The Charlotte.....errrr....New Orleans Hornets were back in Charlotte Tuesday night to face the team that replaced them.....the Bobcats.
They met in an arena that the Hornets called home for 14 seasons. An arena that the Bobcats will call home for only this season....before moving to an uptown arena that the citizens of Charlotte refused to buy the Hornets. I’ve seen many games at the Charlotte Coliseum. Every LA Laker game I’ve attended has been held there. I remember the last, Laker [or any NBA game] I went to....Kobe Bryant hit the game winner at the buzzer.
Charlotte loved the Hornets. The Hornets were like their first born child. Until 1988, Charlotte was mainly known as just some southern city....like a Birmingham, Columbia, Norfolk or Jacksonville. But, the mid-to-late 80s brought a huge boom to the south...and Charlotte became one of the biggest benefactors of this. Many people from New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Philadelphia moved into the Queen City. The Hornets arrival came at the same time.
The Hornets were the first team around Charlotte. Yeah, the Carolina Cougars of the ABA were there...but does that really count?? This was a big deal. In a college basketball crazy area...the NBA plopped a franchise in a city that really didn’t house a college team...but did have college fans. All of those UNC, Duke, State, Wake and Clemson fans could all agree to like the same NBA team...even if JR Reid [UNC], Mike Gminski [Duke] or Todd Fuller [State] wore the teal. We could all hate each other as the ACC season rolls along. But we could sit beside each other at the Coliseum and root for a team with the city’s name on the jersey.
Because of the sucess of the Hornets...the NFL came knocking 7 years later an brought the Panthers to Charlotte....officially making Charlotte a big league town.
While the city loved the team....they hated the owner. George Shinn, who was a God when the team first arrived, was loathed. The man was frugal with his money [which I don’t want to tell people they have to spend money....but if you are going to own a sports team, you cannot penny pinch]. We watched Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice and Eddie Jones get traded away because Shinn didn’t want to pay them [actually, he did pay LJ, which started a ripple effect]. Not to mention the many significant role players [Vlade, Geiger, Hawkins, Brad Miller] that got away. Add to the fact that he had a high profile sexual misconductcase...that eventually drove him out of town. The man that added Bible Belt values or prayer and religion to the NBA couldn’t hold up to his own standards. That Laker game I talked about in the opening?? Shinn’s Hornets passed out beads that night. Nice slap in our faces.
Now Shinn is married to woman who could be his daughter’s daughter. He also spent the game where he spent his time when the team was still in Charlotte....somewhere else. He wasn’t in Charlotte to watch his team play in a city they deserted. A city he left for dead. It was obvious that is wasn’t the city’s fault....since the NBA darn near awarded Charlotte a new franchise the day after the team moved. It is Shinn....who’s Hornets are 28th in attendance in their new digs, N’Awlins. The Hornets entered the game 1-17...worst mark in the NBA. When they left Charlotte...they were an Eastern conference championship contender. Now they are a Western conference laughingstock.
So, the old and new teams met in Charlotte. The Bobcats made in "Conversion Night"...meaning you could bring in your old Hornets crap and they’d give you a Bobcats hat. Five thousand pieces of Hornets gear was traded in [that stuff goes to overseas charities....so there will be some Iraqis wearing Kendall Gill #13 jerseys soon]. The floor of the arena is Bobcat orange and blue...but the seats and everything else in the arena are still Hornet teal. We traded a stingy owner in for a gazillionaire. Bob Johnson does everything he can to be seen in a city he didn’t grow up in. Shinn doesn’t like to show his face in his home turf. The original Hornets included Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry who are now part of the Bobcats team.
At least they could have left Hugo in Charlotte. Rufus is NO Hugo.