Ray Clay (Bulls public address announcer, 1990-2002): My wife and I were driving to a wedding and had the Bulls game on the radio—I had to listen to the starting lineups like everybody wanted to do at that point. The broadcaster mentioned that it was Tommy Edwards’s final game. My wife said, “That’d be a neat job. Why don’t you call the Bulls and see if they’re interested in giving you an audition?” I said, “I’d never get a job like that. But I’ll call.” A guy I happened to know at the Bulls said, “Send in a tape.” At that time, I worked as the campus recreation director at the University of Illinois at Chicago. So I sent a cassette of some UIC basketball games that I’d called, including the starting-lineup introductions. A couple days later, I got a call from the Bulls: “What are you doing Friday? We’d like you to call the game.” That was my audition.
I was very nervous, having never announced a professional game before. I got to Chicago Stadium early and looked at the script book, which laid out the game with which activities were going to happen during the timeouts, announcements, pregame, during game, halftime, postgame. The Bulls rep said to me, “We’re gonna do the starting lineups. When the lights go out and the music starts, I’ll cue you when to go.” I said, “Yeah, but wait—the lights go out.” I had everything written down on a sheet of paper! This made me even more nervous. So the lights went out, the music started, the guy gave me a nudge and said, “Go.” I blurted out, “Aaaand now, the starting lineup for your Chicago Bulls!” The Bulls were touting Chicago Stadium as the noisiest arena in the NBA at that time, so I figured that I needed to give a good yell. That’s how my high-volume signature started.
Brenner: Ray Clay—great voice, great person, but he didn’t have the broadcast experience that Tommy did, where you could just throw him in front of a microphone and he could nail it. He had a lot to learn.
Clay: A team rep called to ask if I was available to come to the Bulls’ office downtown. They had put together a cassette tape of Tommy Edwards introducing Horace Grant, then me introducing Horace Grant. Tommy introducing Scottie Pippen, then me introducing Scottie Pippen. And so on. They said, “Put more emphasis on the ace in ‘Horace’ instead of the hor.” They wanted to make sure that I emphasized “the man in the middle” for Bill Cartwright. “Don’t worry about Michael Jordan,” they said. “Nobody can hear you anyway.” So I took all their notes and announced a second game. Later, I got a phone call: “We’d like you to come back and announce the final home game of the ’89-90 regular season.” When I got to the stadium, a couple sportswriters I knew said, “Jeez, Ray, you’re back.” I go, “I’m sure the Bulls are gonna bring in somebody else for the playoffs.” About 10 minutes later, Les Grobstein, one of the radio guys I knew, said, “Hey, Ray, they just announced that you’re the new PA announcer.” The Bulls had made an announcement in the press room while I was doing pregame announcements. A Bulls rep came up to me shortly thereafter and said, “Oh, Ray, by the way, congratulations—we’re gonna keep you on.”