After venturing to the UIC basketball game on Tuesday night, I was met with a familiar voice by the public address announcer working the game. My mind was quick to think, but struggled at first. It was in the realm of "Hey, I know that guy, but I haven't heard him in a decade. Who is that guy?!". After a brief discussion with my teacher, we came to the realization that it was none other than Ray Clay.
For those who did not have the opportunity to enjoy Michael Jordan and the six-time championship-winning Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, then Ray Clay's name might mean very little. However, for those who heard the sounds that erupted from the United Center and the televised broadcasts, Ray Clay's name carries a little more weight.
Clay began his career announcing basketball games for the UIC Flames in 1980 before landing the job with the Chicago Bulls in 1990. Clay went on to work for the Bulls as their public address announcer throughout their title-runs, spanning nearly 13 seasons. In an interview with UIC's Gary Wibsy in 2007, Clay said, "When I started talking, they started winning," he joked. "But it's really because of Number 23."
Michael Jordan was number 23, but to Ray Clay and the rest of the fans, he became known as "Frommmm North Carolina...at guard....6'6"....Michael Jordan!". Clay belted out each player's name with an extreme sense of enthusiasm backed by the use of The Alan Parsons Project song "Sirius" as introduction music. To this day, Clay's impact and addressing style are mimicked throughout the league.
Despite eventually parting ways with the Bulls, Clay has always managed to stay busy with work. Since 1980, Clay has worked announcing the UIC basketball games and in 2006, he was hired to be an announcer for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA.
In bringing myself back to my seat at the UIC Pavilion, Tuesday night, I found myself pleased to find a familiar voice in a foreign arena, full of strangers. Simply put, Ray Clay's voice is rooted deeply in Chicago sports history and the minds of fans galore.