Matt Cord stood inside a Los Angeles-area recording studio instead of courtside at the Wells Fargo Center. He was wearing a headset instead of grasping a hand-held wired microphone.
Still, the booming introduction was just as enthusiastic: “And at 7-2, from Kansas, No. 21, Joel, ‘The Proooceeess,’ Eeembiiiiid!”
“I was in Matt Cord announcer mode,” he said. “ ... Exact same thing that I do here [in Philadelphia]. It’s, like, way over the top. Just go crazy. I mean, that’s my thing.”
Gamers will now be able to experience Cord’s iconic 76ers starting lineup introductions and in-game calls while playing the NBA 2K22 video game released Friday, after developers incorporated all 30 in-arena public-address announcers into this new version. For Cord, having his voice forever preserved within the worldwide pop-culture phenomenon is a special yet unexpected career accomplishment heading into his 25th season on the mic.
“There’s only 30 of us in the world,” Cord said. “We’re already living a dream. This is plenty. I don’t need to be in a video game. But that and being able to be an NBA announcer it’s like, ‘Jeez, my life’s pretty good.’”
Cord is one of the league’s longer-tenured PA announcers, with infectious showmanship that even impressed Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry in a video that went viral in 2019. Yet when Cord, who is also a DJ on WMGK-FM (102.9), initially received an email from NBA 2K last year about helping provide the soundtrack for the upcoming edition of the game, he wondered aloud to a friend if it was real.
Joel Simmons, the audio director at Visual Concepts who worked with the league’s announcers on their role in the game, said in an email that including this in-arena element has been a 2K ambition and fan request for several years. It’s another way, he said, that the game can “provide players and NBA fans with the most realistic basketball experience.”
“Each arena has its own signature atmosphere and energy, and each team’s PA announcer is a big part of that unique experience,” Simmons said. “We hope NBA 2K22 players will feel even more immersed in the game as they step out onto their home court and hear that familiar voice.”
Cord spent about a week in December — and another couple days in July — at the Mission Control Productions studio in Southern California, recording for about six or seven hours each day. He would transition from using a more subdued, neutral tonal inflection to an extremely animated one, not just for the Sixers’ current roster but for the bulk of the NBA’s active players. That’s because a 2K player can choose to have Cord’s voice announce any team or game, not just Sixers home games. Having those vocal options stored also allows the game to adapt accordingly whenever the Sixers make roster moves.
“It hurt me to do some names,” Cord said. “I’m a homer. I’m a Sixer fan. To scream out LeBron James’ name or Jayson Tatum from the Celtics, I would do it, and then I would look in the control room to Bill [Kole of Mission Control Productions] like, ‘This is killing me.’”
The lengthy recording sessions were comparable to calling nearly three Sixers games consecutively each day. To keep his voice fresh, Cord relied on throat coat tea, cough drops and the same warmup routine he performs before each game. He canceled nighttime plans with friends who reside in Los Angeles to rest and avoided talking before returning to the studio the next morning.
But the most difficult part of the experience, Cord said, was keeping the purpose of those trips secret for months while NBA 2K developers finished the game.
Last week, Cord finally got a taste of what his calls — including the Embiid intro — sounded like during game play. A video produced by 2K also includes some of Cord’s other signature sayings, including, “All right, Sixer fans, let’s show the world that South Philly homecourt advantage!” He will be heard calling the game’s more routine scenarios as well, such as timeouts, fouls, and end-of-game sign-offs.
Cord is perhaps most excited to hear his intros for the 2001 alumni team headlined by Allen Iverson.
“That’s my best call, my most famous, my easiest one to do,” said Cord of his Iverson intro, before breaking into “And finally, a 6-foot guard from Georgetown …”
Though these particular calls were recorded nearly 3,000 miles away from Philadelphia, Cord ensures 2K players can expect the same passion and style they would hear from him on a real-life game night.
“It’s really the closest thing to being in your own hometown arena,” he said. “In the game, you see the background and it’s the Wells Fargo Center, it’s me, and it’s the same railings, and it’s the same ceremonial bell. … Just the way they replicate everything, the commitment is unbelievable.”