MIAMI – Lawrence Tanter, the public-address announcer of the Los Angeles Lakers, probably is the most famous among those currently holding that post in the NBA (and the closest thing in dignified tones to the late Bob Sheppard of the Yankees). Ray Clay in Chicago made a name for himself reciting the names of Michael Jordan and the other Bulls in the 1990s. There’s that guy in Detroit, too, who pierced the eardrums and penetrated the consciousness of fans who weren’t even at The Palace of Auburn Hills with his “DEEE-troit! BASSS-ketball!” calls to arms for the Pistons.
Now Michael Baiamonte is the big name — and loud voice — among arena-stoking announcers. He’s not unlike LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade for a lot of NBA fans: Wildly popular at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, not so embraced by fans elsewhere. Actually, it’s the fans who attend a game in Miami without actually being extreme Heat fans who are most thrown by the sheer volume of Baiamonte’s calls and catchphrases.
Not to be confused with The Dos Equis Man, the Dos Minutos Guy talked with Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the other day about the origins, dating back to the mid-1990s, of his signature “STAND up!…” line:
“I knew it had to be quick,” The Voice said. “It couldn’t be a lot of words, and it had to be something people would understand and respond to.”
The first time Baiamonte trotted out his new gimmick – using the exact words he does today — the line fell flat.
“It was the first time everybody heard it, and nobody did anything,” Baiamonte said with a laugh. “But Jeff [Craney, Heat VP of marketing] liked it, the team liked it, and I said, ‘I’m going to work on it, keep doing it and see if we get any kind of response.”
Over time the line took off, and so did Baiamonte’s popularity.
Here at the Hang Time Hideout, the overwhelming preference is for P.A. announcers who are heard but not really noticed. NBA introductions are one thing — it’s standard-operating procedure for the visiting team to get a Joe Friday-monotone, free of all emotion, with the stars downplayed in volume and order, while the home team receives the full WWE treatment, volume cranked to 11. But during the game, most crave basic information, please, without dramatics.
In this particular field, the gold standard remains Dave Zinkoff, the Philadelphia 76ers’ former P.A. announcer once referred to by Boston’s Red Auerbach as the Sixers’ “sixth man.” Zinkoff was distinctive but inspired a generation of imitators and toppers. Repetition has turned into reputation for some of the big voices currently working NBA arenas, but if we never again hear such wit as “That foul was … OFFENSIVE!” or a desperate “Let’s! Go! (fill in the team nickname)!” in a dead house, it will be too soon.