SIR FOSTER DIDN’T upstage the players at last year’s NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, but he did create quite the stir. As Carmelo and KD dribbled and drove to keyboard renditions of OutKast and Kanye, the nation took notice. Suddenly, the organ was cool and the organist an unlikely star.
This was, of course, not news back in Atlanta, where classically trained Foster Carson was plucked from obscurity after answering the Hawks’ Craigslist ad in 2009. He began in the rafters but soon moved courtside, where he, as much as the scoreboard, now dictates the mood at games — improvising everything from Big K.R.I.T. to the White Stripes. “It’s a Broadway play,” Carson says, “and I’m the orchestra.” Says Hawks superfan Ludacris: “He’s providing the musical landscape.”
Some might say he’s also providing cover. Offseason scandals rocked the Hawks after a leaked email in which owner Bruce Levenson blamed poor attendance on black fans having “scared away the whites,” and after GM Danny Ferry said Heat forward Luol Deng has “some African in him.” Since then, the franchise has hired the NBA’s first “chief diversity and inclusion officer” and announced efforts to enhance the fan experience.
Who better for that than 27-year-old Carson? During a recent Hawks win, the Georgia native donned a Dominique Wilkins jersey and mimicked Nique with a windmill slam of the keys, pivoting from “DE-FENSE” to Van Halen’s “Jump” in the second it takes to whistle a jump ball. “I always wanted to play in the NBA,” Carson says. “I guess you could say I do.”
This article appeared in ESPN‘s Feb. 2 issue.