Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler gets a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Ralph Lawler first stood at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in the summer of 1946. He was only 8, having traveled from his family home in Peoria, Ill., to experience the Hollywood vibe because his father was a showman who would rise from usher to owner of several theaters.

Lawler returned to the spot in 1961 after graduating from college and taking a job with a radio station in Riverside owned by the legendary Dick Clark. He recognized the names of every star adorning the sidewalk on the fledgling Hollywood Walk of Fame, having essentially grown up in his father's theaters.

Lawler came back once more Thursday, no longer the wide-eyed observer. He was the featured attraction.

"I had dreams and aspirations," the longtime Clippers broadcaster told a throng of fans, "but I was never bold enough to dream that someday I'd be standing here today and get this star."

Lawler received the 2,575th star on the Walk of Fame. It would be easy to joke that he has experienced that many losses in his 37 years calling Clippers games, but Coach Doc Rivers divulged the numbers to the crowd: Lawler has been around for 18 coaches, 337 players and 1,852 losses.

"I haven't lost any!" Lawler interjected, prompting laughter.

Lawler, 77, joined several other local broadcasters who have also been honored with stars, including the Dodgers' Vin Scully, the Lakers' Chick Hearn and the Kings' Bob Miller. He called it the "greatest thrill of my professional life" during a broadcasting career that has included calling games in each of the four major U.S. sports leagues with the Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers (NBA), San Diego Chargers (NFL), Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) and Philadelphia Phillies (Major League Baseball).

"People say it's long overdue; I'm not sure it's even due," Lawler said. "People say you deserve it, I'm not sure I deserve it, but I'll sure take it, folks. This is a thrill."

Lawler was cheered by Clippers point guard Chris Paul as well as a host of former players, including Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell, Olden Polynice, Lamond Murray and John Williams. His wife, Jo, his three children and six of his seven grandchildren also were in attendance.

Clippers fans don't need to worry about any sort of imminent farewell. Lawler said he would continue to call games as long as his health was good and the quality of his work didn't start slipping.

"It's just so darn much fun, my wife loves it so much and this club is so generous in allowing her to travel with us," Lawler said after the ceremony. "How can I walk away from this? If I sensed or people started to say, 'You're really losing it,' I'd feel differently, but I'm not getting that yet and hopefully I never do."

Lawler asserted his star was an affirmation of how far the Clippers have come under owner Steve Ballmer, saying it wouldn't have been possible even five years ago. The words "Donald Sterling" were never uttered, but it was clear Lawler was pleased to be freed from being associated with a litany of embarrassing incidents that led the NBA to issue a lifetime ban for Sterling in 2014.

Lawler's work conditions have also improved during games since the arrival of Paul and star power forward Blake Griffin. The Clippers are headed for a franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance, giving Lawler and broadcast partner Michael Smith more to admire than other teams' top players like they did over many lean years.

"You had just a bunch of nondescript players and a nondescript team that didn't really have any ambitions beyond getting through the season and getting their paychecks and getting to free agency," Lawler recalled. "So that made it real challenging to say, 'Stay tuned, folks, you don't want to miss this.' "

Rivers praised Lawler for caring about the success of the team — "When Ralph gets on the plane after a loss," Rivers said, "you can see it on his face like a coach" — and called him the most important figure in the franchise. Rivers envisioned another way to honor Lawler: with a championship.

"That would be the icing, it really would," Rivers said. "Of all the guys, he should be the guy on the stage."

It would be the ultimate Hollywood ending.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 04, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "After calling the games, Lawler is finally the star - Clippers' announcer goes Hollywood for a day, joining other local legends who have earned spot on Walk of Fame." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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