The 10 Best NBA Starting Lineup Intros Ever
The starting lineup introductions have always been one of my favorite parts of an NBA Basketball game. I just love the energy of the crowd and the excitement leading up to tip-off. The lights go out. The intro music comes on, and the crowd starts to get loud. The home team’s hype video plays on the video board above the court. There is probably a video effects show, fireworks, and a spotlight on the home team’s mascot. Said mascot is usually up to some sort of shenanigans.
The mascot could be waving a flag with the team’s logo like Benny the Bull does in Chicago. Or he could drop in on a rope from the ceiling like Boomer used to do for the Indiana Pacers, or Squatch used to do for the Seattle Supersonics. Hell, the mascot could even come onto the court riding a motorcycle like the Jazz Bear used to do in Utah. Then again, you never know what the Suns Gorilla will do in Phoenix. All these theatrics are done in order to pump up the home crowd before they hear these magic words:
AAAANNNDDDD NOW!!! THE STARTING LINEUP…FOR YOUR….
That’s the part where the home fans go nuts – IF their team is any good. I’m always curious to see how teams do their starting lineups whenever I visit an NBA arena for the first time. What music are they playing? Do the fans have any unique traditions when the visiting team is announced? Does the team do anything cool that isn’t done in any other NBA arena during these intros? How does the PA announcer announce each player’s name? Most importantly, how loud will the crowd get?
I was spoiled growing up in the Chicagoland area with the 1990s Bulls. There was nothing like that introduction with “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project building up the anticipations, the crowd going bonkers, and then PA Announcer bellowing out the name of each player named e,nding with,” FROM NORTH CAAAAAROLINA! AT GUARD! SIX-SIX! MICHAEL JORDAN!!!” Many NBA Teams have had some great starting lineup intros, especially in the 90s. Many say that the Bulls’ production of the starting lineup introductions was second to none in the league during that time. There’s a reason for that.
The Chicago Bulls came up with the way starting lineups are introduced in today’s NBA.
Actually, it was the brainchild of the Bulls’ front office AND their former PA announcer Tommy Edwards in the late 1970s. The Bulls were about to play a late-season home game that was a mumust-winor them to make the playoffs. They wanted to do something different and drastic to hype up fans at the Chicago Stadium. They wanted to create energy before the game as a home-court advantage. So, they cut the lights and put a spotlight on the Bulls players as they were being introduced. No other NBA did this at the time. Other teams didn’t even play music thin eir arenas other than an in-house organ. The idea wasn’t exactly foolproof either. In those days, it took a few minutes for the lights to come back on in the old stadiums. Plus, the spectacle could somehow fire up the visitors.
Then in the mid-1980s, the Chicago front office challenged Edwards to find a unique soundtrack to introduce the Bulls starting lineup. The Bulls had just drafted a guard from North Carolina and had a hunch that he was going to be pretty good. The plan was to use the music to hype up the crowd and then announce the star rookie last. Tommy Edwards went to work. Believe it or not t,he Bulls began introducing starting lineups to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in his rookie season. Later in the 1984-85 season Edwards found a song that he deemed a better fit. He discovered it while at a movie with his wife. In addition to being the Bulls’ PA Announcer, Edwards was also a midday DJ on WLS radio in Chicago. He recognized the song and ran it by the Bulls, who loved it.
They’ve been using Sirius as their musical backdrop during their starting lineup introductions ever since.
The Bulls starting lineup introductions were a part of local game telecasts from then on. Other NBA teams slowly began to adopt similar player introduction styles. This really took off in the 1990s, as did the NBA on NBC. NBC made it a point to air the introductions of starting lineups during broadcasts. It was a thing of beauty. NBA teams still make it a point to make their introductions a show today, but to me, it’s not the same. Most networks don’t even air the starting lineup intros today. NBA teams today will select a popular hip-hop song, play it in a predictable hype video, and that’s pretty much it. These intros have gone from “WOW” to “meh.” If only the NBA could make these intros cooler again.
Some are still pretty good, though, and get crowds going, especially come playoff time. I think the intros done by Cleveland Cavaliers have been among the best in the league over the last 10 years or so. What the Philadelphia 76ers do with the ringing of the Liberty Bell replica is cool. It’s even better what they do for opposing players. They yell “SUCKS” after each opposing player is announced. It’s pretty funny. The coolest thing that I’ve seen recently is that NBA 2K has found a way to incorporate each NBA team’s actual PA announcers in their game.
That almost makes me want to dust off the sticks again and fire up NBA 2K. I’ll watch the YouTube clips instead. Some of those PA announcers have been around for years and have been a part of these clips I’m about to show you.
To me, these are the 10 best NBA Starting Lineups ever. Best, iconic, memorable, favorite…whatever. I like them. Here were my criteria: if I replayed one of these videos at least once or twice, it was considered. Enjoy!
#10 – Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are on this list solely for the fact they incorporated some classic songs into their starting lineup introduction for years. I always associate The Who’s “Eminence Front” or Van Halen’s “Right Now” with the Lakers. There’s something about that piano-heavy piece along with the familiar voice of Lakers PA announcer Lawrence Tanter. It may not be the best intro ever, but it was always solid and got the job done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njpj8ei_Ux4
#9 – Boston Celtics (2007-08)
This intro had everything you need to get fired up for a modern NBA game. There was the dramatic “Requiem For A Dream” paired with a Celtics highlight hype video. The dramatic pause followed by Kevin Garnett’s scream was perfect before continuing with the video. Paul Pierce asking the crowd to let him hear it ahead of 50 Cent’s Ayo Technology was a nice touch. That track, mixed with PA announcer Eddie Palladono’s voice, got the Boston crowd fired up. Celtics were finally good again..
#8 – Houston Rockets (1994-95 & 2008-09)
The first video has the 90s written all over it, but about the Rockets announcing the Orlando Magic to “It’s a Small World” during the 1995 NBA FINALS??? That was a troll job of epic proportions! The NBA Finals are broadcasted ALL OVER THE WORLD!!! The Rockets own intro to “U Got 2 Know” by Cappella is classic ‘90s. That’s especially since they went straight into “Rock And Roll, Part 2” by Gary Glitter after Hakeem Olajuwon was announced. Every NBA team played that song in the 90s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxVEwsOBLqc
The only reason I included the 2009 version is because they managed to turn their jumbotron into an actual rocket!!!! That is all.
#7 – 1990s Seattle Supersonics
I miss the Seattle Supersonics. The NBA needs to bring them back, but that’s a different story. The Seattle fans are a different breed. They. Are. LOUD. Thet especially made plenty of noise did so at Seattle’s Key Arena back in the day. The Seattle SUUUUUPERSONICS intro during the 90s was underrated, in my opinion. The laser show, accompanied by the intro of “Knocking At Your Back Door” by Deep Purple mixed into Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell,” was awesome!
#6 – Orlando Magic (1994-95 Season)
Remember when I said the Rockets’ starting lineup had the 1990s written all over it? It did. So did “Get Ready For This” by 2 Unlimited. It didn’t get more 90s than that! The Magic decided to piggyback off 2 Unlimited and make their own rap version titled “You Ready For This” for the 1994-95 season. You could tell it was 90s rap – in Florida. It was kinda cheesy but also kinda cool at the same time.
#5 – 1990s Indiana Pacers
The 90s Indiana Pacers decided that they didn’t want to get sued. They went straight for the original song. I’ll admit it – “Get Ready For This” still gets me pumped up. The Pacers used it for their starting lineup introductions for years and even into the 2000 NBA Finals against the Lakers. How about the intro to the intros by then-Pacers’ PA announcer Reb Porter? The Pacers used the beginning of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” coupled with a hilariously terrible DJ transition to “Get Ready For This.” It sounded like Reb Porter was so pumped that he was about to have a stroke during this intro. Everything about this is great.
#4 – The 1990s New York Knicks (ft. The Linsanity Knicks in 2011)
As a Bulls fan growing up in the 90s, I used to hate the “Bad Bay” Detroit Pistons and the Patrick Ewing- led New York Knicks of the 1990s. Those Knick teams were really good though, and so were their intros. The voice of longtime Knicks PA announcer Mike Walczewski is engrained in my head. Hell, Knicks fans were chanting “DE-FENSE” before the starting lineups began! Then the lights went off, and Walczewski announced the Knicks starters to “Drive” by Eddie Kaloff. “Go New York, Go New York, GO!” Imagine if the Knicks surprised their fans and brought this back! I’m also a fan of the “Linsanity” Knicks of 2011-12 and the use of the 300 Violin Orchestra. They got LOUD for Jeremy Lin - like, can’t hear his name loud!
#3 - Detroit Pistons – The World Champion Editions (Bad Boys & 2003-04)
The Detroit Pistons did an excellent job of bridging the Bad Boys’ championship years to the mid-2000s generation of Pistons. They first changed their logo back to a modern version of the red, white, and blue basketball-shaped logo. The Pistons also bridged the generations by one song – “The Final Countdown” by Europe. The mid-2000s version of the Pistons had one more thing – new PA announcer John Mason and his unique flair. Mason’s call for “DEEEE-TROIT BASSS-KET-BALL” became one of the more iconic in-arena calls. Respect.
#2 – Miami Heat (2012-13)
I wasn’t a fan of “The Heatles.” That’s a lie. I liked Dwyane Wade. I thought James especially, Bosh and Wade (in their primes) took the easy way to the NBA Finals. I wasn’t exactly sad when then they lost not one but two NBA Finals in 2011 and 2014. That being said, those Heat teams were GREAT with the three future Hall-of-Famers and their perfect complimentary players. By the way, Ray Allen, your table is ready. The Heat’s starting lineup intros to “Seven Nations Army” and their home crowd chanting like a Champions League European Soccer club during their 2012-13 championship is badass. Period.
#1 – 1990s Chicago Bulls
Where else did you think I was going to rank them? You now know that the Chicago Bulls were the first team to turn off the lights and play music during player introductions. The Bulls started using “Sirius” as the soundtrack to their starting lineups in 1984 when they were at the old Chicago Stadium. Other teams tried to emulate the Bulls intro in an attempt to create a home-court advantage for themselves. The Phoenix Suns used “Sirius” after moving into what was then called American West Arena in 1992. The Utah Jazz used the same track from The Alan Parsons Project in the 1990s after moving into the then-Delta Center. The San Antonio Spurs also used it for their intros at the Alamodome in the late 90s.
The Bulls intros were often imitated, never duplicated. The crowd at the Chicago Stadium would go crazy when the lights went out. It was arguably the loudest arena in the NBA at the time. The spotlights circle the crowd, and fans would try to get on TV before the intros started. Oh, and good luck hearing Ray Clay announce the name of Michael Jordan at the old barn. The tradition continued after the Bulls moved into the United Center in 1994. While it was still pretty damn loud during the Bulls second three-peat with Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman, it wasn’t quite like the Chicago Stadium.
Basketball fans all over the world remember the voice of Ray Clay announcing the Chicago Bulls starting lineups. Clay started with the Bulls in the 1990-91 season – their first championship season and replaced Tommy Edwards, who accepted a job with CBS. I’m grateful for Clay and am still upset he was let go in 2002 after issues surrounding how Jordan, then a visitor with the Washington Wizards, would be announced when he returned to Chicago. Tommy Edwards doesn’t get enough credit for the spectacle that became the Chicago Bulls starting lineup introductions. He also doesn’t get the credit he deserves for contributing to how every team in the league announces their club’s starting lineups.
Hopefully, more people now understand and know the effect he had on the NBA. Thank you, Mr. Edwards!
Photo Credit: Depositphotos