After the NBA’s growth in popularity expansion was only natural, and the city of Charlotte was only a natural site for one of the four new teams that would begin play over a two year period. Carolina had once been home to a popular ABA team known as the Cougars, and a hotbed for College talent with four major universities that had made the Final Four within a few seasons. The Hornets would play their first game on November 4th losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers 133-93 at the Charlotte Coliseum. The Hornets would earn their first win four days later when the beat the Los Angeles Clippers at home 117-105. Wins would not come often for the Hornets who finished last in the Atlantic Division with a 20-62 record. One of the bright spots was the strong play of Kelly Tripuka who led the team with 22.6 ppg, highlighted by three games in which he scored 40 points.
With the first pick in the 1991 NBA draft, the Hornets drafted power forward Larry Johnson from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Johnson had an impact season, finishing among the league leaders in points and rebounds, and winning the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Additionally, Guard Kendall Gill led the club in scoring, averaging over 20 points per game. The team stayed in contention for a playoff spot until March, but finished the year with a 31–51 record.
The Hornets popularity with the city of Charlotte began to wane during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many attributed this lapse in popularity to the team’s owner, George Shinn, who was slowly becoming despised by the people of the city. In 1997, a Charlotte woman claimed that Shinn had raped her, and the resulting trial severely tarnished his reputation in the city. The consensus was that while Charlotte was as basketball-crazy as ever, fans took out their anger at Shinn on the team. Shinn had also become discontented with the Charlotte Coliseum, which, although considered state-of-the-art when it opened in 1988, had by then been considered obsolete due to a limited number of luxury boxes. On March 26, 2001, both the Hornets and the Vancouver Grizzlies applied for relocation to Memphis, Tennessee, which was ultimately won by the Grizzlies. Shinn issued an ultimatum: unless the city built a new arena at no cost to him, the Hornets would leave town. The city initially refused, leading Shinn to consider moving the team to either Norfolk, Louisville, or St. Louis. Of the cities in the running, only St. Louis was a larger media market than Charlotte at the time; also, it was the only one of the four to have previously had an NBA franchise — the St. Louis Hawks, who moved to Atlanta in 1968.
In 1985, the NBA, then at 23 teams, was planning to expand by four teams by the 1988–1989 season. George Shinn, an entrepreneur from Kannapolis, North Carolina, wanted to bring an NBA team to the Charlotte area, and he assembled a group of prominent local businessmen to head the prospective franchise. The Charlotte area had long been a hotbed for college basketball. Charlotte was also one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and was previously one of the three in-state regional homes to the American Basketball Association’s Carolina Cougars from 1969 to 1974.
Charlotte – New Orleans
1988 – Present / National Basketball Association
2013 – Present / New Orleans Pelicans
2007 – 2013 / New Orleans Hornets
2005 – 2007 / New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
2002 – 2005 / New Orleans Hornets
1988 – 2002 / Charlotte Hornets
Hornets – Shinn decided to sponsor name-the-team contest and had fans vote on six finalists. More than 9,000 ballots were cast and Hornets won by a landslide, beating out Knights, Cougars, Spirit, Crowns, and Stars. The name was derived from the city’s fierce resistance to British occupation during the Revolutionary War, which prompted the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, to refer to it as “a veritable nest of hornets.”
NBA Championships 0
2014 – Present / Smoothie King Center
2002 – 2013 / New Orleans Arena
2005 – 2007 / Ford Center
2006 / Lloyd Noble Center
2005 / Pete Maravich Assembly Center
1988 – 2002 / Charlotte Coliseum
2018 – Present / Gayle Benson
2012 – 2018 / Tom Benson
2010 – 2012 / National Basketball Association
2007 – 2010 / Shinn and Gary Chouest
1988 – 2007 / George Shinn
Who is the greatest Charlotte Hornets (Pelicans)?
7 “Pistol” Pete Maravich
13 Bobby Phills
2013 – Present / Pierre the Pelican
*Blue is this team’s history