Young Clippers radio voice Carlo Jiménez is inspired by his grandfather's sacrifices

Carlo Jiménez, a young broadcaster inspired by his family, completed his first season as the Clippers’ new voice on KLAC-AM (570) radio.

Jiménez, 23, is a 2023 USC graduate. He earned the Jim Nantz Award, which recognized him as the nation’s most outstanding college sports broadcaster, and made a formidable leap to calling Clippers games soon after wrapping up classes. He replaced Noah Eagle, who moved to NBC Sports during the summer.

“I am very grateful to the Clippers, and big credit to Noah Eagle, who blazed that path,” said Jiménez, who had visited only four other states before getting the job that took him all over the country.

Jiménez’s debut season has featured surreal moments, such as when he was in Portland for a game against the Trail Blazers and paused to realize what he was experiencing. He couldn’t believe he was going to be broadcasting an NBA game.

“It’s a massive opportunity, whether you’re 22, 42, or 62. He instantly had all my respect because he knew it was a great opportunity,” said Brian Sieman, Bally Sports’ experienced Clippers play-by-play broadcaster. “He appreciates the opportunity and is a hard worker. He is at practices every day, he is at all the shoot-arounds, he is very well prepared, and he is a wonderful young man.”

Jiménez is among the few Latino play-by-play announcers in the NBA on English-language broadcasts. He grew up in the Bay Area and is proud of his Mexican roots because the path his family forged in this country was full of challenges.

At age 4, his grandfather, Francisco Jiménez, immigrated from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. He was a farmworker who moved several times to pursue work during grape, strawberry and cotton harvests.

When Francisco was 8, his family was deported to Mexico. They returned legally soon after and settled in Santa Maria.

At age 13, Francisco worked as a janitor with his brother to support his family. Those were “survival mode” days for the Jiménezes, Francisco said.

However, he earned a scholarship from Santa Clara University that changed his life. He earned a degree in Spanish Studies in 1966. Francisco went on to Columbia University, where he earned his master’s and doctorate in Latin American literature.

Francisco has been a professor at Santa Clara for 40 years and is the author of four books: “The Circuit,” “Reaching Out,” “Breaking Through” and “Taking Hold.” These books, which have also been translated into Spanish, relate to his experiences as an immigrant. The series has been featured among the American Library Assn. Booklist’s 50 best young adult books of all time.

“When I hear my grandfather’s story, I hear about him and his sacrifice. I was incredibly proud to have the last name Jiménez because my grandfather sacrificed so much,” Carlo Jiménez said. “I mean, being two generations away and having this opportunity, who would have thought? It’s something I never take for granted.”

The 81-year-old author and professor said he learned much from his family’s sacrifices, which helped him understand the importance of faith, hope and respect.

“These are values that I instilled in my children and grandchildren,” said Francisco Jiménez, whose love of sports was nonexistent until his grandson began broadcasting games. Today, he texts Carlo every time he hears him on the radio.

Two of Francisco’s sons are college professors. Carlo’s dad, Francisco Jiménez Jr., is a professor at Santa Clara and works on a program that helps first-generation college students. Tomas Jiménez, Carlo’s uncle, is a professor at Stanford.

Carlo’s grandfather, the author of several children’s books translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Persian and Spanish, has urged his family members to use their education to improve their communities and be generous to others.

“When I got this job, my grandpa told me to make sure you got to give back, you got to teach, you got to help,” said Carlo, who participated in a weekly program at USC that helped feed the homeless.

Carlo’s passion for broadcast work and desire to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at his life helped him build a strong social media presence, with more than 169,000 followers on TikTok and 143,000 on Instagram. He had many of those followers before the Clippers hired him. During NBA games, several young people approach him to say hello and tell him they follow him on TikTok or Instagram.

During Jiménez’s first season, his experienced colleague Sieman advised him to be careful with social media and remember his place on the team.

“One piece of advice that I told him is that when we’re on the road, I know you have a lot of followers on your social media. You are going to be incredibly popular with the Clippers, but we are the last rung on the ladder on the totem pole. So when we go on that trip, we let everybody else grab food first; we get to the back of the plane and mind our own business,” Sieman said.

“Be humble is what I told him, and it was not an issue with him at all because he’s a good person.”

Jiménez started training for the role in high school, broadcasting many games, including the Bellarmine College Preparatory basketball varsity team’s contests. After mainly sitting on the bench as a member of the junior varsity basketball team, he would quickly change into his suit and tie to broadcast the varsity team’s games.

“I found that, yes, I love playing basketball, but I looked forward more to broadcasting that varsity game than watching the JV game from the bench,” recalled Jiménez.

He estimates he called about 80 games a year at USC, including soccer, baseball and basketball. He also served as sports director for the Trojans’ KXSC-FM (104.9) station.

“For somebody who had never called a game in an arena bigger than high school gyms with maybe 200 people at most, and then there’s 60,000 people at the Coliseum, you’re like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’” Jiménez said.

He is a fan of Joe Davis, the Dodgers’ play-by-play announcer, because of his storytelling skills. Jiménez has also learned much from Kevin Dana of the Santa Cruz Warriors.

“Kevin taught me that this business is about meeting people, being nice and building relationships,” said Jiménez, whose goal is to be someone fun to work with, help people and work hard.

Jiménez says he wants other young people to know they can achieve their dreams, just as he did as a recent graduate anxious to get his first job. He draws on the lessons from his grandfather, who figured out a way to rise from life as a farmworker to a career as a distinguished professor and author.

“If a young person is trying to do this, I want them to know that it can be done; you can do it, no matter your background, your situation,” Jiménez said.

This article was first published in Spanish via Los Angeles Times en Español.

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