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Names Behind the Games: Joshua Richardson

"This crowd was awesome, probably one of the top-five arenas in the NBA by far. If (the Hornets) don't get to the playoffs this year, they should be real excited about next year, because it's a great atmosphere here. Cleveland superstar LeBron James

"(The fans are) into it, and that's a great thing for the Hornets. ... That is a great place to play. Even in our exhibition game there, it was electric. It was more electric there for a preseason game than it was in many arenas for a regular-season game. And I would say even some arenas for a playoff game. Houston head coach Jeff Van Gundy

The in-game atmosphere (at Hornets home games) rivals Midnight Madness. Fans arrive early for games and scream throughout. Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch

Throughout the Hornets 2005-06 season, opinions like these became almost as commonplace at the Ford Center as rebounds and free throws. Whether it was visiting players, opposing coaches or media members, everyone agreed: The raucous atmosphere at Hornets home games was unrivaled in the NBA.

Meet one of the reasons behind why the Hornets made such a big splash in Oklahoma City prompting many first-time pro hoops fans in the Sooner State to remark that they didnt realize attending NBA games would be so much fun. Hes Joshua Richardson, the Hornets Director of Game Presentation.

A four-year Hornets employee, the University of New Orleans graduate oversees all of the non-basketball entertainment aspects of home games, including music, lighting, video production, entertainment teams, on-court contests, Hornets MC Rob Nice, PA announcer Michael Thompson, the Honeybees and team mascot Hugo the Hornet. Our job is to entertain fans from the minute they arrive, until the final buzzer sounds, described Richardson, who directs seven full-time staff members and 10 interns. One of the biggest trends in sports is to keep fans involved every second of the game. You have to make sure you keep fans attention, so that no matter what the product is on the floor, its fun for them. Whether were up by 20 points or down by 20, we want to make sure the fans stay entertained!

Richardsons staff keeps spectators engaged during timeouts with a variety of entertainment, such as performances by Hugo, the Honeybees dance team, the Stingers youth hip-hop dancers, and the ever-popular and often hilarious Dance Cam, to name just a few features. The Ponchatoula, La., native also coordinates the Hornets dramatic pregame starting lineup introductions.

During the fourth quarter of games this season, one of the biggest hits among Hornets fans was the famous video clip from the movie Animal House, in which the movies actors sing and dance to the party anthem Shout. In close games, it was common to see at least three-fourths of the fans dancing and raising their arms in unison whenever the word shout was chanted incredible crowd participation compared to the average NBA arena.

We definitely have the loudest fans in the NBA, whether we are in Oklahoma City or New Orleans, credited Richardson, a former SMG employee who also played a key role in putting on Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four games in the Big Easy. Our fans are great, and they really respond to a lot of the things we do.

Fans often wonder: How does Richardson determine which songs are played during timeouts? As it turns out, all decisions are based on how fans respond to a certain choice, meaning there is always some trial-and-error involved when a new music selection is played.

The fans tell us whether something we try works or not, Richardson explained. Ill test anything once. One of the most difficult parts of this job is that what works in one market doesnt necessarily work in another.

The fans (in Oklahoma City) are accustomed to a college atmosphere at games. We found that they enjoy more of the chants, such as Bee-fense! (the Hornets variation on the universal De-fense! chant) and Day-O!

We love to hear from fans and we listen to them. Whether you have a music suggestion, a skit idea or a comment, we benefit from the feedback. Whatever we can use to make our product better, we are always open to it.

One of Richardsons favorite memories from the 2005-06 campaign occurred during the Hornets Dec. 18 victory over the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. With a few minutes remaining in the 89-76 comeback win, the 19,297 fans in attendance reached an ear-splitting decibel level that may have been unmatched all season. The Spurs were up pretty big in the second half, before we made our comeback, Richardson recalled. The fans stood on their feet from the quarter break (between the third and fourth periods) through the end of the game that is awesome. That was something Ill never forget.

While the Hornets had over 10,000 season-ticket holders who attended the vast majority of home games in 2005-06, Richardson stresses the importance of catering to fans who may only occasionally attend games, as well as first-time fans. The best compliments weve received are from people who say, Im not really even that big of a basketball fan, but we had a lot of fun at the game. Some of them were not even professional sports fans, but they became season-ticket holders, because going to games was fun.

Whether youre a diehard fan, the average NBA fan, or just a casual fan, we want to make sure youre going to have a good time at a Hornets game.


To submit feedback or ideas to the Hornets game presentation staff, e-mail Hornetsfanfeedback@hornets.com.

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