For those wondering whose booming, melodic voice blares over Verizon Center’s public-address system during Washington Wizards home games, it’s Ralph Wesley.
Some fans who’ve attended the games stare, laugh and yell at the big screen above the court when Wesley contorts his face to yell his trademark opening-tip announcement: “It’s GAAAAAME TIIIIIME!”
Wesley, 33, joined the Wizards as the PA announcer the same year the team drafted John Wall in 2010, so he’s one of the few people inside the organization who’s seen Wall develop into a four-time All-Star point guard.
The District native, who graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast, has a studio at his Northeast home to continue his pursuit as a full-time, voice-over artist.
He credits his education at Delaware State University in Dover as a broadcast journalism student for helping him perfect his craft, worked the microphone at basketball, football and even some soccer games.
The first time his voice boomed across Verizon Center at age 23 was for the Washington Mystics for three seasons, with part of them as an assistant PA announcer.
Since the Wizards play only 41 homes games, Wesley works part-time at ESPN 980 AM conducting voice-over and production work, as well as bestowing his talents on the Washington Redskins radio network.
However, fans don’t get to hear Wesley chant “DE-FENSE!” or “DEEE! CEEE! THREE!” during Friday night games because he started to observe the Sabbath, or holy day, about three years ago. He simply says, “I’m a Torah observant believer in the Messiah.”
In the meantime, if you can’t catch a game in person, you can listen for his voice on television. Check your local cable provider for specific channels.
Here are some thoughts from the husband of two children, ages 2½ and 9 months, in his own words:
As a 2005 HBCU graduate, what did Delaware State do for you to prepare for this job?
It’s a humbling experience coming from a small school that nurtured you like a family. Everybody knew who you were. What you get at an HBCU school is nothing you get anywhere else. I was able to experience and get better at my craft. I know that opportunity was unique to HBCU’s. Just knowing that and taking it to the NBA is very gratifying. Not a lot of people have come from HBCU’s and been able to make a mark in the NBA. There’s another guy…doing Charlotte Hornets games [Pat “Big Pat” Doughty who attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland]. He called me the next day after I got the gig with the Wizards. That was cool.
What’s some of the best parts of your job?
Three little boys back in December or January made a sign that said, “I’m Ralph’s number one fan.” They wanted my autograph and sign their jerseys with Bradley Beal and John Wall [autographs on the jerseys]. I am just trying to relay information and keep the crowd entertained. I really get a kick out of stuff like that. I also love the game and also know the nuances. It is a fast game, especially sitting where I am. It is more of an entertainment value in the NBA a lot of people don’t get to know. You have to wait for a referee’s cue, then from a marketing standpoint during a timeout when there’s fan interactions. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.
How has it been seeing John Wall progress as a player?
It’s funny that I’ve seen the growth of him as a player and a person. It’s been a pleasure to see him coming in as a shy kid with the weight of the city on his shoulders as the number one pick. He is saying, ‘this is my team.’ He’s not only getting better, but seeing his shooting percentage increase has been amazing. It has been pleasure being on this ride with him.