The New Orleans Hornets

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Between 2002 and 2012, the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans were known as the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets were an average team, with little achievement of note to show for their ten year history.

How did the New Orleans Hornets Start up?

The Hornets Franchise had stared 1985 in Charlotte, North Carolina as an expansion franchise for the NBA. The name Hornets arose from a Revolutionary War British Commander’s reference to the Charlotte area as a hornet’s nest due to their resistance of colonial British occupation. A couple of teams had also used the name before. The team became the New Orleans Hornets in 2002 when it relocated from Charlotte to New Orleans and started playing at the New Orleans Arena.

The Hornets in Competition

Their inaugural season in New Orleans began with a 100-75 home win over the Utah Jazz. The Hornets qualified for the playoffs that season after finishing fourth with a 47-35 record. However, they were eliminated by 4 games to 2 in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles. The next season, they finished in third place with a 41-41 record and met the Miami Heat in the playoffs. The Heat’s 4-3 series win denied them the chance to foray any deeper into the playoffs. In the 2004/05 season, plagued by injury and playing in a much harder Southwest Division, the Hornets had an 18-64 record which put them at the bottom of the league.

For the 2005/06 season, the team relocated to Oklahoma City due to Hurricane Katrina and was known as New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. They finished the season with a 38-44 record narrowly missing the playoffs. The following season, the Hornets won one more game for a 39-43 record but again missed the playoffs. The team returned to New Orleans for the 2007/08 season, reverting to their original name. That season, they finished with a 56-26 record which was a franchise best. They defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs but were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

During the 2008/09 season they had a 49-33 record, finishing fourth but still made the playoffs where they were eliminated in brutal fashion by the Denver Nuggets. In game four of the playoff first round, they were beaten 121-63 by the Nuggets, making for the joint worst ever loss in the playoffs. The following season, amid deep cutting personnel restructuring to cut on the wage bill, the Hornets finished last in the division with a 37-45 record. In the 2010/2011 season, the Hornets surprised everyone by making the playoffs where they would be eliminated by the Lakers by four games to two.

New Orleans Hornets most Notable Players

Chris Paul played for the Hornets from 2005 to 2011. He won rookie of the year with an average of 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. He helped the Hornets to the top the conference in 2007/08 with 21.1 ppg and 11.6 assists.

Baron Davis stayed with the franchise from their time in Charlotte and helped them to three playoffs appearances before he left for the Golden State Warriors in 2005. During those three seasons, he scored 856, 1532 and 885 total points respectively.

Other notable Hornets players include Jamal Mashburn, Darren Collison and Marcus Thomton.

New Orleans Hornets most Notable Moments

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina tore through the city of New Orleans causing major damage to the New Orleans Arena. The Hornets were unable to use the stadium and struck a deal to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City where they would play at the Ford center. The team, which was renamed New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets enjoyed a warm reception in Oklahoma with attendance jumping 76% over their numbers in New Orleans. The Hornets returned to New Orleans after two seasons and the Seattle Supersonics jetted into Oklahoma due to the appetite for NBA action the city had displayed.

What Happened to the New Orleans Hornets?

During the late noughties and early 2010s, the team was struggling with a wage bill in excess of 77 million dollars, the largest in the NBA. This necessitated a team purge which saw top earners leaving the outfit effectively stagnating the team’s performance. In 2011, with team owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest unable to support the team financially, it was bought out by the NBA for $300 million.

Low attendance continued to plague the team and in November 2011, city and state authorities in collaboration with local businesspeople had to buy unsold tickets to block an escape clause that would have allowed the team to be moved away from New Orleans. In 2012 the team was sold to Tom Benson and the team changed names to New Orleans Pelicans. They also relinquished the rights to the name “Hornets” and the records and history of their predecessor franchise, the Charlotte Hornets to the Charlotte Bobcats. The Pelicans meanwhile retained the records of the franchise from the 2002/03 season onwards.