Lawrence Tanter Playing His Part In The Bubble

Basketball ball on court with light coming from the left and public in the background

When times are strange and you need all the help you can get, even the PA announcer needs to play a part too. Such is the level of preparation put in by the Lakers for the conclusion of the season in the Orlando bubble. Here we explore the work of Lawrence Tanter and why he is helping the franchise from a social distance.

Who is Lawrence Tanter?

Since the 1980s, Lawrence Tanter has been responsible for calling out the names of some of the greatest players of all time for the Lakers. He is the man with that baritone voice that builds up the excitement, as he tells the audience who will play in such a dramatic way. 

Although he is in his 37th year on the public address system in LA, you are never likely to hear his own name called out. For Tanter, it is all about the players and to introduce himself would be far too self-indulgent. He admitted that he is constantly aware of the talented athletes he is surrounded by and how happy he is to have the opportunity to be in their presence.

If you have ever been to the Staples Center to see the Lakers, you will have heard Tanter’s voice coming out of the sound system. In return, the announcer gets the best seat on the court, on the scorer’s table right by the halfcourt line. He is close enough to the action to hold a conversation with the players both on the bench and on the court. He once had a conversation with Michael Jordan that he regretted. He asked the superstar to ease up a little and was told in short order that he would do no such thing.

Tanter on Basketball

Tanter was introduced to basketball in the 1950s when he was taken to see the Harlem Globetrotters in Chicago by his father. Can you imagine seeing Wilt Chamberlain play as a kid and looking up into the face of a man that tall? He immediately fell in love with the game, played himself a little but was always the awestruck fan at the side of the court.

He was awarded a basketball scholarship to the University of Dubuque in Iowa, a place where he also found himself on the school radio behind the microphone. It seems he was fated to bring these two worlds together. The campus newspaper advertised they were looking for announcers and a career was set on course.

Tanter moved to LA in the 70s and worked on jazz radio. Then, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar joined the Lakers, someone who also adored jazz, so Tanter began to follow the team. He was inspired by the then PA announcer, John Ramsey – and he realised he would love a go. So, he thought he ought to apply for his back up, sending in an audition tape. When the replacement announcer, McKay couldn’t PA anymore, the franchise gave Tanter the call. He was guided by the legendary Chick Hearn, who was the voice behind the play-by-play since the 1960s. As there was no PA announcer school, Tanter had his apprenticeship under one of the greats – who told him to be precise and be informative.

Tanter and the Bubble

So, even though Lawrence Tanter is not in the Bubble in Orlando, it is interesting how the Lakers have brought the home feel to court with his voice. The hope is that they can create the feel of a home game, transporting the team in their minds to the Staples Center, with the sound of Tanter booming from the sound system.

Tanter recorded a powerful opening to the first seeding game in the Bubble. He announced via recording:

“And now, celebrating their 60th year in Southern California, 72nd year in the NBA, the franchise with 23 Pacific Division titles, 31 Western Conference titles and 16 NBA titles, your Los Angeles Lakers.”

If you are a player for the franchise, it is an inspiring reminder of the epic history you are a part of and the essential role you now play in maintaining this great record. While you shouldn’t forget what it means to play for the Lakers when you look across the dressing room and see LeBron James and Anthony Davis – it might be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. With no shouts from the bleachers, you do not feel the immediate pressure of the crowd.

Lawrence Tanter has recorded many introductions so that he takes account of the many potential line-up combinations and the current performance of the team. These introductions will ring out at the start of Lakers games, echoing around The Arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

When asked why he thought it was so important to add his voice to the event, Tanter claimed that he hoped it gave them a “little degree of home-cooking’, man” and so helping the players forget for a second that they are more than 2000 miles away from LA and how they might be missing their families and more. A little taste of home can make all the difference to confidence.

Every little matters

There are lots of theories in coaching. Not many of these theories would suggest that the PA announcer has a part to play in the success of a franchise. However, there are those that believe that small details when added up can make a big impact. When you are coaching superstars, there are only marginal gains to be made. Therefore, one of those small details could be psychological – when they hear something that reminds the player of the home support and the roar of appreciation that usually greats them as they run on the court.

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