It’s 6:30 PM on Tuesday, December 10. I’m standing in the concourse of the Wells Fargo Center — by the Shake Shack, to be precise. Peering left and right as if I’m preparing to cross the street, I’m searching for the subject of tonight’s pregame interview. Out of a throng of Sixers fans, he emerges: 76ers PA announcer Matt Cord. He welcomes me with an easy smile and a handshake before ushering me through the hallways and down to the scorers table. Among fans, Cord goes largely unnoticed by sight — little do they know that he’s the man whose voice they’ve imitated and adored for over two decades on South Broad Street. Among fellow Sixers and arena staffers, Cord is well-liked and well-respected. He shows me to his cubicle: the scorers table nestled between the home and away benches at center court. There, Matt Cord has not only bore witness to, but narrated some of the Sixers’ most joyous and painful moments of the last 20 years, as his deep timbre echoed off the walls of the building, and into the hearts of 20,000 Sixers fans on a nightly basis.
I sit next to Mr. Cord just behind the scorers table, a mere 90 minutes before the home Sixers face off against the visiting Denver Nuggets. The game went as follows: the Sixers escaped with a 97-92 victory despite the usual late-game cardiac gymnastics Sixers fans have come to expect. The story of the night for me, however, was Matt Cord’s story. Within the span of a tidy half hour, he talked me through his enduring career, his favorite interactions with players, and some of his fondest memories from his seat, just inches off the court.
On his career
Liberty Ballers: When did your Sixers fandom start? How did it begin?
Matt Cord: Probably Doc [Julius Erving]. Early ‘80s. [George] McGinnis. Well, they got Doc in, what, ’77?
LB: Did you grow up in the city?
MC: I grew up in Delaware County. So it was like ’76, ’77. The ’83 team, I was all over.
LB: How did you get to this position? How does it end up that you become the announcer here?
MC: Well, I used to do the Wings games. (Cord arches over his left shoulder to point to a Wings banner that hangs in the rafters of the stadium). I was a part of the championship in ’94, ‘95, and ’98. I was the announcer. Pat Croce bought the Sixers in ’96. And he’s like, ‘Dude, I love you at the Wings games. I like how you’re on the mic. You yell at the players on the other team!’ And I auditioned for the Sixers job — I didn’t get it, I came in second out of like 150 people. And then the next year, the guy left and they moved me right in.
LB: Do you remember who the guy was?
MC: Gary Young. He did it for one year.
LB: And then he was out.
MC: Well, he was a radio guy-
Cord is approached by a staffer who asks about a small plastic light situated on the scorers table. The ‘challenge’ light. A brand new fixture that encapsulates the evolving technological landscape of NBA basketball.
MC: (To him) Oh yeah, you need the light. The challenge light isn’t working. (Back to me) So, Gary’s a radio guy. He worked at Power 99, are you familiar with it?
LB: Yeah, yeah.
MC: He got fired from his Power job, and then he got a job in Detroit and he had to take it.
LB: Do you remember your first time announcing a Sixers game?
LB: Do you remember who they played?
LB: How’d it go?
MC: It wasn’t that bad.
LB: Were there any rookie gaffes?
MC: Yeah. I would say stuff that you didn’t have to say. I was over-saying stuff.
LB: Like what?
MC: I would say, like, ‘Offensive foul is on Theo Ratliff, that’s his first. It does not count as a team foul because’- you know, stuff like that. That I had written down.
LB: How long before you felt like you had the hang of the Sixers gig?
MC: The next year. And the next year we started going to the playoffs, too.
On the intricacies of announcing
LB: During the games, where are you looking? Do you tend to look at the court, are you watching the action as it happens, are you watching a monitor?
MC: The court. I’ll look at monitors, just if there’s a replay I want to watch. Derrick [Hayes] sits next to me, he’s our live events coordinator. Brett [Brown] will come up to where he is, and something will happen and Brett will be like, ‘what do you mean? Guys, can I see that again?’ So [Derrick] will tell upstairs, ‘Brett wants to see that again.’ So I’ll look down at the monitor to make sure that he’s seeing it again.
Matt is met with a man approaching with a piece of paper with Denver’s full roster of names spelled out phonetically.
MC: Yes! That’s it. Norm is my spotter.
Matt and Norm go over some of the tougher to pronounce names on the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and Juan Hernangomez come up.
LB: So, is this a big thing, the pronunciations?
Norm: Oh yeah.
MC: Yeah, especially for a team like Denver we only play once a year here. So the only tough one here is Nikola Jokic and Juan Hernangomez. (He gestures to the paper) This guy — I don’t know how to say his name but I don’t think he’s gonna get in. (The name was Vlatko Cancar).
Norm: Never heard of him. But tonight will be his night, just watch. (Cancar did not play in the game).
MC: Their PR person will come out before tip-off and I’ll come over and ask how you say it. Just in case. And sometimes they confer with us.
LB: To make sure you have it right?
MC: Yeah, like the Toronto people-
A Sixers fan standing behind the scorers table interjects with a ‘Yo Matt! We just signed Didi Gregorius.’ Cord had heard. ‘We gotta get Bumgarner now!’ ‘You’re being selfish,’ Cord jokes.
MC: So, Toronto, this is what their PR guy does.
He hands me a pronunciation key for each of Toronto’s players, prepared by the staff on Toronto.
LB: That’s helpful.
MC: So helpful.
LB: I guess a guy hates to hear his name pronounced the wrong way.
MC: I’ll go up to them and ask them if I don’t know. Like, the first year that [Giannis] Antetokounmpo played here, I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, how do I say your name?’ He says, ‘Antetokounmpo.’ He says, ‘Now you say it.’ I say it. ‘No, it’s not right.’ I say it again, ‘No, it’s not right.’ And we were going back and forth. And finally he says, ‘You know what? It’s close enough. The only one that’s gonna know is me.’ This is before he was a big star.
LB: I’m sure he appreciated you taking the time. Over the years, what are some of your favorite names to say? Obviously [Andre] Iguodala became a big thing (Iguo-dala-dala-dala).
MC: Mutombo. AI. Anything with syllables.
LB: The more syllabic, the better?
MC: Yeah, but like, Mike Scott’s got a simple name, but I put the s-s-s-s-s- on the ‘Scott.’ He loves it. His little boy is about 4, and whenever I see him in the back, he does it for me.
LB: What would you call the hardest part of [announcing]?
MC: Getting everything right. Because every night you’ve got a different set of officials. And I’m like, ‘I’m the one you want to tell. I’ve got the mic.’ They’re all great, but it’d be nice to have the exact same three every night.
On the in-arena experience
LB: In terms of the in-arena experience, how have you seen that evolve over the years? Do you miss Big Bertha? Do you remember Big Bertha?
Cord isn’t sure.
LB: [Big Bertha] was an Adam Aron (former Sixers CEO) experiment that was a T-shirt gun that was made of a million T-shirt guns-
MC: Oh, yeah yeah. The gatling gun. I think Big Bertha’s in the back still.
LB: Oh, God. In case of emergency.
MC: I can find out. I’m pretty sure it’s back there. Because we have gatling guns still, but they’re not as big. And we always had the confetti that would go off after a victory.
LB: And Hip-Hop used to be here.
MC: We haven’t gotten rid of Hip-Hop.
LB: Where is Hip-Hop?
MC: Well, now it’s Franklin. When Adam Aron came in, he didn’t want Hip-Hop anymore.
LB: And it was gonna be Benjamin Franklin.
MC: It was gonna be Franklin, it was gonna be the moose. There was like three things you could vote on [on] Twitter.
LB: Phil E. Moose.
MC: Yeah. And they waited a year and then they brought out Franklin.
LB: And now Christian Crosby’s very involved.
MC: Christian, and we’ve got a guy, Archie, who’s very involved. Christian does All-Star games now. WNBA All-Star games. He’s really good on Snapchat. He’s awesome. He used to be on the dunk team.
LB: Did you ever try out for the dunk team?
MC: (laughs) No.
LB: No interest?
MC: I wouldn’t mind doing it once.
LB: It looks fun, but it also looks dangerous once you’re up there.
MC: Real dangerous. And it’s funny, I judge their auditions every year, and no one knows how to do it. No one is like ‘Oh yeah, I’m really good at jumping off a tramp.’ There’s no place that teaches you how to do that.
On ‘The Process’ and other names
LB: During The Process, as it were, when they weren’t winning many games, did you feel that there was more onus on you to keep the fans into it? When they’re winning 10 games, how much is there for you to do in the way of getting them involved?
MC: It was the same. You know? It’s still a cool job. You’re still one of only 29 people to have the job whether or not you’re winning or losing. You’re on a microphone, you’re getting people involved. There was less people, and that was maybe a little harder. But it was fun. Because people will say that to me now, ‘Man, you must be having fun there now!’ I’m always having fun! Even when we were winning 10 games. That wasn’t bad at all.
LB: You’re still a lottery winner.
MC: Yeah. I got comped tickets that year.
LB: The legend, as it goes, is that Joel Embiid came to you to ask you to announce him as ‘The Process.’
MC: What happened was, we were at Made in America. He was gonna play the next year. So I said, ‘Hey, how do you want me to introduce you?’ And he goes, ‘Hans.’ I’m like, ‘Hans?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, that’s my middle name. Go ‘Joel Hans Embiid.’’ I’m like, ‘Alright, I like that.’ Joel Hans Embiid. We did a few takes at Made in America. And then the very first game that season, I went in the back and I’m like, ‘You ready, Hans?’ And he’s like “No, no, no. It’s The Process now.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ He goes ‘I legally changed it to The Process.’ I’m like ‘No you didn’t.’ So, I don’t know if I can do ‘The Process,’ I don’t want to get in trouble.
LB: Right because that’s a point of contention with the ownership group.
MC: Right. So, the first game I didn’t do it. And he kind of looked at me a couple times. I’m just going ‘Joel Embiid.’ And then we talked, and brought other people into the situation.
LB: And they OK’d it?
MC: Yeah. I only do it on intros. For a while there I was doing it on big plays. And, I don’t know, do you think that’s important to do?
LB: Listen, you’re talking to the wrong guy. I would like you to say it for anybody’s name. Just say ‘The Process.’
MC: I do a lot of wedding parties now, people will ask me to come do it. And for the main person, the groom or sometimes the bride, I’ll go ‘Becky The Process…’ But when he would score in the first two years, if it was a nice dunk or something, I would go, ‘The Process.’ But now I stopped. My other [thing] now is I say ‘The Feed From Embiid’ (when Joel dishes out an assist). There was a little bit where if he had a really good dunk, I’d go, ‘Embiid Indeed.’ Sometimes you realize it’s not working.
LB: Are there other players who are particular about how they’re announced?
MC: Well, Ben [Simmons] came up to me two years ago, his rookie year, and I was saying ‘LSU.’ And he said, ‘Dude. Let’s go Melbourne.’
LB: Melbourne, Australia.
MC: So then I’m going ‘Mell-born.’ And the third game he goes, ‘I know you’re American, but we call it Mell-bin. You’re saying mell-born.’ Who else? Oh, Furkan. I was saying Turkey. But he’s doing Istanbul.
On his favorite memories
LB: From this chair, which memories stick out? Any favorites?
MC: 2001 run. That was pretty amazing. Two Game 7’s in this building. The Vince Carter shot over there in the Toronto series. Game 7 with Milwaukee, it was over. It wasn’t a close game. Funny story: so, I work in radio. And I interviewed Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys that week. He had a new record out. He said, ‘Oh yeah, you guys are in the Eastern Conference- can you get me tickets?’ So I got him four tickets. And he brought Mike D and his brother, Matt. They sat right over there. So I said, ‘Listen, after the game, if we win I’ll get you in the locker room.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ And then we won. And then word came down from coach [Larry] Brown that no one’s allowed in the locker room. It was a special moment. So I’m like, ‘I can get you standing outside the locker room.’ We’re sitting outside the locker room, and all of a sudden Lil’ Bow Wow walks out of the locker room. ‘Cause he was friends with AI. And Ad-Rock goes, ‘So Lil’ Bow Wow’s allowed in the locker room? How many records did he sell?’ It was pretty funny. I’m not sure if Allen knew who the Beastie Boys were. Like, I introduced him to Axl Rose in the next series when we were playing LA and he was kind of like ‘…who?’ But Croce was like ‘Axl Rose! Come on in! Here’s my office!’ I did the 2002 All-Star game. Michael Jordan’s last All-Star game. He went up for a dunk and he missed it. Then he came right up to our table and he goes, ‘You ever do something, you know exactly what you’re gonna do, and the last minute it doesn’t happen?’ We’re all like ‘Yeah.’ He goes ‘That’s what just happened to me.’
LB: That’s a great interaction. And then there’s the one with Steph Curry. Where you’re announcing Ben Simmons’ name, and then he daps you up.
MC: Well, he was watching the entire announcement. He had done that before. I wasn’t aware of it. And then he did it last year, and as soon as he did it, everyone behind me was [recording on their phones]. Everything he does is documented.
LB: Are there any other player interactions that stand out like that?
MC: Paul Pierce and I always had a good thing going. He would always be like, ‘Hey man, so when I score tonight, you’re gonna be like, ‘Paul THE TRUTH Pierce,’ right’? And I’d be like, ‘Paul, you know me. I don’t do it for the other team.’ And then he would score and look at me like, ‘Where’s ‘The Truth’’? And then one game towards the end of his career, he goes, ‘Listen, if I get 36 points tonight, I pass Alex English, like 17th all-time. So, just remember that, ‘cause I want you to make the announcement that I passed [him].’ So [Pierce] had a horrible game. It’s the fourth quarter, he’s got like seven points. With, like, two minutes to go he’s checking in, he looks at me and I go, ‘Hey, I think we’re pretty safe on that Alex English thing.’ He was laughing. Karl Malone. Dwight Howard used to come up here (the scorers table) and go, ‘Where’s the Skittles?’ He’d pour them in his hand. Blake Griffin would ask where the Skittles are. We don’t do it as much anymore.
On his fan support
LB: So this fanbase is very devoted. To everything, the minutiae. So the fans had a huge outcry, when, one year you were mysteriously missing.
LB: And there was another guy here, who, if I can speak for the fans, we did not like nearly as much.
MC: He just walked by.
LB: Did he really? (Cord nods). No way. What’s he doing here?
MC: He comes a lot. He’s retired. Tom Lamaine. Good guy.
LB: So he’s there for one year. He leaves and then you’re back. What was that like for you? And did you notice the fan outcry to have you back?
MC: Yeah, I did. But I still had a job, you know? I ran the website.
LB: Did you miss announcing the games?
MC: Absolutely. But it was kinda neat because we were in the playoffs that year. That was the shortened season. So I got to interview Michael Vick, Andy Reid, Joe Banner — they’d all come to games and my job was to interview them for the website. Will Smith. So, Andy Reid wouldn’t do interviews with anybody, but [he would with us]. So I got to sit down with all these people.
LB: And it’s like a different experience that you get to enjoy for a year.
MC: It was. Meek Mill, before anyone knew who he was. It was like, Meek Mill, he knows Lou Williams. That was my interview. I was like, ‘You know Lou, right?’ I didn’t know what else to ask him.
On player returns and tribute videos
LB: Recently, Jimmy Butler came back. Do you take any joy in announcing the villains?
MC: No. I went up to him right before the game and I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna put you first. I’m gonna say ‘please welcome back,’’ and he’s like, ‘Awesome. Just be really loud, because I think I’m gonna get booed. I’d rather hear you than ‘boo.’’
LB: Can you confirm or deny, my suspicion is that they had a tribute video ready for him-
MC: No. We don’t do tributes unless you’ve been here three years. Now, I don’t know about JJ, because he was here two. (Redick did end up getting a tribute video in his honor when the Pelicans visited town later that week).
LB: Well, I know Jerryd Bayless got looped into the Covington and Saric one.
MC: Oh, I felt bad for him that night. ‘Cause what a good dude. Once it [the booing] started, everyone just joined in.
LB: They put him last, and they’re cheering like crazy for Covington and Dario, and poor Bayless gets booed on his video.
Cord spends a minute debating with an associate whether Redick would be cheered or booed upon his return (he was cheered). Cord’s supposition was that Redick would be cheered when announced, and booed thereafter.
LB: Do any triumphant returns come to mind?
MC: The AI stuff was nuts. The first time he came back with Denver and kissed the court.
LB: Well, then he had that second tour of duty when he came back to play for the Sixers as a 34-year-old.
MC: And I didn’t introduce him last, ‘cause I was doing Iguodala last. People were mad at me, and it wasn’t really my call. AI even said, ‘Andre’s last.’ It was right around before Twitter started. I would’ve gotten killed.
LB: What do you think about the season outlook? Where are you at on the team overall?
MC: I think we’re only gonna get better.
My immense thanks to Matt Cord for sitting down with me to discuss his tremendous career and experiences so close to tip-off. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattyCord and hear him during every Sixers home game at the Wells Fargo Center.