Going Global

Arena announcer Olivier Sedra has documented every turnover, substitution and timeout at The Q for the past two NBA seasons. This month, he’s taking his talk to Beijing for the Summer Olympics.
Anyone who’s watched Cavaliers basketball at The Q has heard Olivier Sedra’s booming bass cut through the roar of the crowd.

When LeBron checks into the game, it lets everyone know. When Verizon runs a contest to choose the top play of the first half, it’s there to announce the text-message number. Whoever scores, whoever fouls, whoever travels — it’s that voice — one that emanates from a seldom-noticed Canadian in a collared shirt. But if you look closely, he’s always there at center court —every single foul, every single call, every single game, and he’s as vital to the action as the guy hammering monster dunks.

He was the guy who filled in for a faulty shot clock during the Eastern Conference finals in ’07 (“3, 2, 1”) and was featured on the game’s biggest stage as the Cavaliers charged to the NBA Finals that year.

“To me, [the court] extends just a little bit on the width,” Sedra says, imagining the boundaries of the hardwood real estate push just far enough to encompass the scorer’s table, where he sits.

He’s been the team’s PA announcer since the 2006-07 season, and this month he will be one of two people working as a basketball announcer for the Olympics in Beijing. That means during his four-week stay in China he could announce as many as 50 of the Summer Games’ 74 basketball matchups.

“I have goose bumps on my arm right now telling you this,” the 33-year-old says, recalling the moment he learned he’d be announcing at the Olympics, after the NBA recommended the International Basketball Federation hire him for the job.

The Montreal native studied radio and television broadcasting in college. Lots of people told him he had a good voice, so he became a PA announcer for college sporting events and went to work for a radio station, producing postgame clips and locker room interviews after Montreal Canadiens hockey games.

When the NHL had a lockout, Sedra continued announcing for wrestling, rugby and boxing and covered the Canadian Football League and professional soccer as a reporter.

“Eventually, you develop a style,” Sedra says. “You really have to be your own person, your own self.”

And then the ABA — a league that shares a name but no relation to the American Basketball Association that merged with the NBA in 1976 — came to Montreal in 2005, and Sedra became the team’s arena announcer. He moved up from a college gym that held 650 students to a venue with a capacity of 5,000. “The first game I worked, I knew I wanted to go way further,” Sedra recalls.

In 2006, he read a newspaper article saying the Cavaliers were looking for a PA announcer. The team granted him a tryout, and he was soon sitting at the scorer’s table he now knows so well as he announced a seven-minute exhibition game staged by Cavaliers staffers.

The team called him back for a second interview, during which Sedra and a group of other hopefuls were asked to run through several key phrases such as “LeBron James,” “Cavs ball” and “Three” — while staff members watched. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was there, too, and ultimately gave Sedra the nod to join his team.

“They’re all really young. They’re all really good at what they do,” Sedra says of the Cavaliers organization. “To say that it’s my family is an understatement. I don’t know a lot of people who are as lucky as I am.”
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