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The Life and Times of the Charlotte Hornets: A Tale of a Tortured Franchise

Kemba Walker Charlotte HornetsBy Stranga The Great
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Final score, Miami Heat 123, Charlotte Hornets 91, nothing surprising here. The Charlotte Hornets lost twenty consecutive games against their division rival, Miami Heat, from 2010 through 2014. Ironically, those seasons were their only playoff appearances in a ten year span.

For the first time, in a long time, the Charlotte Hornets are a decent team, actually. This year marks their second playoff appearance in three seasons. While this would be disappointing for some, this is actually a good thing for the young Hornets.

Despite drawing the sixth seed in the East, the Hornets tied for third, along with Miami, the Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics. All four teams posted the same 48-34 record and Charlotte lost all tiebreakers. The team has come a long way since their 7-59 season, during the 2012 lockout shortened season, the worst winning percentage of all-time.

Making a long story short, a 48-34 record landing the sixth playoff seed and losing by 32 points is actually one of the top moments in Charlotte NBA history. That says enough about the success of this franchise, technically franchises, as the Hornets have two, or three, histories, depending on who’s counting. The Charlotte Hornets were founded, originally, in 1988, but arguments can be made for 2004 and 2014.

Charlotte Hornets 1988

In 1988, the original Charlotte Hornets were founded by George Shinn and the state of North Carolina embraced them, despite the rough early seasons. Over time, the Hornets put a competitive team on the floor, developing a core around Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. However, this team was overshadowed by the Orlando Magic and their duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, as they went to the Finals in 1995.

Johnsonmourninghornetsvid

The Hornets remained competitive, but executive decisions cost the team, as they opted to trade their rising superstars, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, as opposed to re-signing them. This led to Johnson becoming a key fixture for the New York Knicks and Mourning the cornerstone for the Miami Heat. In the case of their new teams, the Heat (an 1988 expansion, just as the Hornets and Magic) posted a 61-21 season and the Knicks went to the finals.

Kobe Bryant Hornets

While their former stars went onto have record-breaking seasons, the Hornets gained Glen Rice and made the decision to trade draft pick, Kobe Bryant, for Vlade Divac, who left after two seasons. Being fair, there was no way of knowing Bryant would become who he became in the NBA. Plus, even if he did stay in Charlotte, there is no guarantee he would have had the same type of success and may have been traded, anyway.

However, seeing how the Hornets would relocate less than a decade after trading Kobe Bryant’s draft rights, many fans do believe keeping him would have kept the team. Many, such as local Charlotte rapper, Carlimo Da Don, believe this, and still blame George Shinn for his actions. These actions included NBA and non-NBA related actions that drove fans away.

There is no question, Charlotte has lacked a consistency in having a superstar to take them to that next level that their expansion peers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, hell even the Minnesota Timberwolves, had for periods of time. Obviously, the relocation hurt the Charlotte Hornets, although the New Orleans edition did have Baron Davis in his prime and the early Chris Paul years.

Charlotte BobcatsDue to the relocation of the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA granted Charlotte an expansion franchise, which was named the Bobcats for reasons unknown. For the better part of a decade, the Bobcats lived up to their name, as they, like the previous Charlotte NBA franchise, lacked the proper consistency. The NBA’s best teams all have a player they can build around and a plan for future successful seasons.

The Charlotte Bobcats were owned by Bob Johnson, who was more conservative than George Shinn. But, unlike Shinn, he did allow North Carolina native, Michael Jordan, to be a part of the franchise. Prior to the Hornets’ relocation, Jordan offered to step in and be a part of the team and, rumor had it, he offered to play for the team and to bring Phil Jackson with him, following their Chicago Bulls departure in 1998.

Bobcats 2010

Regardless, Jordan were there then, as was Nelly, and the hope was to find an immediate franchise cornerstone and soon be a contender. The early years of the Bobcats were not as bad as it was portrayed, as the team consistently improved their record, until the 2008 season, but remained playoff contenders. In 2009, they were on the brink of a playoff berth, but they collapsed at the end of the season, making up for it in 2010, as Jordan took over as owner.

During this period of time, the Bobcats were still, primarily, a losing team, but they had freakish success against the rising Los Angeles Lakers, led by 1996 Charlotte draft pick, Kobe Bryant. Eventually, Kobe would get the better of the Charlotte team, as he did the rest of the league. Meanwhile, by 2011, the Bobcats fell out of playoff contention and out of relevance, with Gerald Henderson as the leader of the team.

At one time, Gerald Henderson appeared poised to be the future of the franchise, as he was explosive. Early in his career, Michael Jordan gave Henderson his co-sign, calling him a future all-star. This never came to be, but Henderson became a vital part of the franchise, but he led the team during some of their darkest moments, but there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Due to Charlotte’s original franchise relocating in 2002 and the Bobcats making one playoff appearance in their first eight years, their only rival was the New Orleans Pelicans (then Hornets). Their rivalry stemmed from the relocation and was more Charlotte fans versus George Shinn, as New Orleans cared less about those Charlotte teams. But, fortunes were due to change following the 7-59 season and Anthony Davis entering the 2012 draft.

New Orleans scored yet another win over Charlotte, when their 21-45 season saw them gain the first draft pick over the then-Bobcats. Left out in the cold, again, Charlotte drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has become a core member of the team and was predicted to have a Paul George/Jimmy Butler-like breakout season. While this may happen, injuries have limited him and Kemba Walker asserted himself to that position.

Michael Jordan Charlotte Hornets

In 2013, Michael Jordan announced his intentions to change the Bobcats’ name to Hornets, following New Orleans changing their name to Pelicans. That season was when Al Jefferson joined the team and the Bobcats returned to playoff contention. They bowed in a four game sweep to Charlotte’s longtime NBA Foe, Miami Heat, but the future looked bright, especially when LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Along with the Hornets name returning to Charlotte, the NBA granted them the 1988-2002 history from the Pelicans, who opted to start fresh from their 2002 debut in New Orleans. Early on, the Charlotte Hornets had tremendous success, coming back from 24 points down to the Milwaukee Bucks. They rallied behind Kemba Walker taking the game over, hitting a game-tying three pointer, and the game-winning shot, which Michael Jordan loved.

WalkervsbucksvidWhile Kemba Walker had a big game, he and his team did not live up to the hype. Highlights would be hard to come by in the 2015 season, but Walker scored in career highs. Despite the tough season, the newly minted Hornets remained playoff contenders until the final week of the season, when the Atlanta Hawks officially eliminated them from contention, which gave Jordan a tough offseason decision.

Throughout the existence of the Charlotte Bobcats, the team often tried to build a good team by tanking and using the draft. The only problem was that the team kept making bad picks, or not getting a high enough pick. Because of this, they made bold moves, such as trading Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh, their prized draft pick, for Nic Batum and sports critics felt this would backfire on Charlotte.

Instead, the Hornets rose to become one of the top teams in the NBA, for various parts of the season. They held the second and third seed in the East for various weeks, but showed signs of a young team by losing careless games. But, they now have the potential to be a consistently good team, modeled slightly after the Golden State Warriors, a team their history is comparable to.

Nic Batum Hornets

Behind the strong play of Nic Batum, he made up for the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and formed a very powerful duo with Kemba Walker. But, because of his free agency, many sports critics are pegging him to leave the Hornets, as they also feel about Jeremy Lin. However, they, along with Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson may opt to stay and build a team that is only going to get better with a healthy MKG, next season.

In the here and now, all in all, the Charlotte Hornets are doing just fine. Depending on who’s counting, this season’s 48-34 record is the best in franchise history, but the fifth-best in the complete franchise history. However, when it comes to their matchup against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, another game like yesterday puts them in deep trouble, heading back to Charlotte, but the future looks bright and a rivalry is being born.

Final score, Miami Heat 123, Charlotte Hornets 91, nothing surprising here.

Follow Stranga The Great on Twitter @StrangaTheGreat.

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