on local broadcasts, it often is. When Albert does Knicks games, it never is.

And now NBC. He has done college games on national TV, but, as he said, it's not the same.

NBC transformed into a morgue when it lost baseball to CBS. Well, when NBC got the NBA from CBS, it was the exact opposite for Albert. "To me," he said. "it was the fulfillment of a dream."

On the opener -- Lakers vs. Spurs -- he and Mike Fratello worked quite well together despite their on-air unfamiliarity with one another. Ex-Hawks coach Fratello "has a great sense of humor, a little twisted, like my own," Albert said.

The pregame "NBC Showtime" teams Costas with ex-Lakers coach Pat Riley. Costas and Albert were supposed to be the co-No. 1 play-by-players, but NBC just Wednesday decided to move Costas, according to NBC spokesman Ed Markey. Markey denied reports that Costas was shifted because Riley's solo act wasn't working: "When we signed Pat to host the pregame, we said he would have a co-host. We tested four people and talked with some, but nobody fit the bill."

So Dick Enberg and Albert are co-No. 1s, Enberg working the All-Star Game this season and Albert the finals. They will flip-flop next year.

NBC will air 21 regular season games -- all national telecasts -- and the All-Star Game this season, with four doubleheaders. The next broadcast comes Christmas Day. After that, Super Sunday. Weekly games begin in February.

Perhaps the biggest foulup NBC had Saturday was pregame, when sideline reporter Steve Jones came on just as the national anthem did. "They wanted to get that nationalistic feel," joked Albert.

CBS had the NBA for 17 years. As NBC's coordinating producer of NBA basketball, Tom Roy, told The Sporting News: "They have done a lot of great stuff. It's going to be tough for us to even match their coverage our first year."

Know what, Tom? With Marv, you've matched it and more.

Yessss! And it counts!

Mel Proctor has just entered his 11th season with the Bullets, sixth on TV after a stint on radio. His partner, Phil Chenier, is in his fourth year as the analyst. Proctor is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about basketball, and it is only natural he has a fondness for the Bullets.

A few times in Friday night's opener on WDCA-TV-20 Proctor questioned the officiating.

"I've always done that," he said. "I just think the officiating is not up to the standard of the players."

Proctor said he never has considered himself "a homer," but there was one, blatant jingoism, though it backfired: "Seikaly's perfect at the line so far. {Miami center's foul shot is good.} Thought maybe I could jinx him."

As for Chenier, he doesn't talk enough. He is soft-spoken and seems shy, not quite what you're looking for in someone who must talk for a living.

"You have to be yourself to be successful. He's quite knowledgeable," said Proctor. Asked if he, in turn, talks a bit too much because of Chenier's quietude, Proctor said, laughing: "He might be a good buffer for me."