It’s two hours before tipoff, and droves of fans in a sea of blue and gold stand with signs, take selfies, and cheer as they watch the Warriors warm up. Up about 60 steps from the half court sideline, in a section broadcasters call “The Perch,” someone else is warming up, too.
“Hey there, hi there, ho there. Happy as WE can be, M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E.”
That’s Tim Roye, the radio play-by-play announcer starting his 22nd season with the Warriors.
He’s known the team since before Steph Curry, before the Championship, before it was even a play off contender.
With all those years of experience, I want to know: Does he ever get bored? Or nervous?
“No, I get fired up for games," He tells me. "I’m fired up all the time. When I start breaking down the game and the numbers, it never feels like work. Never feels like work.”
That’s true, even when he has to fill the time.
“I always prepare like it’s gonna be a blowout because that way you’re never caught off guard. You always have something you can talk about,” he says.
Tim’s been preparing for this job his whole life. He came from an East Coast family that loved sports.
“I’m old enough to remember the transistor radio. I could probably pull in about six or seven games a night,” he recalls. “Because I lived in Northern Connecticut, we were close enough to get Boston games, New York games, Philadelphia. We could even get the Montreal Expos in French. I didn’t know much French, but I knew if it was, said something like uh dos, dos, it was two and two the count. I heard a lot of announcers early on.”
But, the person who really inspired Tim’s career was Red Barber, the legendary baseball commentator. Tim gobbled up his autobiography.
“I got to hear in his words about being a sportscaster and sitting up in the press box, and I thought that sounds really cool to me.”
He was only 8 or 9 at the time, but tells me, “I knew that this was the job that I really wanted. This is what I always wanted to be.”
Tim got his first gig at 19 calling minor league hockey games in upstate New York. Then came minor league basketball, baseball, even Canadian football, before he settled on basketball. He played on his high school’s team, and worked hard off the court, too, scouting his opponents with his brother.
“My dad would let us borrow his old station wagon. We’d drive to a high school, watch a game, take a couple notes on players, like ‘every time he dribbles the ball hard, he’s gonna go up for a shot,’” he tells me. “We were always talking the game, and so that I think helped me once I got some basketball gigs, because the flow of it, the strategy, the nuances were very familiar to me.”
I get to see that in action when I join Tim Roye and his broadcast team at “The Perch.” His fellow sports fanatics handle the soundboard, feed him noteworthy stats, even deliver coffee. They’ve all got their headsets on, ready to go. Right before the National Anthem, they stand up, and fist bump each other.
Once the game starts, it’s about covering the basics, saying where the ball is, and reminding listeners the score. It turns out, you can never say the score enough.
Senior Producer R.C. Davis, who has worked with Tim for 11 seasons, tells me: “Tim’s job is to paint that picture so if you’re driving in your car, sitting in your living room, he can tell you where exactly the ball is. He’s just masterful at telling a story, basically. He’s a great storyteller.”
Part of telling the story is using players’ and coaches’ own words. Tim’s loaded up his laptop with soundbytes to use during breaks in the game like free throws or a timeout, but many of the stories he shares, are in his head.
“And that’s the the great thing about being in one place for a long time is that I can bring up a story from say 10 years ago, uh maybe a Baron Davis or Jason Richardson anecdote that is similar to something that’s happening you know, with the Warriors right now,” he says.
Tim tells me many Warriors fans are just as knowledgeable as he is. “They know the NBA, they don’t need a scoreboard to tell them when it’s time to make noise.”
By now, Tim has called more than 1,700 games for the Warriors, and plenty of them were not pretty. The Fans and Tim had to put in a lot of time without a championship…
“They don’t want me to sugarcoat things when things are going bad,” he tells me. “And, things were bad. They were really bad for a while.”
It’s his job to keep fans engaged, which makes his most memorable call of all time that much sweeter…
That is, of course, Tim’s call from the Warrior’s 2015 Championship Winning Game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
I offer to play the call to trigger his memory, but Tim tells me it’s all still in his head. He describes the final moments of the game, as the clock was winding down.
“I was thinking about you know, now this generation has their own Warrior championship team. It’s not their dad’s team, it’s not their grandfather’s team. It’s their team,” he recalls. “It was an emotional moment, it was an unbelievable moment. It’s a moment a broadcaster dreams of, and I was just trying to do it -- give it the appropriate justice and excitement at the same time.”
That’s still his job. Back at Oracle Arena, fans get to watch Kevin Durant play as a newly minted Warrior for the first time. When he scores his first basket -- no surprise -- Dub Nation goes wild.
I myself am jumping up and down, headphones on, and recorder in hand. Tim might be equally excited, but he has to call it, seated.
After the game, which the Warriors won in a blowout, I ask Tim about his legacy. Though he’s a long way from retiring, he says he hopes fans will think: “Hey, you know what, ‘he was good, he worked hard, he made the games fun.’ Maybe they’re stuck on BART or in their car, and if I can bring them inside the arena and have them feel the experience of this building, which is an unbelievable building to work in, then I’ve done my job.”
Something he’s done for thousands of fans for more than 20 years.