90s Bulls announcer Ray Clay left the team over this controversial Michael Jordan announcement

Joshua Rogers April 5, 2022
90s Bulls announcer Ray Clay left the team over this controversial Michael Jordan announcement
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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MJ transcended basketball in the 1990s to become a global pop culture figure. His story is well told, but what happened to Ray Clay, the Bulls announcer who left the team over a Michael Jordan announcement?

The ’90s Chicago Bulls are arguably the greatest team in NBA history. Led by Michael Jordan, the Bulls pulled off two three-peats between 1991-1993 and 1996-1998, winning six NBA championships. This era of basketball is well documented and, thanks to Netflix’s The Last Dance, a new generation of hoops fans are now familiar with the likes of Phil Jackson, Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause.

The documentary also introduced people to some lesser-known individuals who witnessed the success of the Bulls up close and personal. (Who can forget John Michael Wozniak, the police officer and security guard who frequently competed in quarters battles with MJ?)

However, one of the more forgotten names from then is Ray Clay, the 90s Bulls announcer who left the team under controversial circumstances.

Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

Who was Ray Clay?

Ray Clay is best known as the Chicago Bulls team announcer in the United Center throughout the 1990s. Clay served as the Bulls’ public-address announcer for 12 seasons and all six championships.

During that time, Clay became famous for his opening address to fans, with his signature: “Aaaaand now… the starting line-up… for your… Chicago Bulls!” Clay made announcing starting line-ups a must-see event, and his incredibly distinctive player introductions added to the legacy and mystique of the 90s Bulls.

His most famous line “Frommm North Carolina… at guard… 6ft 6in… Michael Jordan” over The Alan Parsons Project instrumental Sirius is arguably the most iconic introduction in all sports history. (However, Tommy Williams is actually the man responsible for the original starting line-up theme and starting line-up call.)

Ray Clay left the Bulls over this Michael Jordan announcement

The announcer was a much-loved member of United Center’s staff during the 1990s. However, Ray Clay was allegedly fired from the organisation over a Michael Jordan announcement in 2002.

At the time, MJ was playing for the Washington Wizards and was scheduled to return to the United Center for the first time since leaving the Bulls in 1998.

Clay wanted to honour the former Bulls star with his iconic introduction, but it’s reported management refused and wanted Clay to do it like every other player. When the game came, Clay said he followed orders to treat Jordan’s introduction the same as he would any opponent’s.

At the end of the season, Clay’s contract was not renewed. The Bulls’ stated reason at the time was they had made a decision to go in a “different direction”. Some fans have also alleged it was because Clay missed a bunch of games that season.

However, Clay insisted he got fired because management took offense to him saying Jordan’s first return as an opponent deserved a special introduction. “When you put two and two together, that’s all it could be. I can’t think of anything else I ever did wrong,” he said.

What is he up to now?

At the time, the Chicago Tribune reported that Clay retained his full-time job as director of campus recreation at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

In 2006, Clay returned to basketball when he became an announcer for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA. This tied in well with his job as the Sky played their home games at UIC, where he still worked. In 2019, after 12 years with the Sky, Clay retired.

Ray’s time with the Bulls didn’t end the way he would have wanted. However, his voice will forever be synonymous with the legacy of Michael Jordan.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.