Archive for the ‘Hoops History’ Category

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More than any other professional team sport in America, the NBA has maintained a symbiotic relationship with its stars. The NBA–or “The League”, as it’s known by many–has been widely recognized as a star-driven league.

Whether you’re a fan of the NBA, or just a casual observer, you can’t help but to identify the National Basketball Association with some of the greatest and entertaining players to ever have earned an NBA paycheck.  Just in case you’re wondering about how long this star-driven system has been in place, we have to re-visit the early days of the pro basketball league.

I’m sure you’ve heard of an NBA franchise by the name of the Los Angeles Lakersright? Well, they haven’t always resided in Southern California, nor was their first championship won there either. Before the Lakers relocated to L.A. in 1960, they won an impressive five championships in their former home, Minneapolis. As expected, most great sports teams have that “anchor” on their team; that one person who is the heart and soul of their campaign to become champions in their respective league/sport. The then-Minneapolis Lakers had that type of player, and his name was George Mikan.

Mikan made a brief comback as a Minneapolis Laker in this 1995 ESPN Sportscenter commercial.

After an illustrious college career at DePaul University in Chicago, the 6’10” Mikan was known for his dominance as a Laker, yet he first signed with the Chicago American Gears of the NBL (National Basketball League), which eventually became the NBA. It was two years after his signing with the Gears in 1946, that he would join the Lakers for the 1947-48 season. When it came to dominant players at that time, no one in the league was on Mikan’s level of play. Like players such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in latter years, it was Mikan’s dominance that forced the NBA to change some of its rules to even the playing field for other players to have the opportunity to compete.

Long before the regularity of the NBA’s marketing of a celebrated few players handpicked every year to be the faces of the league, George Mikan was that guy to do so by himself.  If Mikan’s star power were ever in question, then any doubts would be refuted in the following story: On December 14, 1949, his teammates arrived at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and were met with a surprise.

On the marquee (sign outside of the building) they had ‘George Mikan vs. the Knicks,” recalled the NBA legend, whose teammates ribbed him by refusing to dress for the game. “They were all just sitting around. They said, ‘Alright big guy, if you’re going to play them, go play them.

With the NBA still crawling through its years of infancy at the time, such a sight was unheard of, yet it appeared that the marketing team of Madison Square Garden understood what a larger-than-life figure George Mikan had become back then. Needless to say, Mikan went on to play until 1956, ending a career that saw him become a hall-of-famer, one of the NBA’s “50 Greatest” players (as of 1996), and the reputation of being the “that dude” on his team. If Mikan were a star today, let’s just say that his jersey would be on sale, and he’d possibly even have his own sneaker.

Now that’s star power.

hoopsreading

For years, the NBA’s “Read to Achieve” program has sought to promote literacy among its young fans by implementing various educational initiatives and incentives. For us adults, the importance of reading is no less.  If you’re reading this, or some of my other work here on this page, then you’ve already realized the fact that reading is important.

Despite the need for us all to be able to possess basic literary skills, reading can be made fun in the process. Because of my love for the game of basketball, I have included several b-ball themed books that are personal favorites of mine that I’m quite sure that you’ll love as well.  Reading is FUNdamental!!

Tales From the Cleveland Cavaliers: The Rookie Season of LeBron James by Roger Gordon

Magic: by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Richard Levin

Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America’s Youth by Dan Wetzel and Don Yaeger

Best Seat in the House: A Basketball Memoir by Spike Lee

I have included a few vintage commercials where NBA stars encourage the kiddos to read. Take a look:

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What is it about me that you guys don’t know?

This is what Michael Jordan asked the crowd in attendance at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on a special evening in September of 2009. After hearing those words uttered by His Airness, you almost got the impression that even he’d be surprised by the fact that some of us had never even heard of him.

Due to the immense amount of scrutiny that he underwent over the years, it’s hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t at least have a clue who he was.To be honest, I’m not quite sure if there isn’t anything we don’t know about him. Perhaps one of the most famous human beings who have ever lived, it’s safe to mention that the life of Michael Jeffrey Jordan has been one devoid of boredom and predictability.

Thirty.

I’m not referring to MJ’s career regular season scoring average, nor am I referring to the age that Michael was whenever he and his Chicago Bulls won their third straight NBA title against the Phoenix Suns in 1993. While both of the aforementioned references were cool facts to know, the “thirty” that I’m referring to is the amount of years ago that he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1984. To the average person under the age of 25 who represent the demographic of youth who wear his famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) line of Nike sneakers, chances are high that they’ve never had the opportunity to watch him lace up the sneakers to actually play in them in during a live action NBA game. What made Jordan so unique was that his era–affectionately known as the Jordan Era–started almost immediately, in contrast to many NBA stars who entered the league after he did.

It’s hard to believe that MJ was drafted into the NBA over three decades ago, but it also makes sense because if you’re under the age of 50 and you have watched a considerable amount of basketball for a great deal of your life, then you felt as if Jordan was someone you grew up with, someone who should be enshrined not only into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but into our memory banks as well. All basketball fans have had a “Jordan experience”, and I’m no different. It was Jordan’s electric style of play, coupled with his undeniable marketability, and you have one extremely impressed 9-year-old boy who, during the fall of ’92, made a decision that basketball was his favorite sport, which would eventually become my passion to play the game of basketball, watch the game of basketball as a fan, and ultimately….write about the game of basketball.

In closing,  there isn’t much that we don’t know about the megastar. Thousands of publications, TV analysts, and barbershop regulars have proven that. I’ll keep this one simple because if you’re a lover of the game of basketball like I am, then you’ll realize we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the era that not only changed the sport, but reshaped pop culture at large.

High school basketball in my hometown was very competitive and extremely fun to watch as a kid growing up in Dalton, GA. The school logos are mentioned in a clockwise rotation: the Indians of Murray County High School, the Bruins of Northwest Whitfield High School, the alma mater of yours truly, the Raiders of Southeast Whitfield High School, and the Catamounts of Dalton High School.

As a high school student growing up in Northwest Georgia, high school basketball in my hometown was very competitive and extremely fun to watch as a kid. The school logos are mentioned in a clockwise rotation: the Indians of Murray County High School, the Bruins of Northwest Whitfield High School, the alma mater of yours truly–the Raiders of Southeast Whitfield High School, and the Catamounts of Dalton High School.

Back in the days when I was young/I’m not a kid anymore/but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again

~Ahmad

Most–if not all–basketball fans hold a special place in their hoop-filled hearts for high school basketball. In spite of the increasing loss of innocence of the bastion that is high school hoops due to the voracious appetite for college hoops’s need for the “next best thing”, high school basketball invokes feelings of nostalgia, community, and a sense of “connectedness” (Excuse my wordplay), because when we watch high school basketball, we watch our friends, relatives, and students lace up the sneakers to do battle on the hardwood for 32 minutes to give their schools bragging rights, but they also play to represent for the communities that they live in.

In my neck of the woods, high school basketball was played at an extremely competitive, yet entertaining level from the early ’90s until the early ’00s. In my local community, there were four high schools that would (and still) battle for bragging rights every basketball season. These four schools were Dalton High School, Southeast Whitfield High School, Northwest Whitfield High School, and Murray County High School. From Murray County, I had a chance to witness the likes of Chris Bishop and his brother Eric, who could jump over the moon, and eventually tried out as a Track and Field athlete for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Next up on the list of one of the most memorable high school basketball programs in my hometown/area was Northwest Whitfield High School, home of the Bruins. Northwest had a colorful collection of hoopers. For example, you combine the blend of athleticism and power of a guy named “Pokey”, the playmaking abilities and defensive prowess of a cat named “Redd” (who evolved from being primarily a defensive stopper in high school to becoming a deadly  scoring machine years after his h.s. graduation), and a sharp shooter named Tommy (Thompson). You were guaranteed to get your money’s worth if you decided to buy a ticket to see the orange and blue-clad bruins get busy during the golden era of basketball in North Georgia.

I’d be too modest if I failed to mentioned my alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School. When I first graced the halls of Southeast as a freshman in the fall of 1998, the big men on campus at the time were Lance “Chief” Minor, Brandon Bonds, Tracy, “Tre Boy” Harris, Marcus “Coop” Cooper, and Rashad “Shad” Curtis, to name a few. Over the course of my high school years, my school’s fan section–affectionately known as the “Dog Pound” by us Southeast Raiders–would hoot, holler, and cheer on the Raiders boys team all of the way to the coveted spot of #1 in the state of Georgia during the 2000-01 basketball season. Back in the 90s/Early 00s, the maroon and silver were NO JOKE.

The last local school that  I’d like to mention is none other than the Evil Empir–I mean the Dalton High School Catamounts. While some of you who read this may want to discount my writing ability because of my omission of some of the great players over the years who donned the white, black, and red of DHS, I’ll just state that there were simply TOO MANY GREAT PLAYERS TO NAME who came out of the Dalton High School basketball program, and this includes the boys and girls b-ball teams. I will give honorable mention to players like Brendan Plavich, Mike Banks, the Westmoreland brothers, T.J. Blackwell, Brandon “Feezy” Fields, Derrick Tinson, Eddie Jackson, & Frank Pinson, while Sabrina Beavers held it down for the ladies. I had to jokingly refer to Dalton High’s team as the “Evil Empire”, because they were like the New York Yankees of North Georgia. You either loved them, or you hated them. You rooted for them, or you booed them whenever they stepped foot on your school’s basketball court. Not only were they the biggest school in my hometown in both sheer size and student population, but they always boasted a DEEP roster of incredible athletes…in ALL sports.

While I have no intention of belittling the numerous accomplishments of the younger generations of basketball talent in my area that came along later–like 2004 or later–the players and teams that I mentioned were a memorable part of my youth, so of course I’m going to be slightly more partial to them! No matter how much basketball that I write about, discuss, or play for that matter, I’ll never forget that golden era of hoops during my high school years. I apologize if I forgot to mention any more of you from my hometown who read this, and was a part of a great time period for basketball in Whitfield and Murray County. However, I’m optimistic that we’ll have the opportunity to see another great generation of basketball spring forward from my home town of Dalton, GA, and the neighboring Chatsworth (Murray County).

 

 

 

The 1996 NBA draft was for lack of a better word, LOADED.

The 1996 NBA draft was for lack of a better word, LOADED.

Yes, I said it. The 1996 NBA Draft produced the best overall draft class ever. When you look at the overall impact that many of the draftees of ’96 made on the League, then surely you’ll agree with my statement.

To my fellow NBA historians, it probably comes off as seeming almost blasphemous that I’d make the statement that ’96 was the greatest draft class ever,  considering that it’s more p.c. to give supreme reverence to the draft classes of 1984 and 2003 respectively. When the discussion of the best NBA draft classes come up, ’84 and ’03 are almost exclusively mentioned. I feel that the ’84 draft gets the nod as the best draft class because of the #3 pick that year (If you don’t know who was picked 3rd in the ’84 Draft, then look it up). No disrespect to anyone who was drafted on those years, but the ’96 draft class was a cut above the rest.

Think about it for a second. This draft class was LOADED. Some of the names who were products of this draft were guys like Iverson, Kobe, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash…and those were just the household names. Let’s not forget that the ’96 NBA Draft also saw the likes of Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Marcus Camby, and Stephon Marbury enter the league as well. Rounding out the list were soon-to-be NBA veterans such as Derek Fisher, Peja Stojakovic, Erick Dampier, and Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams. I don’t think it hurts that the 1996 NBA Draft occurred on the same year as the League’s 50th anniversary, for all of my extra sentimental folks out there.

From here on out, when you visit your local barbershop, and some of the fellas want to engage in heated debates about whose NBA Draft class was the deepest, hit them with a curveball, and throw the class of ’96 into the mix. You’ll rest your case.

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest--and entertaining--ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Dunking is arguably one of the biggest–and entertaining–ways to send a message to an opposing player.

Anyone remember playing NBA Jam back in the early 90’s? If you do, then you’ll remember the players flying through the air to attempt one of their humanly impossible, yet entertaining monster dunks. The video game’s announcer would punctuate the players’ dunks by yelling that one catch phrase that seemed to be an oft-used in pop culture jargon during that time period:

“BOOMSHAKALAKA!!”

When you heard that catch phrase, then you knew that you had pulled off one of the highlights of the game, if not the highlight of the game. It was almost as if the announcer had to verbalize the non-verbal statement that the players in the game made after their superhuman dunks that could only be done in a virtual world. To no one’s surprise, however, those non-verbal b-ball statements are made in the world of flesh, blood, leather, and rubber as well as the pixelated world of those classic 16-Bit video games. By now, everyone’s quite sure of the basketball statements that I’m referring to, and there are a few, in my humble opinion.

1. The Dunk

Perhaps the most beloved–and the most feared method–to make a statement on the basketball court, this high wire act ALWAYS brings the fans to their feet immediately. Dunks have been known to not only humiliate the poor defender on the receiving end of a demoralizing crushing dunk, but it has also been known to change the momentum of ball games. When it comes to dunks, think about Vince Carter’s video game-like dunk over Team France’s Frederic Weis. Take that, basketball purists!

2. The Crossover Dribble/Shake & Bake

Another way to make a basketball-related statement during a game would be to leave your defender dancing and looking like their auditioning for the sequel of Roll Bounce on a greasy floor…that’s right, make ’em look THAT silly. While Tim Hardaway was the Godfather of the wicked Crossover Dribble, Allen Iverson took it to an entirely different level in terms of how destructive the Crossover Dribble could be to defenders if the right person does it.

3. The Blocked Shot

I’m fully aware that defense is the name of the game, but it’s a shame that it’s not too fan-friendly for the most part when it comes to selling out areas and gyms. There is hope. Spice up your team’s defense-first philosophy by knocking the opposing player’s shot (Just try not to pick up a foul in the process of doing so) into the 10th row! Basketball purists cringe at the thought of a defender swatting a player’s shot out of bounds, because it automatically gives the other team possession of the ball, but sometimes you gotta strike the fear of God into the other team by doing this. Outside of Bill Russell’s heyday as an elite shot blocker, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace were two of the most beloved shot blockers of the past two decades.

I had to write this post in response to a question that came to my mind this weekend. The question was, “Outside of the obvious politically correct answer(s) of ‘Win the game’ and ‘Play defense’, what are some of the most effective ways to make a statement in a basketball game as a player? If you have other opinions on how to make a statement in a game, please feel free to answer in the poll below.

The very concept of free agency in the NBA would not have been possible if it weren't for Oscar Robertson.

The very concept of free agency in the NBA would not have been possible if it weren’t for Oscar Robertson.

LeBron. Carmelo. Pau. These are some of the names of this year’s current crop of free agents who have decided to test the markets and use their marketability as legit stars to leverage their futures with a new team, or the team that they’re currently with. However, while we as fans debate and ponder on what team that our favorite free agents will sign with, this entire process wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for NBA hall-of-famer Oscar “The Big O” Robertson.

Robertson, a player whom LeBron James is often compared to for his ability to be both a game changing playmaker and a dominant, yet efficient scorer, filed a lawsuit against the NBA in 1970 that expressed the right for a player to not be bound to any team for the remainder of their career. Although Robertson retired as a player in 1974, he remained the president of the NBA Players Association when the settlement was reached that allowed players to become free agents.

Although we take such a thing for granted today, Robertson’s decision to take a bold stand in the face of the NBA was a groundbreaking one, and numerous players have benefited from the 1976 settlement. Just imagine, if it weren’t for Robertson, we wouldn’t have seen Shaq leave the Orlando Magic to sign with the Lakers as a free agent in the summer of ’96. We wouldn’t have been able to sit back and watch then up-and-coming young star Tracy McGrady leave the Toronto Raptors to sign with the Magic in the summer of 2000. We certainly wouldn’t have witnessed “The Decision” (no explanation needed there) in 2010.

No matter what team that high profile free agents such as Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, and the Big Three in Miami decide to sign with, just remember there was a time when it wouldn’t have been possible for them to have the OPTION to leave. If another player hasn’t given you their respect by paying tribute to your brave efforts to buck the system as it was established back in the ’70s, then I, on behalf of the fans and other non-NBA players want to say thanks. You’re a legend in more ways than one.

 

(Originally written by B.C. on October 17, 2013)

 

As the NBA revs up for its 2013-14 campaign, All 30 of its teams are in the position to start with a clean slate. Rookies will be given a chance to prove their worth by playing up to their expectations, the league’s veterans will look to maintain their staying power by giving a maximum effort, and the league’s stars will attempt to add to their already extensive body of work by continuing to play like the revenue-generating star attractions that they have become in their years of playing in the NBA. The one team that will be at the top of the NBA’s totem pole is the defending champion Miami Heat, whose megastar, LeBron James, is already being mentioned in discussions as an all-time NBA great. There is nothing new about these debates over who is the greatest player of all time. However, I would like to add that the discussion is always an interesting and provocative one. Here’s my take on the topic of “the greatest NBA player(s) of all-time”.

If we’re going to discuss who’s the greatest NBA player of all-time and/or discuss a small and exclusive group of transcendent players, then it is only fair to start with the NBA’s first true superstar, George Mikan. Mikan was the star center of the Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers) who led his team to five NBA championships between 1949 and 1954. In fact, one account shows that when Mikan’s Lakers arrived in New York City to play the Knicks, the marquee outside of Madison Square Garden read: “Geo Mikan vs Knicks”.  Such sensationalism has become commonplace as it pertains to the NBA’s stars, but in the 1950’s, the fans were not accustomed to hyperbole of that magnitude.

As the 1960’s approached, the NBA offered a new crop of superstars. These players have also been mentioned as players who possessed once-in-a-generation talent, and this caliber of talent often garnered championships and numerous individual accolades for these special players. The biggest names of 1960’s NBA would undoubtedly be Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics center and defensive stalwart who served as the anchor of a Celtics team who won ELEVEN NBA championships in his 13 years of playing, Wilt Chamberlain, the NBA’s “Paul Bunyan” figure whose dominance on the court oftentimes portrayed Chamberlain to be head and shoulders above his competition (no pun intended), Oscar Robertson, the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) guard who AVERAGED a triple-double for an entire season during the 1961-62 NBA season, and L.A. Lakers guard Jerry West, whose marksmanship and scoring ability prompted fans to nickname him “Mr. Clutch”. The NBA took their respect of West one step farther, and made his silhouette its logo. Let’s not forget Jerry West’s high-flying teammate, forward Elgin Baylor, who was known as the first NBA star that played a highly athletic and acrobatic style that countless players future generations would implement into their own games, and revolutionize the game of basketball forever.

Perhaps no other player of his era could carry Elgin Baylor’s torch of the NBA’s high-flyer like Julius Erving, aka “Dr. J”. In spite of his peers playing a similar slam-dunking, acrobatic style (Connie Hawkins and David Thompson are two players who come to my mind who played like this), Erving was the sole player who was the face of basketball in the 1970’s. With his big afro, slam dunk contest winning athleticism, and immense talent, Dr. J was a player who stood out among the crowd, and was loved by many fans of various backgrounds.

Although Dr. J’s reign of NBA greatness extended well into the 1980’s (he won his only NBA championship in 1983, and didn’t  retire until 1987), the decade would usher in yet another group of players whose charisma, talent, and winning ways would help to carry the NBA to heights that it had never been to before in terms of profitability, popularity, and its overall place in the realm of American pop culture. These players were named Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Michael Jordan, who could arguably be responsible for the NBA’s popularity explosion over the past three decades by himself. Despite the influx of elite players into the NBA during the 80’s, Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics fought for the lion’s share of success in the NBA during that time, with Magic winning five NBA titles, two Most Valuable Player trophies (he’d win his third and final MVP award in 1990), and Bird winning three NBA titles and three MVP trophies. Isiah Thomas would lead the Detroit Pistons to their own run of back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, cementing his own legacy as an NBA all-time great. On a side note, I’d be in violation of honoring NBA greats if I failed to mention Magic’s legendary teammate, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is the league’s all-time leader in points, MVP awards, six championships, and a playing career that stretched over an impressive twenty years that ended in 1989.

After Thomas’s Pistons’ 1990 NBA championship, the decade of the 90’s would prove to be known as “The Jordan Era”. In the 90’s, Jordan never started a full NBA season that did not end in a championship, which in itself shows MJ’s dominance of that decade. With six NBA championships, five NBA MVPs, a 1992 Olympic gold medal, and a status that was bigger than the game of basketball itself, Jordan hands down the face of the 90’s NBA. Only two other teams could have the honor of being NBA champions during the Jordan Era, and that would be the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, and the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, led by David Robinson and a young legend in the making, Tim Duncan.

Two-time MVP Tim Duncan would lead the San Antonio Spurs to win three more NBA championships in the decade of the 2000’s, but perhaps no other team or combination of individual players would be more compelling to watch than the physically imposing and dominant Shaquille O’Neal and his young running mate, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, at the time one of the latest products of the “Elgin Baylor Academy for Exciting NBA Daredevils and Acrobats”, became the missing piece that O’Neal needed in order to aid him in winning their first NBA championship in 2000. Although O’Neal had previously been to the NBA Finals in 1995, his Orlando Magic fell to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets at that time. However, his luck would change after joining forces with Bryant and a solid supporting cast of veterans to march to the 2000 title. This run would extend three consecutive years 2000-2002. After leaving the Lakers to play for the Miami Heat in 2004, O’Neal would win another championship as a member of the Heat in 2006. Bryant, O’Neal’s former teammate, would become a force to be reckoned with as the fortune of the Lakers franchise fell squarely on his shoulders beginning with the 2004-05 NBA season. He would produce his greatest offensive output and one of the greatest individual scoring seasons in the 2005-06 season, after setting several scoring records. Although Bryant would experience much individual success as a player, his Lakers would suffer disappointing losses in the playoffs before finally winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, which would increase Bryant’s individual NBA championship count to five total.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant weren’t the only NBA luminaries of the decade of the 00’s. Since 2000, the NBA has produced many great stars and winners, including names like Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony, but the biggest name of upcoming stars in the 2000’s was a young forward out of Ohio by the name of LeBron James. Drafted in 2003, James lived up to the enormous expectations placed upon him by fans and media alike, and shattered those same expectations in the process. In spite of his on-court greatness, James would not achieve the status of NBA champion until 2012, his ninth NBA season.

After winning his first NBA championship in 2012, LeBron would lead his Miami Heat team to a second consecutive title in 2013. Time will tell if James can continue his current run of NBA dominance. In the meantime, let’s just sit back, relax, and watch history unfold. LeBron has only added to the NBA’s colorful history as being one of the many once-in-a-generation players who stand out like a diamond in the rough.

The Charlotte Hornets' return to the NBA will spark fanfare and nostalgia among not only the people in Charlotte, but also many diehard fans across the NBA landscape

The Charlotte Hornets’ return to the NBA will spark fanfare and nostalgia among not only the people in Charlotte, but also many diehard fans across the NBA landscape

The Charlotte Hornets have that mystique about them. If you followed the NBA or were a young kid during the 90’s, then you’ll remember how wildly popular this team was. While many were fixated on the Chicago Bulls’ legendary title runs during this time, the Hornets developed quite the cult following of their own.

Does anyone remember the Starter Jacket Era? If you do, then you knew that the Hornets Starter Jackets were among the most popular jackets worn by people back in the day. Maybe it was the bright teal colored jerseys that had such an effect on fans. Maybe it was the blend of athleticism, power, and charisma that the Hornets’ 1991 number 1 draft pick Larry Johnson exuded. Maybe it was the fact that the Hornets originally took residence back in 1989 as an expansion team in North Carolina, a state that is famously passionate about not just their Hornets, but also their Tar Heels, their Blue Devils, their Demon Deacons, and their Wolfpack to name a few. The state of North Carolina has been a basketball hotbed for years, and its citizens have shown their love to the Hornets by rewarding the franchise with sellout crowds in the old Charlotte Coliseum on numerous occasions throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Of course, the Charlotte Hornets wouldn’t have the same allure that they have now without putting names to the legend that is the Hornets. Fan favorites such as Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Mugsy Bogues, Dell Curry (father of Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry), and Glen Rice were forces to be reckoned with during the Hornets’ heyday.

Fast forward to 2014, and after witnessing heartbreak on a few occasions, the fans in Charlotte have been through more than what the average loyal fan deserves to endure. They’ve witnessed their Hornets leave Charlotte in 2002 to head to New Orleans (where they lasted until 2013, changing their names to the Pelicans), leaving them without a team for a couple seasons. They then witnessed the years of the Bobcats becoming Charlotte’s NBA team for almost a decade, but the Bobcats just didn’t seem like the Hornets.

In 2013, then-Bobcats owner Michael Jordan made the decision to change the name back to the Hornets, a decision that could prove game-changing for the future of the franchise. I feel that the Hornets return to Charlotte will spark the nostalgic spirit of not just NBA fans in Charlotte, but fans across the entire sports landscape.

This upcoming basketball season, it might be time to dust off that Hornets Starter jacket that you haven’t worn since ’95, and take it to the cleaners to wear again. The “buzz” is back.

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“Oh, the irony!!!” you may think to yourself in response to my decision to create a page that’s dedicated to all things basketball….on the tail end of basketball season as we know it, of all times too. Just three days ago, the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth franchise NBA title, which all but guarantees their spot on the Mt. Rushmore of legendary NBA franchises, such as the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and L.A. Lakers.

Now that basketball season is over, and most of us probably won’t be treated to any semblance of basketball on television until next week’s NBA Draft, for most die hard fans–particularly those who follow the NBA–indulge themselves in the seemingly endless rumors of free agency talk that oftentimes turns out not to be true for the most part. Does anyone remember the rumors that had Kevin Garnett going to the Lakers in the summer of 2007? What about the rumor of Scottie Pippen becoming a Supersonic back in the summer of ’94? Sure, the talk is provocative, and it makes for excellent conversation material around the water cooler with your buddies at the office, but at the end of the day, they’re….just….rumors.

That being stated, I would like to take the time to give major props to the San Antonio Spurs for winning their fifth in 15 years. I’ve said this many times, but I truly feel that the Spurs are the most disrespected NBA team in NBA history. Notice that I didn’t say that the Spurs were the most despised. That honor would probably have to go to the “Bad Boy” era Detroit Pistons, who won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. I say that the Spurs are the most disrespected team because they lack a key ingredient that many legendary teams possess: CHARISMA. They lack the box-office appeal that moves the fans to buy tickets and pack out the other 28 (There are 30 teams total, but the Lakers and Clippers both share the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Math class is over!) arenas outside of San Antonio to watch them play on the road. Think about it. There were the “Showtime Lakers”, who were led by Magic Johnson. You had the 90’s Chicago Bulls teams led by “Air Jordan”, “Pip”, and Dennis “The Worm” Rodman, who was a charismatic dude all to himself. This lack of “excitement” as it deals with the Spurs is a testament to the personality of the General Manager and coach of that team, Gregg Popovich, and the team’s heart and soul for many years, Tim Duncan.

To me, Duncan has that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-like aura about him, where he just goes about his business and puts in the work. He’s a big man, like Kareem. He has longevity, like Kareem. Also like Kareem, Duncan has amassed Hall-Of-Fame caliber numbers, and will be sorely missed by his team when he finally decides to hang up his Adidas. Growing up as a teenager during the Shaq-Kobe threepeat Lakers teams, and the one-on-one dominance of other players like Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter, I was understandably caught up in the showmanship of the aforementioned players, while almost ignoring the legend in the making that Tim Duncan was becoming in San Antonio during that time period. Does anyone realize that Duncan has been the ONLY player in NBA history to win championships in THREE DIFFERENT DECADES (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007,and 2014)?? Talk about staying power!

If you’re a “Hoops Head” such as myself, then you won’t limit yourself to waiting for late October/early November to come down with the case of the “Basketball Jones”, you’ve got the fever all year long.