Class of 2005Active: 1974 - 1992
9 Open Victories
In his prime Steve Obradovich had a signature move. In an early round game against an intimidated and overmatched opponent and when the game was all but done, Obradovich would wind up for his powerful left-hand attack, intentionally miss the ball and bump it over with his head, adding insult to injury.
The move pretty much sums up Steve Obradovich: playful, theatrical, and, yes, just a little obnoxious.
Over an almost two-decade career, Obradovich, better known as OB, made the sand the stage for his one-man show in which everyone else--opponents, fans, teammates, and especially referees, were bit players to his starring role. He glowered, yelled, needled, teased, and blustered his way through every match and in the process, produced some of the most compelling volleyball of his era. When you pulled up your beach chair next to an OB match, one thing was for sure: you were about to be entertained.
Underneath all the bluster though, OB had the athletic skills to back it up. He played volleyball and football at USC and won both a Rose Bowl and a volleyball national championship in the same year. At the tender age of 21, with partner Chris Marlow, OB won the biggest tournament of them all: The Manhattan Open, topping the greatest players of that era, including Mengers, Lee and Gage.
Shortly after winning Manhattan, O.B. formed a partnership with Gary Hopper, another flamboyant player, and the two because mainstays on the Open circuit and fan favorites or fan villains depending on your perspective. OB & Hopper won seven Opens together including the 1979 Hermosa Open. From 1977 through 1982 OB & Hopper never finished lower than fifth place in an Open tournament – a remarkable run of consistency.
Obradovich had a cannon for a left-harm, allowing him to consistently challenger taller blockers and he possessed a deceptive cut shot that kept defenders honest. He also had one of the of the best setting touches of his generation and in the late 1970s era when the calls became increasingly tight, OB was one of the few players to consistently hand set.
As the money grew in the mid to late-1980s, OB found professional success with several other partners, including Ricci Luyties, John Hanley, and Craig Moothart. If not for his well-known aversion to practice, OB could have no doubt extended his success even deeper into the money era of the sport.
Underneath all of OB’s bullying and ranting and raving, was one of the most generous and well-liked players on tour. He could be screaming at an opponent one minute, and enjoying a post-game beer with that same opponent the next. He employed half the tour at Julie’s, his family restaurant near USC.
OB was often referred to as the McEnroe of beach volleyball sport. That comparison only works so far. While McEnroe generally seemed angry at the world, OB never did. There were no demons torturing Steve Obradovich causing him to lash out. Instead, he saw beach volleyball as a simple stage play: four players and a referee, and realized that what show needed to keep from being boring was more drama, more action, more tension and you guessed it, a villain or two.
And he was happy to star in that role.