The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets

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The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets were a short lived franchise that played in the NBA from 2005-2007. The team only played for two seasons and then returned to New Orleans from where they had been forced to move due to Hurricane Katrina.

How did the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets Start Up?

The team came into being as a contingency following the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to the New Orleans Hornets home stadium, the New Orleans Arena. Oklahoma City was picked from a long list of cities that offered to provide a temporary home for the team. When the New Orleans Hornets relocated to Oklahoma City, they were renamed New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets to give the team greater appeal among the host city fans. The Hornets’ designated home stadium in Oklahoma was the Ford Stadium but the Lloyd Noble Center in the University of Oklahoma, the New Orleans Arena and Louisiana State University’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center were also used for some games.

The Hornets in Competition

The Hornets began the 2006/07 season with a surprise 93-67 win over the Sacramento Kings on November 1, 2005 before an away 109-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers the next day. They played fairly well in the beginning and by the end of January their record was 22-22 and improved to 31-26 by February 28. However a 3-11 record in March and 4-7 in April saw them drop out of playoff places, finishing with a 38-44 record and 10th in the Western Conference. During the 2006/07 season, they improved their previous season’s record by one win, to finish with a 39-43 record. However, they narrowly missed out on the playoffs once more.

The Hornets most Notable Moments

For a team that had just won 18 games the previous season, the Hornets’ reception in Oklahoma was full of unexpected enthusiasm. Within six weeks of securing the rights to temporarily host the Hornets, Oklahoma City residents had bought 10,000 season tickets. During their first game, fans were visibly excited and the atmosphere around the OKC City Stadium was genuinely electric. All around the stadium were “Welcome” banners and fans wore commemorative t-shirts for the occasion. The team returned the favor with a spirited performance against the Sacramento Kings. In front of a sell out crowd of 19163 fans, the Hornets shocked the Kings 93-67 sending the fans into rapture. The players were treated like kings around the city, receiving free meals at restaurants as well as free accommodation. Star rookie Chris Paul was even given a free BMW by an auto dealer as his was yet to arrive in the city.

The Hornets most Notable Players

Chris Paul was drafted by the Hornets as they moved to Oklahoma and had an immediate impact. He scored 16.1 points per game in 2005/06 season to earn the Rookie-of the Year Award. In 2006/07 he scored 17.5 points per game.

David West was drafted from Xavier University and formed a great partnership with Paul. He topped the team in scoring in 2005/06 and 2006/07 with 17.1 and 18.3 respectively.

Desmond Mason played for the franchise both seasons and contributed a total points tally of 1785, which was only bettered by West and Paul.

Other notable payers to turn out for the franchise include Peja Stojakovic, Rasual Butler and Tyson Chandler.

What Happened to the New Orleans/ Oklahoma City Hornets?

The Hornets were initially only scheduled to spend one year in Oklahoma. While in New Orleans the team had been struggling to draw fans, in Oklahoma City, the Hornets saw a 78% increase in attendance. This greatly exceeded the expectations of the NBA as well as city officials. Although repairs to the New Orleans arena had been completed in time for the beginning of the 2006/07 season, the NBA announced that the team would stay in Oklahoma one more season to allow a full recovery of the New Orleans market. Many fans in New Orleans were however skeptical of a permanent return. That season, the attendance declined by around 15%.

The Hornets returned permanently to New Orleans on October 31, 2007 and dropped “Oklahoma City” from their name to once again be known as “New Orleans Hornets.” The Hornets’ reception in Oklahoma had left a lasting impression on NBA owners, confirming the city as a viable home for an NBA franchise. In 2008 the Seattle Supersonics were relocated to Oklahoma City and were renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder. Today, the Hornets franchise is known as the “New Orleans Pelicans” following their 2013 name change after relinquishing the name “Hornets” to the Charlotte Bobcats.