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Broadcaster Gus Johnson creates another Arizona basketball memory

“Ristic, up top, BANG!” 

Gus Johnson, the play-by-play man with an unmistakable voice, used one of his many catchphrases on Saturday, Jan. 27, this time screaming the praises of Arizona 7-footer Dusan Ristic as he drained a late 3-pointer to help clinch a 74-73 win over Utah.

For Gus Johnson, his energy and passion for every play is what makes his voice one of the most iconic sounds in all of sports. That and his ability deliver drama with only a couple of words. 

But where does he come up with his catchphrase vocabulary? Not even Johnson knows the true origins.  

“Maybe I’ll hear something in a song or watch a movie or remember something that we used to say when I was a kid, nowhere in particular,” Johnson said. “But when you hear something that you like, you kinda just put it in the back of your mind and hopefully one day it will come out.” 

Arizona fans still shudder at the memory of hearing Gus Johnson’s famous “Cold blooded!” call against the Washington Huskies in the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament Championship, when Isaiah Thomas hit a buzzer-beater to beat No. 16 Arizona.

It’s also a memory Johnson had a chance to revisit when he made the trip to Tucson this week and was around one of Arizona’s practices. Arizona’s new assistant coach Lorenzo Romar was the head coach of Washington for Thomas’ game-winner.

“Those are the kind of things that you can never forget because they were such dramatic moments and made a lot of people happy and a lot of people sad at the same time,” Johnson said. 



Johnson has spent time as a play-by-play announcer for the NBA and the NFL, as well as for both NCAA football and basketball, including a long stint with CBS from 1996-2011 for March Madness. But through all of the sports that Johnson has put his mark on, college basketball sticks out to him the most.

“I think it’s the atmosphere, the enthusiasm, the pageantry, getting an opportunity to hang with young people,” Johnson said. “Just the youthful energy, and in a sense a certain innocence as well. When those guys get up to the pros, it’s business so it’s a lot different.”

But no matter what game Johnson is calling, his in-depth preparation leading up to it gives the veteran broadcaster a chance to experience each moment as it unfolds and react accordingly. 

“You watch film and you go to practice. You talk to coaches, you talk to players, you talk to sports information directors and then you try to put it all together,” Johnson said. “[You] have some notes in front of you when the game starts, and then pay attention to what’s going on on the floor and actually watch the game.”


Simon Asher
Arizona's Deandre Ayton and Gus Johnson share a laugh during pre-game warmups.


Johnson doesn’t get a chance to take his broadcasting talent to Tucson very often, but he knows what a crazed basketball town it is.

“This is always a great atmosphere, and the fans love to get behind the Wildcats and they did today. This place was electric and it was jumping,” Johnson said. “Just a lot of fun to watch a game here.”

Arizona’s close win over Utah on Saturday, Jan. 27 gave Gus Johnson a chance to conjure another memorable catchphrase and this time, Dusan Ristic was on the receiving end of his magic. Johnson’s voice will lend itself to another game next weekend, but he no doubt left Tucson with another resumé game under his belt. 



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