Hornets.com 1-on-1: NBA All-Star MC Rob Nice

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

The current member of the New Orleans Hornets organization with the most All-Star experience under his belt isn’t a coach, player or front-office member. Hornets in-game emcee Rob Nice owns that distinction, and by a fairly significant margin. When the New Orleans-area native heads to Houston for the 2013 version of NBA All-Star Weekend, it will be his sixth consecutive appearance at the league’s showcase event.

When the city of New Orleans last hosted the NBA All-Star Game in February 2008, the league chose Nice to serve as a host for its various events that weekend, including 2008’s memorable and ultra-creative dunk contest (winner Dwight Howard donned a Superman cape; Gerald Green delivered his famous “cupcake” slam). Nice performed so well in the role that the NBA chose to bring him back in 2009 in Phoenix – and every year since.

In addition to serving as a host at Hornets home games and the five previous All-Star weekends, Nice began working as a sideline reporter for NBA TV during the 2012 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. The University of New Orleans graduate and nine-year member of the Hornets organization caught up with Hornets.com to discuss his All-Star memories and next month’s event:

Hornets.com: Among your five previous trips to All-Star weekend, what are some of your most cherished memories of being there?
Nice: There are so many, but I’ll name my top three. My first was hosting the dunk contest in New Orleans. Dwight Howard stole the show and I was so excited to just be a part of such a big event for the first time. My second would be the moment I walked onto the court in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. To know that I was the person talking to 108,000 people was a feeling that I will never forget. My third would be doing the player intros last year live on TNT with rapper Nicki Minaj. That was special because I did the intros in 2009 in Phoenix with pneumonia, and my voice was almost gone. I felt I let everyone down and I never thought I would ever have the chance to do them again. Sounds weird but it was a tremendous weight lifted off of me last year when I got a chance to sort of redeem myself.

Hornets.com: What is your favorite specific event of All-Star weekend aside from the All-Star Game itself? Is there a part of All-Star that you feel may be underrated by fans or media?
Nice: Yes, I would say that event is Jam Session. It's always located in a different building than the main All-Star events, so I never get a chance to go. Last year, I hosted the All-Star rookie and sophomore practice at Jam Session. I didn't realize how much fun it is over there. It's also the place where the All-Star Celebrity game is held. Comedian Kevin Hart was hilarious as he put on a great show and took home the MVP award. Fans can also walk around and gain the ultimate NBA experience by shooting hoops and meeting NBA legends.

Hornets.com: What was your favorite All-Star weekend to host over the past handful of years, other than your first in New Orleans?
Nice: My favorite was in Los Angeles. It's my favorite because I didn't think I would be called upon to host. My initial thought was it's Hollywood, so there had to have been a ton of celebs who would have loved to host an All-Star game. I just remember every event being fun, and working with everyone there was unbelievable.

Hornets.com: Given the wide range of celebrities from other fields who attend each year, which stars have you been most excited to meet?
Nice: It's always exciting to meet celebrities. Some of them even remember me from hosting over the years. But if I had to choose the most memorable, I'd have to name two. The first was George Lopez in Los Angeles. We talked pregame, and almost every timeout. He kept asking me to switch shoes the entire game. I was wearing Adidas, he was wearing purple gators. I didn't want to scratch the court, so I kept my sneakers on. The second is Kevin Hart. I met Kevin previously in New Orleans after one of his concerts. He made a joke that if I was ever on the mic, he would come and interrupt me. Fast forward to All Star Orlando last year, he did just that. We came up with a fun way to interact during the Slam Dunk contest. The crowd loved it.

Hornets.com: A semi-serious question… how many hours do you actually sleep over that 72-hour period of Friday through Sunday?
Nice: I always warn my friends who want to come out and enjoy All-Star Weekend to not count on me being able to hang out. Besides the actual events, there's a large amount of time dedicated to rehearsals. Timing is a crucial element to not only the in-arena show, but live TV as well. Even if the event is not until 7 o’clock, my pick-up time is normally early in the morning. I'd say I get about nine total hours of sleep during All-Star weekend.

Hornets.com: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festivities in Houston?
Nice: Houston is a great city. I think everyone who visits will have a great time, including myself. I remember being in Houston the last time the All-Star Game was held there in 2006. It was my first time going to All-Star weekend, and I remember thinking how cool it would be to one day be a part of it. So simply being there to host is what I'm looking forward to. I'm also excited to find out who will be performing this year. So far, I've been able to see Usher, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Ne-yo, Chris Brown and Lenny Kravitz.

Hornets.com: Any new wrinkles basketball fans should look for this year in All-Star weekend?
Nice: There will be a few new wrinkles including a new format to the Slam Dunk contest. I think the biggest wrinkle will be the changing of the guard in the lineups. When I first started hosting, it was a given to see players such as Tim Duncan and Jason Kidd in the starting lineup. Now, it's players like Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo who are expected to be there every year.