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Sir Foster's opus

Atlanta Hawks' organist brings the bounce to the in-game experience

Last season during the Atlanta Hawks run to the Eastern Conference Finals ESPN/ABC analyst and former player Jalen Rose took issue with a member of the organization. "Music DURING possessions is the worst #NBAPlayoffs," Rose tweeted during game two of the conference semifinals. The not-so-subtle jab was directed at Foster "Sir Foster" Carson, who has worked since 2009 as the Atlanta Hawks' organist. Though he may not have a believer in Rose, Sir Foster's a hit with fans, players, and an A-list of musicians that range from 2 Chainz to Paul McCartney.

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At home games, he's arguably one of the most popular personalities in Philips Arena. During timeouts, halftime, and postgame, countless fans approach him and ask for photos and autographs. They even make music requests. It's in this interaction with the audience — both at the arena and online — that makes Sir Foster stand out.

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Well, that and the playlists.

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Pounding his digital ivories, Sir Foster can go from playing OutKast, Fetty Wap's "My Way," and Future's "Real Sisters" to remixing "Yankee Doodle." He's been dubbed by hoops website SB Nation as "Sports' Greatest Organist," and there may be some merit to that — at least as far the NBA's concerned. Sir Foster's skills landed him a gig as the in-game organist at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and again at the Rising Stars Challenge the following year.

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There seems to be at least some demand for Sir Foster's on-the-spot mix of hip-hop, R&B, and classic songs, and he — for one — firmly believes that, whether we like it or not. "The music is helping the team," the Fort Valley, Ga. product says. "If you think about it, when a visiting team plays there's nothing going on except booing. When the home team has the ball you get a little bounce. There's music played when we have the ball because this is the NBA. This is the biggest stage and it's for the fans."

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The bald, chiseled, 31-year-old musician has had a busy year. Along with playing his way through the Hawks' breakthrough and current seasons, Sir Foster also released his first solo album, Future World Record Holder, a nod to his lofty life ambitions. The project — released on iTunes, in the Hawks merchandise stores, and local shops — is an honorable attempt by its creator to prove he's more than just the guy who will play cuts from Frozen to taunt opposing players.

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He's the kid who grew up around the church and gospel music. And to hear him tell it, his legend dates back to the first year of his life. "My mom says I tried to play the piano when I was six months old," he says. "She said most babies went up to it and just banged on it. She said I actually went up to the thing, hit one note and sang it to her."

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Whether or not there's truth to Sir Foster's claims of being musically prodigious from birth, he didn't get much respect during his first Hawks tryout. Having little experience performing at sporting events, Sir Foster was invited to play a preseason game after responding to an ad on Craigslist. "I remember they told me to play an offensive chant and I played a defensive one because I didn't know," he says.

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It's safe to say that after six years as an official member of the Hawks' game operations staff, Sir Foster's got things figured out. Like the starting five and coaching staff, Sir Foster is laser-focused on game days. He works out, eats healthy, and scans Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for song requests from fans. Arriving roughly two hours before tipoff, it takes him roughly 30 minutes to set up his keyboard, computer, and the sound equipment. Over the course of the 48-minute game, Sir Foster estimates he's on his feet playing for more than half an hour. His playlists are never set, and aside from the occasional directive from a producer speaking through a headset, he works on the fly. "I guess there's slightly some type of method to it that I kind of let the game dictate what I play, so every game is different. They all feel different," he says, adding that taking in-game requests via Twitter is a huge source of inspiration.

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And it's clear Sir Foster's story and sound is resonating. After a recent home game, rapper Lil' Boosie and his entourage made a beeline for the exits as time expired. Few, if any, spectators stopped the artist for autographs. But after the final buzzer sounded, there was already a crowd of eager fans surrounding Sir Foster. He high-fived the regulars whom he shares pre-game rituals with, posed for future Instagram posts, and got, "Great job tonight," from damn near everyone including Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins. For the guy who almost didn't make the squad, the praise won't get old anytime soon.

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"You can never get tired of hearing people say, 'I like how you play,'" he says. "People don't have to like it. No one is holding a gun to their heads saying, 'You're going to listen to this.' When a person tells you that, every single time they tell you that, it means something."



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