Editor’s note: During the NBA stoppage, we’ll take an occasional look back at some great moments in Clippers history.
We recently held a tournament for the all-time favorite Clipper at Clips Nation, and Sam Cassell won, but if the pool were expanded beyond players to all people associated with the Clippers, it is pretty obvious that Ralph Lawler would have won in a landslide.
The voice of the Clippers for 41 years, Mr. Oh Me Oh My is the most beloved person to ever be a part of this franchise, and the most consistently excellent throughout his tenure.
A year ago today, Lawler called his final regular-season game for the Clippers. He would work the team’s playoff series against Golden State (his voice is the one I hear when I think of Landry Shamet’s 3-pointer to win Game 2), but the celebration of his career took place in Game 82 at Staples Center. It ended up being the team’s last home win of the season.
As Lawler notes in his halftime speech, he barely got two or three words in during the first half of the broadcast because his special color commentator for the day was the legendary Bill Walton. I watched that game at home and I have no recollection of what actually happened on the court because Walton led us down an oral history of Lawler’s life and had little regard for the basketball game taking place in front of him.
The Clippers ended up winning, a result that had no impact on playoff seeding for either team, but the game was unforgettable because of the conversation between Lawler and Walton. If you hadn’t fastened your seatbelts, that was a mistake.
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Fasten your seatbelts, folks. Bill and Ralph DID NOT disappoint.Posted by L.A. Clippers on Thursday, April 11, 2019
Over the course of his career with the Clippers, Lawler could always be counted on to give a flawless account of what was happening in the game. His memory was impeccable, allowing him to weave in stories from a life lived in basketball throughout the call. His partners in the booth came and went, but Lawler was the constant, someone to rely on.
What I love about him most is that he never lost his joy. The Clippers were a team that could suck the life out of anyone, even the most ardent fans. That never happened with Lawler. Even through the losing and the embarrassment, and the Sterling of it all, Lawler made it fun to watch the Clippers. The bingos, the lobs and the jams, and the unbridled enthusiasm were a staple of every evening.
The Clippers were in the midst of their best season in franchise history, but it still felt weird to turn on the TV and not hear Lawler’s voice booming through. As Walton put it, for Clippers fans, he was “our hero, our shining star, our beacon of hope, and our moral compass.” Even in retirement, that hasn’t changed.