MIAMI—Broadcasters covering the NBA finals for Spanish-speaking fans from different parts of the world do it from a Tower of Babel where a dunk is not a dunk, but the play-by-play guys disagree about just what to call it.
As the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks vie on the basketball court for the championship title, two of their broadcasters are duking it out with each other.
"Some say donquear. That'd be Spanglish," says José Pañeda, the announcer calling the play on Miami's WQBA-AM radio. But donquear doesn't work in Argentina, where dunk is volcada, he says. In Spain, it's mate, which literally means "the kill," as when a matador administers the lethal thrust in a bullfight.
None of those terms work for Victor Villalba, radio KFLC's Latino basketball jock, who is handling the finals this week for the Dallas Mavericks. Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English, makes his Texas audience uneasy, says the 51-year-old broadcaster. So for the word dunk, he prefers clavada, which comes from clavo, the noun for "nail."
Messrs. Pañeda and Villalba are just two of the broadcasters who are confronting the vagaries of Basketball Spanish for an immigrant audience increasingly interested in the game. Basketball in English is already tricky, full of arcane terms like "cross-over dribble," "tomahawk dunk" and "alley oop pass." In Spanish, the challenge is magnified because listeners to Spanish broadcasts hail from or live on three different continents where language and dialects vary.