Ralph Lawler (born April 21, 1938) is the television and radio voice of the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Clippers. Going back to the franchise's six-year stint in San Diego (1978–84), Lawler has broadcast virtually every Clippers game since the franchise moved from Buffalo, New York in 1978, whether it be radio and/or television. There were only two seasons when Lawler did not serve as the team's primary play-by-play broadcaster-1981-82 (Jerry Gross) and 1984-85 (Eddie Doucette) before becoming the full-time voice once again in 1985-86.
Although the Clippers have been among the worst NBA franchises (they have had only five non-losing seasons during Lawler's tenure as announcer), Lawler has continued to provide Clippers fans with his award-winning enthusiastic commentary, which has made him a fan favorite. He has broadcast more than 2,500 Clippers games, including more than 1,600 consecutive games. He reached the 2,500-game milestone in a game versus the Boston Celtics, on February 26, 2011.
Life and career
Lawler was born in Peoria, Illinois. His broadcasting career began in the 1960s, after graduating from Bradley University in his hometown, where he worked as an on-air personality on a Riverside, California radio station. From there, Lawler went on to work in Philadelphia, where he broadcast games for the Flyers of the National Hockey League, the 76ers of the National Basketball Association, the Phillies of Major League Baseball, Big 5 college basketball, and Temple college football. He also worked as a sports reporter for then-CBS station WCAU-TV, before returning to Southern California for good in the late 1970s, calling the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association and the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League).
Lawler has worked with Basketball Hall of Famer and current ESPN/ABC commentator Bill Walton, on locally televised Clippers broadcasts. Their broadcasts were wildly popular among Clippers (and many NBA) fans, because of their witty banter. Walton left the Clippers to work exclusively with ABC/ESPN when the two networks acquired the NBA broadcasts in 2002. Lawler's biggest broadcasting influences included Irv Kaze, a former sports executive (who had a stint as a San Diego Clippers general manager and hired Lawler in 1978) and long-time Los Angeles-area sports talk show host, before he died in 2003; and late legendary Los Angeles Lakers voice, Chick Hearn, who like Lawler, grew up in Illinois before moving on to Southern California. Lawler and former Clippers guard Shaun Livingston are alumni of Peoria (Central) High School. Lawler currently does Clippers telecasts on Prime Ticket/Fox Sports West alongside former Clipper player and current color analyst, Mike Smith.
Lawler and his wife, Jo, have a family that includes 3 grown children and 7 grandchildren.
- Bingo!: when a player makes a three-point basket. The "Bingo" term derives from one-time Clipper and Cleveland Cavalier player Bobby "Bingo" Smith, known during his playing career for his perimeter shooting.
- Bank Shot Bingo: The rare three-point basket off the backboard elicits this enthusiastic "Lawlerism."
- ...Plus One: A scoring play and a foul resulting in one free-throw.
- Lawler's Law: The first team to 100 points wins the game.
- Lawler's Law Corollary: The team that shoots 50% in field goal percentage wins the game.
- Lawler's Overtime Law: The first team to lead by four points in overtime wins the game.
- Fasten your seat belts, gang. We're going down to the wire!: It refers to when a close game is coming down to final minutes (or seconds).
- Oh Me, Oh My!: When a player makes an unbelievable and exciting play.
- The Lob! The Jam!: When the team scores off of an alley-oop.
- Out of the Box: When the team with the most turnovers is winning by over fifteen points.
- Settle Down Now, Mike Smith: When Ralph has to tell his announcing pair, Mike Smith, to calm down after an exaggerating claim or stat.
- Fans are standing at Staples Center: When a close home game is coming to an end and the fans are standing.
- Wedgie!: Whenever the ball gets stuck between the rim and the glass of the backboard during a shot attempt or a dunk. This phrase and action is sought after by The Starters.
- In a March 2009 interview with Larry Fleischer of InsideHoops.com, Lawler admitted to having lifted the idea of "Lawler's Law" from Al Domenico, a former trainer of the Philadelphia 76ers. Lawler recalled that "Al used to always say 'I'm telling you first team to 100 always wins.' When I started with the Clippers in San Diego in 1978, I thought maybe I'll steal that from him and make it alliterative and Lawler's Law kind of worked, so I used it a few times and began to hear it back from fans around the league and (I said) 'oh this works' and every city I go to now, the people quote it — it's amazing." See: Larry Fleischer, "Ralph Lawler Interview," Inside Hoops.com, March 27, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2010.