The Charlotte Hornets have a complicated, Frankenstein-esque history that includes two franchises glued together in one history book. Who are their 25 best?
They say history is written by the winners. “They” obviously never considered the curious case that is the history of the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets played in Charlotte for 14 seasons from the late 1980s to the early 21st century before owner George Shinn packed them up lock, stock and history book and trundled off to New Orleans in 2002.
In 2004, the Charlotte Bobcats began play and started the city’s NBA history anew. Or so we thought.
Fast forward to 2014, when the New Orleans franchise had been sold and renamed the Pelicans and the Bobcats were preparing to take their old name back.
The NBA intervened and took on the role of Dr. Frankenstein while rewriting the history of both franchises.
The NBA determined that the Charlotte years of the original franchise would belong to the new Charlotte club and the New Orleans years of the old Hornets would remain in the Big Easy.
That leaves us with a patchwork quilt of Charlotte NBA basketball that covers 26 seasons, includes a two-season hiatus from 2002-04 and has a pair of names in the Hornets and Bobcats.
The original Hornets were part of a four-team expansion announced in April 1987, with teams in Charlotte and Miami to begin play in 1988 and franchises in Minnesota and Orlando to start the following year.
Shinn moved the new team into the brand-spanking-new Charlotte Coliseum and the Hornets were a trend-setter, launching teal as the hot color for the 1990s.
And in the late 1990s, Shinn started making noise about wanting a new arena to replace a building that hadn’t yet reached the age of 10.
In 2002, Shinn moved the team to New Orleans and the NBA moved quickly to fill the void, awarding an expansion franchise to a group headed by BET founder Robert Johnson in December 2002.
The new franchise was named the Bobcats, even though the name Flight won a name-the-team contest. After one year in the old Charlotte Coliseum, the team moved into Charlotte Bobcats Arena—now called Time Warner Cable Arena—for the 2005-06 season.
Johnson put the team up for sale after the 2007-08 season and it was purchased by a group headed by NBA legend Michael Jordan in 2010.
This wasn’t Charlotte’s first foray into pro basketball. In the 1970s, the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association played many of its games there while trying the failed “regional team” approach, also playing games in Greensboro and Raleigh.
In 26 seasons, the franchise has reached the playoffs 10 times—three times since being relaunched in 2004—and has never advanced beyond the second round.
The team won first-round series in 1993 (its first playoff appearance), 1998 and in its final two seasons the first time around, 2001 and 2002.
The franchise record for wins was 54 set in 1996-97. The team has lost 60 games four times, including a franchise-worst 18-64 record in its second expansion season of 2004-05. It also lost 60 games in 1989-90 (19-63), its first season of 1988-89 (20-62) and 2012-13 (21-61).
But the Bobcats set an NBA record for futility in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, going 7-59 for a .106 winning percentage—the worst in NBA history behind even the .110 mark posted by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers squad that went 9-73.
Overall, the team has a winning percentage of .440 (916-1,168), ranking 25th among active franchises.
Bob Bass is the longest-tenured general manager in franchise history, serving from June 1995 until the first franchise’s departure in 2002.
Bass is the only executive in team history to win Executive of the Year honors, taking the award in 1996-97.
Current GM Rich Cho has held the position since June 2011.
Swarm and Sting
Allan Bristow is the winningest coach in team history, going 207-203 from 1991-96 while posting a 5-8 record in the playoffs.
No coach in franchise history has been named Coach of the Year.
Current coach Steve Clifford is 124-122 and 3-8 in the postseason since taking over in May 2013.
Charlotte has had the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft just once, selecting UNLV forward Larry Johnson with the top selection in 1991. There have been three No. 2 picks, two No. 3s, a No. 4 and the franchise has picked fifth three times.
Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Charlotte Hornets. Players had to have appeared in 150 games and averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game for the team to qualify for this list.
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