Chris Roberts, longtime UCLA basketball and soccer radio announcer, dies at 74


Chris Roberts had not accomplished his name of probably the most iconic play in UCLA basketball historical past when broadcast associate Marques Johnson butted in.

“Yeah, child! Yeah, child! Yeah, child!” Johnson blurted after Tyus Edney dribbled from one baseline to the opposite in 4.8 seconds to beat Missouri within the 1995 NCAA event with a twisting layup.

“I in all probability stepped on his name,” Johnson remembered Saturday by phone, “however Tyus is a cousin of mine and I went overboard and Chris gave me the latitude to do issues like that. He was a giving associate.”

It was the Roberts Approach, the radio voice of UCLA basketball and soccer for 23 years by no means needing to be the focal point regardless of being in the course of so many magical moments. He referred to as two Rose Bowls and a Cotton Bowl along with the 1995 basketball nationwide championship sport and three extra Ultimate Fours. By the point of his retirement in 2015, Roberts had tied Fred Hessler for the longest tenure as a UCLA sports activities broadcaster.

His easy, comforting voice having served because the soundtrack for a era of Bruins followers, Roberts died early Friday morning at his Glendora house of problems from Parkinson’s illness and a latest stroke. He was 74.

Recognized for his heat and radiant smile as a lot as his skill to seize the essence of video games, Roberts mentored a number of broadcast companions, together with Johnson, Mike Warren, Don MacLean, Tracy Murray, David Norrie, Matt Stevens and Wayne Prepare dinner.

“With out you, I’m not a radio broadcaster at UCLA,” wrote Murray, who’s now the Bruins’ basketball radio analyst alongside Josh Lewin, in an Instagram tribute to Roberts. “You had been my mentor, you guided me, instructed me to annunciate, assault the microphone… These are issues I nonetheless hear in my thoughts after I’m broadcasting.”

Roberts’ rise was as dramatic as that of the gamers he coated. Born Robert LaPeer on March 23, 1949, in Alhambra, he performed soccer, basketball and baseball at Baldwin Park Excessive and baseball at Cal Poly Pomona, the place his curiosity in broadcasting was sparked.

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UCLA play-by-play broadcaster Chris Roberts, proper, chats with analyst Tracy Murray throughout a sport at Pauley Pavilion in January 2015.

(Don Liebig / UCLA)

LaPeer had begun to work his means by means of an alphabet soup of radio stations in Southern California when this system director at KFXM in San Bernardino requested him to alter his title in 1970 to keep away from confusion with one other station worker named Bob.

Accommodating as at all times, LaPeer picked Roberts as his final title as a result of it basically matched his first title. He went with Chris as his first title as a result of he appreciated the work of sportscaster Chris Schenkel.

Formally generally known as Chris Roberts, he labored for a number of extra stations whereas additionally serving because the radio voice for Lengthy Seaside State athletics for 10 years. Roberts referred to as UCLA’s first house soccer sport on the Rose Bowl on Sept. 11, 1982, as a member of the 49ers’ broadcast staff. He labored out of a primitive radio sales space consisting of a wooden shed with a countertop perched atop the press field.

UCLA gained in a 41-10 runaway, finally capping that season within the Rose Bowl sport, and through the years Roberts dreamed of being part of one thing like that.

“If he was going to get one thing in L.A.,” mentioned David LaPeer, Roberts’ son, “he needed it to be UCLA as a result of it was the largest sport on the town in faculty sports activities.”

When Roberts was employed in 1992 to interchange John Rebensdorf, a buddy and former colleague who had died of coronary heart failure, UCLA was on its fifth broadcaster in as a few years. The Bruins wouldn’t have to return available on the market for greater than 20 years, having fun with stability throughout a golden age of UCLA sports activities.

“He was so loyal,” mentioned Marc Dellins, the college’s former longtime sports activities data director. “I imply, something that UCLA wanted him to do, whether or not it was discuss to a bunch of individuals or emcee an occasion, he was there, no questions requested. He was proud to signify the college and he didn’t even go to UCLA however he grew to become UCLA.”

On the way in which to turning into a four-time Golden Mike Award winner who was inducted into the Southern California Sports activities Broadcasters Assn. Corridor of Fame in 2012, Roberts developed catchphrases comparable to “Uh-oh, Ed-O” at any time when star ahead Ed O’Bannon dazzled. He memorably described a simultaneous sack by defensive ends Mat and Dave Ball as “a twin Ball sack!”

Johnson was befuddled when Roberts would log out broadcasts by thanking, amongst others, statistician Bob LaPeer. Lastly, after 4 or 5 video games, Johnson inquired about this mysterious Bob LaPeer earlier than listening to the backstory about Roberts’ title change. Johnson additionally realized that Roberts had been the DJ on a cool soul music station that Johnson listened to within the Nineteen Eighties.

As a sports activities broadcaster, Roberts was recognized for his vitality and vivid descriptions with a mode paying homage to legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn.

“He wasn’t a type of guys who needed to hit the 100-decibel stage with all the pieces that occurred,” Johnson mentioned of Roberts, “however he would construct as much as a climax of a play and his enthusiasm and pleasure would enhance relying on the scenario. … He was so good at portray an image to make you are feeling such as you had been on the sport — he would deliver you in and maintain you in.”

Growing a pure chemistry as companions, Johnson hardly ever wanted to make use of the sign he had devised to faucet Roberts on the leg at any time when he had one thing so as to add because the analyst.

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Radio evaluation Bob Myers, left, and play-by-play announcer Chris Roberts sit collectively throughout a sport.

(Don Liebig / UCLA)

“He wasn’t the kind of play-by-play man that needed to suck up all of the airtime,” Johnson mentioned. “He would at all times have a look at me like, ‘Your flip,’ and it was virtually a cadence we developed; he would describe the play and have a look at me and it was my time to get in with a succinct level.”

Occurring to grow to be an Emmy Award-winning tv broadcaster for the Milwaukee Bucks, Johnson credited Roberts with greater than being a supportive associate who taught him the significance of meticulous preparation throughout their a number of years collectively within the Nineties.

“Chris Roberts was only a actual godsend for me the place I used to be at that time in my profession and issues that had been occurring and challenges that I used to be going by means of,” Johnson mentioned. “He was simply actually good at retaining me unfastened and retaining me laughing and we had such a good time collectively that it was virtually like stealing cash. It was so satisfying that it was one thing that I might have performed totally free based mostly on the moments and experiences we had collectively.”

Roberts is survived by his spouse, Ann LaPeer; son David LaPeer and daughter-in-law Yvette LaPeer; daughter Nichole Hijon-LaPeer and son-in-law Octavio Hijon; and grandchildren Andres, Santiago and Carmen. Providers are pending.


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