Q-Rich and J-Crossover speak to Boardroom about HooperVision, NBA League Pass’ answer to the Monday Night Football “ManningCast.”
The NBA has been providing League Pass customers with alternate feed options since it started its bubble season in July 2020, but had not yet tried a regular broadcast featuring former players.
The addition of weekly game streams starring veteran hoopers Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson this season — the NBA’s answer to ESPN’s Monday Night Football “ManningCast” starring Peyton and Eli — has produced the NBA’s most-viewed alternate League Pass option to date, the league reports.
Known as NBA HooperVision with Jamal & Q-Rich, the weekly broadcasts provide a casual atmosphere, chemistry between two popular and well-connected former teammates, strong analysis, and a bevy of top-notch guests ranging from Kevin Durant and Tracy McGrady to J. Cole and Fat Joe. Crawford and Q call the action from their respective homes like the Mannings do, something that definitely appealed to them.
“It’s almost like you’re just sitting in the barbershop watching the game,” Crawford— the 41-year-old, three-time 6th Man of the Year winner who played in 20 NBA seasons— told Boardroom, “and you get a chance to learn from guys who did it at a level for a long time, so we know the nuances of the game.”
Richardson, a 41-year-old wing who played 13 NBA seasons, said the league approached him and Crawford and that they feel blessed that they were entrusted with this first feed without the aid of a traditional play-by-play voice.
As self-described trail-blazers and guinea pigs along for the ride with this project, Crawford said he loves opening the door for someone else to have a chance to do something like this in the future, while continuing to grow, have fun, and keep fans on the edge of their seats himself. Their acclamation into these roles wasn’t the easiest, but Richardson evolved into a facilitating role where he sets Crawford up and they then discuss the action on the court.
“It’s a perfect marriage as far as how we do things,” Crawford said. “We’re so much more comfortable and so much better than we were when we started.”
Richardson was a little more blunt.
“At the beginning, we had no clue what the hell we were doing,” he said. “But once we realized it was just basketball and we got repetitions, it was fine. Me and ‘Mal played together and have known each other for a long time. We have a million stories to share. As long as we got that opportunity and kept pushing, we were confident we could do it the right way.”
If Crawford and Q-Rich tried to be like the Manning brothers, this project definitely would not have worked. They’re just trying to connect with the culture and fans and differentiating themselves enough to convince viewers to switch from the traditional NBA broadcasts they’ve been used to their entire lives.
“They both have different, but complementary perspectives on the game. I think both of them having played for so long, having had such illustrious and recent careers, gives them a lot of different stories to tell about the players who are on the court and also allows them to have great relationships with the guests,” Sara Zuckert, the NBA’s Vice President and Head of Next Gen Telecast, told Boardroom. “Their perspectives and their chemistry together really created a great opportunity for us to bring this broadcast to life.”
Of the more than a dozen guests who have been on HooperVision so far, Richardson’s favorite is legendary rapper Q-Tip, who boasted an unexpectedly vast knowledge of the game.
“His knowledge, his fandom for the Knicks and everything that he had going on, how he was able to recall classic moments when he was in the arena, that one really connected with me,” Richardson said.
“I can’t remember a time where he’s actually done an interview recently. So he doesn’t talk often like that,” Crawford said of the iconic MC and producer. “So to hear him come on and tell stories, he actually started interviewing us at a point.”
Crawford’s favorite guest? Isiah Thomas, his childhood hero, former coach with the Knicks, and the reason he wore a No. 11 jersey as a pro. And despite having played for him, Zeke was the guest the Michigan product was most nervous for.
“It was because I love him so much,” Crawford said. “He made me feel like a kid more than every other guest we had.”
Crawford and Q-Rich were also quick to praise the NFL and ESPN’s embrace of the ManningCast format for helping HooperVision indirectly get off the ground. Without that, Crawford didn’t think it would’ve been so quick to give he and Richardson this platform without the Mannings’ success and popularity. It showed you can replicate the model of broadcasting from home and still appeal to fans around the world.
“We really understand that fans want to watch the game differently,” Zuckert said. “And so while we’re not looking to replace the traditional feeds, since we know a lot of people still like to hear that audio, our goal is to bring personalized options to fans, to really service the game the way that they want to see and hear it.”
Zuckert said the league may explore other player-driven feeds in the future because of Richardson and Crawford’s success. With betting and strategy-focused streams well entrenched on League Pass now in addition to HooperVision, the NBA is succeeding in its goal of giving fans more viewing options most days of the week.
And for Crawford and Richardson, it remains an easy sell. All they have to do is sit at home, watch basketball like they always do, and chop it up with amazing guests while entertaining and engaging fans around the world week after week.