SALT LAKE CITY — You might not recognize Dan Roberts if he passed you on the street.
But put that street inside of EnergySolutions Arena, fill the place up with 19,911 loud fans and two NBA teams, look both ways and pass him while he's enthusiastically bellowing out "How 'bout this Jazz!?" and there's a good chance you'd recognize his rich baritone voice.
"Memo! Three! Money!"
"Jazz fans, bring the noise!"
Yep, that's Roberts. Distinct and dynamic. Energetic and engaging. The one and only.
Hot Rod Hundley, Craig Bolerjack and David Locke have been the media mouthpieces of the Utah Jazz over the years. But it's Roberts' powerful pipes that fans have heard as the team's voice inside the arena ever since he introduced the relocated franchise's first starting lineup when the NBA jazzed up the Utah sports scene 31 years ago.
"I go back to the opening tipoff," Roberts said. "It was a slow start obviously, but we just kept going and going and going, and I've become acceptable background ambience now."
Since introducing the likes of Adrian Dantley, Allan Bristow and Ron Boone to new Jazz fans for the first time on Oct. 15, 1979, Roberts has become a fixture of the franchise. He's been courtside — calling out announcements, team intros, names of scorers and penalized players, promo blurbs, not to mention exuberantly egging on the crowd at times — for just about 1,500 Jazz home games at the old Salt Palace and the ESA.
Roberts is proud to pronounce this unique fact: "Anybody that's ever played in Salt Lake has come across my tongue."
From Pete Maravich to Pete Chilcutt.
Over three-plus decades, Roberts has missed fewer than 10 games during his reign as the Jazz's public address announcer.
And who can blame him?
The job comes with a pretty great perk.
"I get paid," he said, "to sit at midcourt."
There are other menial tasks that accompany the paycheck.
Like eating catered pregame dinners.
And meeting basketball celebrities such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Wilt Chamberlain, a "very, very cordial" Magic Johnson, the "basically OK" Larry Bird, even Mr. Wacky Worm himself. (Dennis Rodman once said hi to an amused Roberts, pointed at his microphone and told him, "You do a pretty job with that thing.")
Imagine the drudgery he must also suffer through while being forced to attend the biggest hoops events that come to town — from the A.D. Era at the old to the Stockton-to-Malone Hall of Fame heydays, the 1993 NBA All-Star Game, two NBA Finals, the heroic heave by Sundiata Gaines to tonight's must-win Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
All up front and center, of course.
Jazz fans, how 'bout this job!?
It's a tough task, but someone's gotta do it — and the full-time kitchen and bath designer will (twist his arm) take one for the team.
Roberts has been doing P.A. work since the early 1970s. While dabbling with a radio career at KALL, he was the Utah Stars' arena announcer from 1971-75. He was also at the courtside mic for the Utah Prospectors of the Western Basketball Association and, a bit more prominently, did voice work for University of Utah games upon then-coach Jerry Pimm's recommendation.
Roberts announced games for his favorite college for free — a volunteer post that had a handsome payoff. He got to work arguably the most famous basketball game ever played: Magic vs. Bird (aka Michigan State vs. Indiana State in the NCAA championship game at the Special Events Center).
That gratis gig didn't last long. Roberts' voice struck a chord with Jazz brass when they moved here from New Orleans.
"And," Roberts laughed, "here I am."
Roberts likes the Jazz so much, in fact, he has no plans to hang up his mic anytime soon. Along with the incentives of being in the thick of things at midcourt, Roberts has been able to put a daughter through college with the extra income.
Roberts said "the possibility of winning it all" keeps him going, too.
"I want to be part of that," he said. "And as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to hang on until I can't get over the table anymore. And if I'm 85 years old when that's the case, so be it."
Roberts is a whippersnapper at 63, so set the Jazz's title timer at 22 years and counting.
If the job has done one thing to Roberts — not counting allowing him to meet and greet a bevy of basketball stars — it's made him, well, a seat snob.
"I would not be able to watch a game at any other place," he admitted.
Case in point: He took a grandson to watch the Globe?trotters at ESA a couple of years ago and his middle of the lower bowl spot felt like a nosebleed seat.
"I was only 10 rows up from the court," he laughed, "and I'm going, 'I hate this seat.' "
Roberts has done his job so long he says "there is no hard part." Staying attentive — he follows the ball and the officials — can be a challenge in blowouts. He also has to "manufacture exuberance" occasionally.
Another challenge has been saying names correctly, and he readily admits to having made his fair share of goofs. That chore became all the more difficult when international players hit the NBA scene, but he claims he's "not overwhelmed" to call out the Kyrylo Fesenkos of the world anymore. The European-heavy Jazz roster has helped.
John Stockton once chided him for pronouncing Gonzaga incorrectly, Roberts related with a laugh. "It's Gon-ZAG-a," he said. "Not Gon-zahg-a."
Roberts carried an Iranian national team roster around with him for about a week before the squad played at the Rocky Mountain Revue in 2008. He'd work on pronunciation at every stop sign, he joked.
Roberts' announcing has evolved over the years. He introduced his signature call five to six years after the Jazz arrived, and some fans have noticed he doesn't use that nearly as much nowadays. It came out of his mouth once during the Denver series — old habits, you know — but he now mostly helps work up the crowd with the marketing-driven "Bring the noise!" phrase.
"I'll still bring it back," he said of his famous "How 'bout this Jazz!?" call.
Roberts laughs (now, at least) that he was once called a "flippant truck-pull announcer" by a Portland writer and a "hip, flip disc-jockey type" by an Oakland columnist.
Those descriptions were made years ago, though, and Roberts admits he has toned down his announcing act after getting a head start over other P.A. guys on "screaming and yelling." He's conscientious of not sounding stupid and of not making himself be the attraction.
Roberts isn't about to take credit for the ear-splitting environment inside of the ESA. He credits the Jazz and their fans for that.
"I don't create it. I take advantage of it," he said of the deafening decibel levels. "I milk it. I nurse it. I bring it along and keep it moving."
Just like he has had a blast doing since 1979 — the beginning of his voice recognition era.
"Our fans are incredible. I adore them because I've been with them for a long time," Roberts said. "I've been with them as children, I've been with them as parents, and I've been with them as grandparents. The evolution of that has been kind of cool to be a part of, and I've enjoyed that immensely."
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