Sixers arena host Christian Crosby has seen it all while working as a member of the Sixers organization.

The Voorhees, New Jersey native witnessed changes to ownership, players come and go and a life-changing championship run in 2001. The mixed bag of experiences prepared Crosby for this moment -- in the middle of a pandemic and suspended NBA season -- to keep Sixers fans engaged in lieu of games using the same instrument both on and off the court: a microphone.

Stuck in quarantine after the Sixers’ last game on March 11 at Wells Fargo Center, Crosby has innovated to connect fans to players and coaches via Zoom calls and special segments, and in some ways, reinvented himself through the release of his first single titled Insecure.

Crosby joined “Inquirer Live at Lunch” to discuss the Sixers’ last game home before the NBA shutdown, the excitement around the league’s return and his new music.

How and when did you find out that it would be the last Sixers game?

“There was a series of games that day. And I think we were the last game that day before it all got shut down. I remember I was on the court. It was the fourth quarter, and there wasn’t that much time left in the game.

And I started hearing rumblings about it over the headset. And I was like this can’t be real. By the time I got off the court, people were already saying, ‘It’s been a good run.’ And then I look at my phone, and there it was. The announcement that the NBA was postponed.”

How did you take the news?

“I took it like everyone else. Beyond me working there, and it being my livelihood and my job, I’m a fan. It was like a [double whammy]. I didn’t take it well at all. I was like, wait what’s happening? Everyone’s wondering what’s going to happen with the jobs and the season and players and coaches. Everyone’s like we’ve never experienced this before. What the heck is going on? We have a great organization, so very quickly everyone was reassured that they would be fine. And very quickly everyone adapted.

This is reality. We’re obviously not going to sit around. So what can we do? The initial thought was I can’t believe this is really happening. Before now, you never thought you would see something like this. Coming out of this now, nothing would surprise me at this point.”

How did your experience with the Sixers over the past decade prepare you for the pandemic?

“My first year was Allen Iverson’s last year with the team before he left. I was part of those prime process years. … Then new ownership came in. I was part of that transition. The [NBA] lockout happened. I was part of that transition. I saw a lot of organizational changes. A lot of team changes. I’ve experienced it. ...

There’s always changes, and you have to be able to adapt to whatever the heck is going on. Not only with the team but with the organization and the people you are working with and with your own role. You can’t keep doing the same thing every year. So I remember I was there during the [NBA] lockout. We started focusing on doing things in the community because we had more free time. So we started doing school assemblies every day. We started welcoming kids to school. We were doing Read to Achieve, times 10. Just staying relevant and putting our face and our brand and our skills out there in whatever way we could. So even in this situation, we were like, content makes the most sense. People want to know what’s going on. People want to feel updated. People still want to see the players.

It actually taught us that we don’t have to go so hard on doing content by being there to shoot. We can use these things like Zoom and get really creative cool content. It’s easy for everyone to schedule and you still get the product that you’re looking for. So it’s taught us we can be more efficient the way we’re scheduling our time. So being part of the team for this long definitely prepared me for now. If it weren’t for those experiences, I probably would’ve been freaking out way more and maybe I wouldn’t have been able to adapt as well.”

How have you been able to innovate and keep Sixers fans engaged without games since March?

“We’ve been doing a whole lot of Zooming. Not just one-on-one interviews. So many different styles of content. … From questionnaires to games or jokes.

Get-to-knows. We even do thing things called Fridge Flex where players show us what’s in their fridge from home.”

Are fans excited or concerned about the NBA’s restart plan?

“I would say overall, fans are excited. I think that the NBA particularly has a lot of trust from fans. Maybe more than a lot of leagues. And I think because of that trust, people are eager and excited for basketball, including myself. Who doesn’t want basketball?

Everyone is trusting the NBA to do the right thing. So as we progress with the Orlando news, I’m hearing more positive than negative [responses]. And you are going to have people who are hesitant and that’s completely fine. But I think because of the trust people have with the NBA, I’m not hearing a lot of negative things. If something shifts or something changes, people trust the NBA is going to handle it the right way.”

Are you going to Orlando with the Sixers?

“I am not going to Orlando. They want to keep it as tight as possible. And there will be no fans for me to ask if they want a T-shirt. So there will be not T-shirt throwing or games on the court. But I will be utilized for content which obviously I don’t need to be there to do. We’ve learned that we can get the content we need.

So I’m not going. Am I sad about it? There is a little part of me that’s a little sad about it. But I understand for the safety of everyone and for this to work, it needs to be tight.”

Why did you decide to release your first single “Insecure” during the pandemic?

“I kept it a secret from everyone. Only a few select people from my childhood know that I even did music. It was something as a kid that I loved. Then life happened. I grew up, fell in love with entrepreneurship, sports and hosting, and all that stuff. And music just became a hobby. It was something I did on my own. I didn’t want people to know about it. I didn’t want to be looked at as a rapper. It just really wasn’t my thing. So I just did it for myself.

But the pandemic really made it all happen. It really opened my eyes. I started looking at my life and who I am and what I was doing and what I wasn’t doing. Where I wanted to be in the next five years and how I was spending my time. Youth is a very valuable thing. I’m not going to be young forever. I’m not even young anymore, but I’m not going to be this age for much longer. And I have a very small window for things like music and how I can market it. So I was like I’m good at it, and I’m home and it doesn’t cost me anything to put this out. So I should give it a try.

Putting the music out was therapeutic for myself. Just making a decision. I wasn’t going to care what people thought anymore. I wasn’t going to let perception or what people thought or what society tells me to do dictate my actions. I was always going to put who I truly was first and deal with the consequences of being who I am. Me putting the song out was really for me.”

What pushed you to finally release the song?

“It definitely didn’t happen overnight. I recorded the song two years ago. It took a long time. I’ve been doing music my entire life. I just put this song out. I think what helped push me over the edge, I’m a results guy. I look at results.

When I looked at my life, I was like what results do I want from it? And then when I listed out the results I was looking at what I was doing, and it didn’t match up. So it’s just logic. I looked at both of the lists of here’s what I want from my life and here’s what I’m currently doing. Either I don’t want it or I need to do something different. I just did it.

I’m not going to let money or fear or trends get in the way of it at all. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to have fun with it. And whatever the heck happens from it, it’s what’s going to happen from it. If I become the next Drake, then great. If I flop and no one cares about it, then great. I’m just going to do it and enjoy it.”

Have you always been a Sixers fan?

“I’m a lifer. I’m going to be a Sixers fan until the day I go. I’ve always loved the Sixers. Allen Iverson, he got me. Allen Iverson got me. I had the cornrows. I started loving the team ever since AI was on the squad and I’m still a Sixers fan to this day and always will be.”

Which Sixers team is your all-time favorite?

“I have to go with the 2001 squad, only because that was a moment in time that really changed my life. Watching them go against the Lakers, getting all the way to the Finals with the squad they had, and watching Allen Iverson do his thing. Even though they lost, it was just amazing to see how the city was so hype. That’s really what locked me in as a Sixers fan.”

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