Gus Johnson: Rise and Fire!
A chat with one of the best in the biz and the voice of EA’s NCAA Basketball 2010.
by Adam Fleischer
It’s a reality of college ball: if you’ve watched March Madness in recent years, you’ve been brought to your feet by buzzer beaters, upsets and general tournament chaos. Often, there’s one voice that’s getting extra hype along with you.
That voice is Gus Johnson.
He’s been announcing the NCAA Tournament on CBS for more than a decade and has earned the well-deserved reputation as one of the game’s best play-by-play guys—full of energy, passion, and spontaneity—during that span. It’s no wonder, then, that EA Sports brought him on board, along with partner Bill Raftery, for this year’s version of NCAA Basketball. It’s the first appearance in the game for the duo and CBS Sports, but that doesn’t mean EA is ditching longtime partner ESPN. Nope. Instead, when you set up games, you can choose from the CBS visual and audio package or the ESPN one, helmed by Brad Nessler and Dick Vitale.
In case you don’t know much about the game, which dropped on November 18, here’s what you need to know…
Go pick up the newest issue of SLAM and read the review. It’s out now.
Then you’ll know more.
Ok, fine, I trust that you’re going to, so we can touch on a few of the reasons that the game is dope here. One of my personal favorite aspects is the player animations—the way they cut, dive for loose balls, and absorb contact on drives. There’s also the “Toughest Places to Play” feature—key to any collegiate sports game—that channels the effects of 20 of the nation’s most electric arenas through camera shaking, crowd noise and more. There are a handful of motion offenses that you can run, including Dribble Drive, Princeton and Flex, helping to bring an added layer of authenticity as you play with your school. Oh, and there’s Gus Johnson.
Have friends and I sat around listening back to some of Johnson’s calls on YouTube, just to find ourselves freshly amped and foolishly imitating? Yes. More than once. Have we hoped that CBS would be showing a certain game over another because of the dudes on the mic, regardless of the dudes on the floor? I’d be lying if I said no. Simply put, the man’s love for the game is apparent in the cadence of his calls.
He’s known for some calls in particular, but he’s got other trademarks and classics to couple with a wide range of memorable moments. Plus, in case you weren’t aware (and if you’re a football fan or live in the New York area, you have no excuse for being unaware), Johnson lends his voice to far more than college basketball. He does Knicks radio broadcasts (and occasionally TV), CBS football coverage, and boxing, as well.
But it’s about much more than the loud, excited calls for which Johnson has become recognized. Dude loves and knows the game, something that was abundantly clear when I was fortunate enough to speak with him for a few minutes last week. Check out the audio below (it’s about 12 minutes) where we touch on the video game, why he’s a superstar in the eyes of his 6-year-old son, a meeting with Magic Johnson and more.