Monday, July 15, 2013

6 things I did not know about original Charlotte Hornets

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.


SSGPat said...

I delivered pizza to Rex once. He tipped $5, but was shorter than I was. He was not 6'4" as advertised.

Anonymous said...

It was a good column, as well as interesting facts in this blog. I see that LJ had the same problem with remembering names that I have (my safe is hi champ). I had no idea Rick Bonnell had written that book, and about the season in which I started watching the NBA and instantly took a liking to the Hornets. I ordered it as soon as I read your blog, look forward to reading it.

Best regards,
Brynjolfur from Iceland

Anonymous said...

How nice that Muggsy, Dell and the rest won't have to be bothered with the unwashed masses, and will restrict their contact to the moneyed elite.

Hawaiian Bob said...

Ah the good old days. Reminds me of a classic John Boy & Billy skit.

Sportscaster: So, what do you think of Armen Gilliam?

Ballplayer: Aw, man, I love all those guys! Gilliam, Skipper, the Professor...

Anonymous said...

#6 is subject to interpretation. In reviewing the tape, I don't think Gill goaltended at all. Gill knocks a pass down on it's way to Dee Brown. See 8:26 below.

Was there a big debate after the game? I don't remember this being a big deal or even a question...could have been my teal and purple shades blocking out objectivity though.

Anonymous said...

213Can't be ruled a goal tending on an in-bound pass because if the shot (pass) goes in it doesn't count as a basket. The shot must be made from in the field of play (court). Any pass can be touched, even on the rim, because in this case it is a pass not a shot.

BolynMcClung said...


For years I had season tickets in the cheap seats. Never met the person who owned the seats in the row below us. But the seats were always filled and usually with some very enthusiastic fans.

One evening two slightly drunk young women were watching from those seats on a night when Rex Chapman was lights-out crazy making difficult shots.

The women started a loud chat to spur him on. It went like this:

"We want Rex. We want sex!"

Pretty funny evening for everyone nearby.

We left early with the Hornets up and I don't know the outcome ..... the game or the women.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Moneyed elite? Bobcats tickets are very inexpensive. I guess that is a reason to buy season tickets. What a dope.

Anonymous said...

Kendall Gill did not goaltend on that last play. Are you taking some Boston whiners opinion? Look at the video. Gill and the Boston player were touching the ball at the same time as he went towards the rim.

The ball was not in its downward flight and was not above the rim.

Unknown said...

Classic moment....Kelly Tripuka yelling and crying at the fans behavior towards him on a radio interview after a team win.....

Anonymous said...

Is the mural still up downtown of the original 5 players, I think? I don't live in CLT anymore. Was there from 85-01, so I was there for most of the hype with the Hornets and the teal and purple. Glad the name is back where it belongs in CLT :) Good Luck this season :)

Anonymous said...

The original Hornets era was a fun time. We had season tickets every year, and I fondly remember the long hike up to Section 210 Row Q. I was sad to see the old Coliseum (which at the time was called the 'New' Coliseum) torn down. I liked it better than the Bobcats arena.

Maybe getting the old name back will put some enthusiasm into this franchise. Charlotte Hornets gear remained a good seller even during all those years it was gone.

704Champ said...

Come on Scott, how did you not know #2?!?!

Anonymous said...

I am not a basketball fan but used to go to Hornets games all the time. It was a great time! The Bobcats, not so much. Been to six games, bored to death six times.

The Bobcats will have to change a lot more than their name to get the buzz in the building that the Hornets had but I hope they do it.

Anonymous said...

Living in the past are we?

Hornets name is a loser worse than the Bobcats. You idiots look so stupid.

6-78 in 2013-14. If anybody cares and they dont

Hype talk is meaningless

Within 5 yrs they will be the Bobcats again in another city.

Hornets is a baseball name.

Charlotte Buzzards more fitting as they are dead and stink

Hank from Huntersville said...

'Member the controversy over the original artwork planned for the site? The city required a certain percentage of a construction project go to art. I don't even remember what the original work was supposed to represent, but the statue was quickly dubbed "Gumby" and derided by all the morning zoo radio shows. The pushback was so bad, that they finally backed off and ended up with the "bowling ball" bushes planted in the entrance median.

jbjonesclt said...