OKLAHOMA CITY – Playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena is surreal for Josh Richardson.

“I grew up in ‘Loud City’ at the top with the $15 tickets,” Richardson said Friday morning pointing toward the nosebleed seats in the arena. “Being able to come back is always fun. It’s just kind of like a dream come true.”

Richardson was born in Edmond, Okla., which is 15 minutes north of Oklahoma City. He averaged 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as a point guard during his senior season at Edmond’s Santa Fe High School. For his efforts, he was named to the Oklahoma Coaches Association’s “Large West” all-state team and The Oklahoman’s Super first team before heading to Tennessee. Richardson was also a standout high school wideout in football.

Now a 76ers shooting guard, he’s in town for Friday night’s matchup against the Thunder.

He is back for the fifth time to face the team he used to root for. His parents, sister, niece and nephew, a couple of aunts, and two of his best friends were expected to be among the 15 people that he’s knows of who will be on hand to root him on.

Richardson went to his mother’s house on Thursday. While there, he played with his niece and nephew and hung out with his best friend. But when he first arrived, no one was home.

“So, I just kind of had some food, kind of sat down, watched TV, took a little nap,” Richardson said. “And then everybody started walking in. They were like ‘Hey!’ It was fun.”

But Richardson does much more than just come back to visit family members and friends when his team is in town.

The annual summer camp he started three years ago is something he loves. It has progressed each year he’s done it.

“It’s been great to give back to the community I grew up in,” Richardson said.

But his favorite thing about growing up in Oklahoma is “just how laid back it is.”

“It’s not super fast-paced,” Richardson said. “Everybody doesn’t appreciate that. But I think it kind of molded my personality to how easy-going and laid back I am.”

On occasion, Richardson’s father would take him and his friends to games. He would also come to games with the youth group from the Prospect Baptist Church.

Thunder ties to Sixers

Nerlens Noel is in his second season with Oklahoma City.
Garett Fisbeck / AP
Nerlens Noel is in his second season with Oklahoma City.

The Thunder have three post players who had stints with the Sixers in Nerlens Noel, Mike Muscala, and Justin Patton.

Noel was there for the early days of The Process movement.

He was selected sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2013 draft then traded to the Sixers that night along with a first-round pick in 2014 (Elfrid Payton) for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson. Unhappy with his playing time, the center forced a trade to the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 23, 2017. He remained with the Mavericks through the 2017-18 season before signing consecutive one-year deals with the Thunder.

Meanwhile, the Sixers acquired Muscala from the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team trade that also involved the Thunder on July 25, 2018. He was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 6 before being traded again to the Los Angeles Lakers the next day.

Muscala signed with the Thunder on July 9.

In regards to Patton, the Sixers acquired him, along with Jimmy Butler, from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 12 for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick. The center was waived by the team on April 3 before signing with the Thunder on Aug. 12.