Clippers TV broadcaster Ralph Lawler said that this NBA season "will be his last" as he will retire after 40 years on the job, according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Lawler said that he is in "good health," and that he "actually made the decision a year ago." He was "going to wait until April 10, the final regular-season game at Staples Center, to reveal it, but the Clippers wanted to properly honor him throughout the year." Lawler will retire having "made an imprint on his organization that mirrors those made" by the three great L.A. announcers who retired before him: Vin Scully (Dodgers), Chick Hearn (Lakers) and Bob Miller (Kings). Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer said Lawler "isn't just the voice of the team, he has been the heart and soul of the Clippers" (L.A. TIMES, 9/13). In California, Mirjam Swanson notes Lawler started with the then-San Diego Clippers in '78, the team’s "first year in California, before moving with the franchise" to L.A. six years later. He has "called more than 3,100 games and is one of a select group of announcers who have called games in each of the four major U.S. sports leagues." Some of Lawler's "closest friends and colleagues from across his career -- including former longtime broadcast partner Bill Walton -- will join him as his broadcast partner for special games" this season. The Clippers' regular-season finale on April 10 against the Jazz at Staples Center "will be Ralph Lawler Night." The first 10,000 fans at the game "will receive Ralph Lawler bobbleheads," and the evening will be a "celebration of Lawler's career" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/13).
TWITTER REAX: ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi: "Much like the team he was the voice of, Ralph Lawler often got lost in the mix in LA amongst Chick Hearn (Lakers), Vin Scully (Dodgers) and Bob Miller (Kings) but he was one of the all-time greats and deserves all the accolades that will no doubt come his way." L.A. Radio personality Andy Kamenetzky: "Pretty crazy to think about games without Ralph Lawler. The guy has done tremendous work, even when the teams and the franchise were atrocious. Easily the greatest Clipper of all-time." L.A. Times' Ben Bolch: "Never met a more gracious and talented man and wish him the best." Memphis Commercial Appeal's Evan Barnes: "Most NBA fans know Lawler’s Law. But I love Lawler’s 'Bingo!!' as my favorite call of his. Hope he gets all the love this upcoming season." Basketball Insiders' Eric Pincus: "He's an institution."
Scott Van Pelt over his 17 years at ESPN has become one of the network's "most recognizable and popular faces, a perfect front-man for a network constantly in crisis," according to Alex Putterman of the HARTFORD COURANT. Van Pelt "remains largely uncontroversial, even while offering unvarnished opinions." At a time when cord-cutting has "sapped ratings, his show continues to generate strong viewership." As of Aug. 19, Van Pelt's show is up 8% "year-over-year" from '17. Few personalities at ESPN have as "much control over their shows" as Van Pelt does with his midnight "SportsCenter." Although other shows in that mold have "since been canceled in a move back to a traditional news-centric model," Van Pelt's "SC" enters its fourth year as a "talk-show/highlight-show hybrid." The Supreme Court's May decision to legalize sports betting led to many media outlets "ramping up their gambling coverage," but Van Pelt has been "doing a 'Bad Beats' segments since his show began three years ago." He is "careful not to claim too much credit as a pioneer" in that area, but he clearly "recognized an appetite for betting talk before many others." Van Pelt's "1 Big Thing" is his "nightly commentary, his chance to offer opinions" on things that fascinate him. In '18, writing commentary about sports, "particularly under an ESPN banner, can be a fraught exercise." But Van Pelt "navigates this dynamic by largely sticking to sports." He said, "Everybody has their own feelings, and I have mine, but I look at sports as the great unifier, and I choose to treat my show that way. If you are Donald Trump's biggest fan or his biggest detractor, here's the score of the Yankee game" (COURANT.com, 9/12).
Perform Group’s DAZN has signed a multiyear agreement with Hispanic-focused MMA property Combate Americas for exclusive English-language media rights in the U.S. and Canada. The deal will involve a minimum of 13 fights per year in which DAZN will carry feeds it receives from Univision, which has Spanish-language rights in the U.S., and then customizes for its audience. The deal will begin tomorrow night from Phoenix with a card led by Levy Marroquin and Jose Alday. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the Combate Americas content furthers DAZN’s focus on combat sports and arrives the same week as the debut of DAZN’s U.S.-based OTT service. The deal also marks the first time Combate Americas will be shown to English-language viewers. The seven-year-old Combate Americas is led by veteran TV producer and UFC co-creator Campbell McLaren. “This is a relatively new property, but something that fits squarely in our core offering,” said DAZN Senior VP/North America Joseph Markowski. “We see huge growth potential in Combate Americas.”