One-on-One with Ralph Lawler
Throughout the season spurs.com will celebrate the Spurs 40th Anniversary by visiting with former players, coaches and front office staff to discuss their experiences with the organization and the city of San Antonio.
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Longtime Los Angeles Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler has been calling Spurs and Clippers games since both teams were in the American Basketball Association. He has witnessed the storied history of the Spurs from press row at all three arenas in the Alamo City and was the Clippers announcer when David Robinson scored a Spurs franchise-high 71 points against the Clippers. Lawler took some time after the Clippers game on March 29 to speak with Spurs.com.
Can you talk about/describe how and why you became a Spurs supporter?
“I think it was an old Clipper connection with Russ Bookbinder and R.C. Buford. They are a couple of classy execs who became and stayed friends with over the years after moving on to the Spurs. I have a connection to the team from my days in the old ABA and the fact they've been just a terrific team since getting Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft. These long years of excellence by a team in one of the league's smaller markets caught my eye. Former Spurs coach Stan Albeck has been a friend for years and the team has really stepped up to keep him as a part of the Spurs family despite the challenges Stan has faced in recent years. It means a lot to Stan and his family and it tells me a lot about the Spurs as an organization. Oh and there's that Gregg Popovich guy. He's clearly one of the great coaches to ever coach the game and has an endearing personality. I really wish I had had a chance to work a few seasons around him.”
Do you have any favorite memories while calling Clippers/Spurs game?
“Oh so many, even dating back to the days of the short-lived San Diego Sails of the American Basketball Association. I think that is where some of my favorite memories come from. It marked my first visit to the Alamo City. I was amazed by the talents of George Gervin, Larry Kenon and James Silas and dazzled by the afros and the jewelry worn by the players.”
On calling David Robinson's 71-point game at L.A.?
“It was frustrating. I talked to coach John Lucas before the game and asked him if he'd try to help David win the scoring title. He indicated that if the game allowed it - he would. Well, it was not only an easy win for the Spurs, but Robinson scored in every possible way, including a rare three-pointer. The Clippers tried every conceivable means to stop him with absolutely zero success.”
When you travel to San Antonio is there a favorite restaurant or place you like to visit?
“We love the Riverwalk - especially out through the residential neighborhood. It’s very peaceful. My wife and I are partial to Bohanan’s for fine dining. Really think it is one of the better steak houses in the NBA and the service is second to none. For some good Mexican food you can't beat Rosario’s.”
Through Spurs history was there a player you enjoyed watching?
“Back in the day, I'd say George Gervin who scored with such utter ease. Present day, I'd say Tony Parker. We broadcasted his first game in the league. He was 19 and coming off the bench. I said to R.C. before the game that I wouldn't be surprised if the kid was starting before the season was over. He said, ‘How about before the week is over?’ You could just see there was something special there. It has been fun watching him grow over the years and now at 30, he's better than ever. “
On calling games at the HemisFair Arena?
“I loved the old HemisFair Arena. Before they literally raised the roof to increase capacity, it was the noisiest building I've ever experienced. They had a group of fans called the ‘Baseline Bums,’ who made life miserable for visiting players. I just loved that building.”