In researching this column about the original Charlotte Hornets and why they were such a big deal, I came across several things I couldn't use in the story that was published Sunday but that I didn't know and found interesting. I didn't get to The Charlotte Observer until 1994, after all, so some of the early stuff especially was new to me.
But after a number of phone interviews with former Hornet players and officials, as well as re-reading Rick Bonnell's excellent book about the 1992-93 playoff Hornet playoff season called "Sharpening the Stinger," I realized:
1. Larry Johnson had a charming way of getting away with not knowing someone's name he should have -- one that I may adopt. He just would say, "Hey, big guy!"
2. Eager to capitalize on Alonzo Mourning's menacing persona, the Hornets would play the first few bars of Darth Vader's theme (The "Imperial March") when he entered the game.
3. After then-coach Allan Bristow once punted his suit coat in exasperation at an official, the Hornets had a halftime contest in which fans were judged on the length that they could punt a suit coat.
4. The population of both Charlotte and the Charlotte metro area is almost exactly double today what it was in the late 1980s when the Hornets began play. Here are the figures our excellent newsroom librarian found for me:
Metro area estimate in 2012: 2,296,569
In 1987 - 1,100,000.
Charlotte estimate in 2012: 775,202
In 1988 - 363,977.
5. The Hornets used to interview a star of the game on the microphone live in postgame at midcourt, and frequently it was a standout for the other team. Magic Johnson did it once while he was with the Lakers, and before doing so he pulled on a Hornets T-shirt someone had handed him. The crowd, of course, went wild. Original Hornet owner George Shinn had a picture of Magic in that Hornet T-shirt for years in his office, as did other Hornet officials.
6. Following Alonzo Mourning's famous jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining that put Charlotte ahead 104-103 and ultimately won the playoff series over Boston in 1993, the Hornets' Kendall Gill actually goal-tended on a clever Celtics inbounds play designed to get a tip-in as the buzzer sounded. Officials did not make the call, although observers said one replay showed it was clearly goaltending, and the Hornets won.
Postscript: For their season ticket holders, the Bobcats are holding a nostalgic "meet-and-greet" on Thursday, July 18th (the day the NBA Board of Governors will rubber stamp the name change as "official") with Rex Chapman, Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues, Kelly Tripucka and Kendall Gill. That should be a lot of fun.
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