Clippers honor broadcaster Ralph Lawler for 40-year career

Beth Harris | The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Ralph Lawler called his 3,229th and last regular season game for the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

Lawler, who turns 81 on April 21, plans to end his 60-year broadcasting career whenever the Clippers are eliminated from the playoffs, which begin this weekend. He’s handled their games for 40 years.

“I love you people,” he told the crowd that gave him a standing ovation during a halftime ceremony.

He noted many of them, including comedian Billy Crystal, have been coming since the Clippers played at the old Los Angeles Sports Arena in “the darkest days any franchise could have only imagined. God love you for still being here.”

The recently named Hall of Fame broadcaster was joined by friend and former on-air partner Bill Walton to call the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.

“It’s been 20 years or so since we worked together. I got to say two or three words in the first half,” Lawler told the crowd. “Reuniting with him has been a special night.”

Before the game, the team unveiled an on-court logo honoring Lawler, and the players wore special shooting shirts thanking him.

Team owner Steve Ballmer donned the same black-and-white “Thank you Ralph!” T-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt.

Fans signed an oversized card outside the arena and received Lawler bobbleheads, which recite some of his signature phrases such as “Bingo!” and “Oh me, oh my!”

“This is a night the likes of which I could never have possibly imagined,” he said.

The Clippers estimated that Lawler has traveled 1.67 million miles with the team, called games in 91 cities in six countries, talked over 500,000 minutes on the air, and had a career longer than eight NBA franchises.

He’s one of a few announcers who have called games in the four major U.S. pro leagues: the NFL’s Chargers, MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and NBA’s Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers.

He’s received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and three Emmy Awards.

Lawler met his wife, Jo, after leaving Philadelphia for San Diego to call Clippers’ games and she was a season ticketholder.

The team presented them with a trip to Australia and New Zealand.

The Clippers announced the creation of a scholarship in Lawler’s name at his alma mater, Bradley University in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois.