Lawrence Tanter is a familiar voice in an unfamiliar Lakers season

Lawrence Tanter is a familiar voice in an unfamiliar Lakers season
Lakers arena announcer Lawrence Tanter looks on before the start of a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center in March 2011. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

There's a person sitting courtside who's acutely aware of all the losing the Lakers are doing.

Lawrence Tanter was at the midcourt stripe when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points. He was at the Forum when the Lakers won the championship against Boston in 1987, then at Staples Center when they beat the Celtics again in 2010.

"I have the best seat in the house," he said in his familiar mellifluous voice.

As the Lakers' public-address announcer, Tanter has attended almost every home game since 1982. This is a difficult season, the Lakers hugging up against their worst record ever, but Tanter learned long ago to maintain professionalism.


He's far from the screaming fanatics employed by so many other NBA teams, cheerleaders with courtside microphones at their disposal. His mentor, the late Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, would scowl at such behavior.


"I've talked to a lot of guys around the league over the years and the majority of them are being told to do that by the franchises," Tanter said. "Fortunately, the man who employed me until his untimely death two years ago, Jerry Buss, never told me anything like that, and I appreciated that.


"He never said 'Be louder' or 'More inflection.' He said, 'I like the way you call the game. It's professional and it reflects what we want to be as an organization.' I've tried to keep that as my mandate over the years."

Tanter, 65, had the last word when Bryant scored 81 against Toronto in 2006, imploring fans to save their ticket stubs from what he dubbed a "historic night at Staples Center."

He was the first voice to stand out among the bedlam when the Lakers came from behind to beat Boston in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. He said simply in his stentorian way, "Number 16."

The Lakers (17-47) won't be winning a 17th championship this season. Not even close. But Tanter keeps doing what he does best.

"There are ups and downs in life. Alphas and omegas," he said. "You have to be professional, though.

"When I started, I made it a point to meet Chick and introduce myself and talk to him because Chick had already been in the league for many years, since 1960, when the Lakers moved out here. My first thing was, give me some guidance on what a public-address announcer is supposed to be because you travel the league and there's no school for PA announcers. There's no manual.

"Chick was very helpful in telling me to be precise, be informative. Always imagine that someone blind is watching the game so they can feel the game from an audio perspective even though they can't see it."

Tanter immediately cites Bryant's 81-point outburst as his most memorable game, though there was a surprising follow-up — the 1983 NBA All-Star game at the Forum.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes took part in the game. Adding to Tanter's delight was Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem.

"I'm kind of a musicologist," Tanter said, smiling.

Tanter's duties have changed over the years. When he first started out, he had his microphone, of course, and a telephone that went directly to the stat crew upstairs. That was all.

"Now I have a headset on with 14 people on it — lighting, the band, sound, music director. It's a very big production. There's a lot that goes into a pro basketball team now. And everything is sponsored now. You make sure that you give all the sponsors what they deserve in terms of audio and visual."

He also laughs at another on-court change.

"I do wish some of the officials were taller because sometimes I can't see their hand signals. And I wish they had little microphones next to their collars so they could tell me who the foul is on," he said. "Years ago, when a player would get a foul called on them, they would raise their hands. They don't do that anymore."

Lakers' lottery balls

Forget playoff pushes. No Lakers title parades this June. The real race is for a bottom-five draft pick that the Lakers don't have to give to the Philadelphia 76ers. The regular season ends April 15, the draft lottery is May 19 and the NBA draft is June 25. Below are standings of the five worst teams after Saturday's games and odds to land the No. 1 overall pick, which will be Duke center Jahlil Okafor until further notice:

1. New York (13-51, 25%)

2. Minnesota (14-50, 15.6%)

3. Philadelphia (15-50, 19.9%)

4. Lakers (17-47, 10.4%)

5. Orlando (21-46, 10.3%)


When: 6:30 PDT Sunday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 17-47, Hawks 51-14.

Record vs. Hawks: 1-0.

Update: For all their foibles this season, the Lakers own victories over Golden State, San Antonio, Chicago, Houston and, indeed, Atlanta. The Lakers won a road game against the Hawks in November, 114-109, when Kobe Bryant had 28 points and Carlos Boozer added 20. The teams have taken divergent paths since then, the Hawks shooting to the top of the Eastern Conference — 10 games ahead of second-place Cleveland — while the Lakers linger near the NBA's bottom.

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan