With the off-season loss of David West to Free Agency and trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers, the New Orleans Hornets are a team on their own. The last vestiges of the two years the Hornets spent in Oklahoma City have been removed, and the Hornets are left with a whole lot of role players, much like the Nuggets of last season. With our first game against the Oklahoma Cityless Hornets coming up, I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on that era.
It's interesting to see just how far we've come from the era of the Hornets in Oklahoma City. Back when Hugo was doing trampoline dunks, Chris Paul was Oklahoma City's darling, injuries were constant, the Ford Center was getting snubbed from video games, and 38 wins was considered a great success. All of that started back in 2005, which seems so far away and so close at the same time.
What is the Hornets place in the history of Oklahoma City? It's a perplexing question, especially as their era fades away and the Thunder become more ingrained in our culture. They were definitely the first taste of professional sports in Oklahoma City, with the Redhawks, Blazers, and other downtown pro sports teams being a far cry from what we saw happen with the Hornets.
The team was also definitely unique. They regularly had theme nights, celebrated Mardi Gras, and played the music extremely loud. I'll never forget DJ Rob Nice's pre-game ritual, which went something like....
ALRIGHT Hornets Fans, we're going to show the (insert team here) that we are the loudest fans in the N-B-A! Nobody sits down until our very first bucket. So stand up! Get on your feet! And make some NO-OISE!
The announcer was a treat as well. I'll never forget phrases like "Live at the Hive", "Hometown Hornets", or "CEE PEE THREE FOR THREE". The sounds they played after certain players scored, like the sound bite from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" after every David West bucket, are things that will forever be ingrained into my memory. Heck, even the entertainment was memorable, with such events as Super Hugo doing extreme dunks, the dress and dash, MidFirst Bank Show Me the Money, and, yes, the introduction of the MidFirst Bank Half-Court Shot.
Below: How the Hornets Have Influenced the Thunder, Why We Should Remember Them Fondly!
I'd like to think some of the Hornets uniqueness and culture melted in with what the Thunder have done. I know, the Thunder will never have a Mardi Gras night, and I doubt we'll ever see the likes of Rob Nice again. But the Thunder play the music extremely loud compared to other arenas. Noises go off after every Thunder player scores, and much of the entertainment today is derived from what the Hornets provided.
But the team is much different. The Hornets were in turmoil after the Baron Davis era, and really lucked out with Chris Paul. They wanted to win immediately, so they made trades for players like Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, and Desmond Mason. There was no slow development of the team over time. Rather, it was a team heading straight out of one era and into another.
The Thunder rebuilt more slowly, starting with their first season in Seattle. After some really bad miscues under old management, the Thunder/Sonics wanted to rebuild properly, and steadily built up draft picks and youth over a number of years. Instead of reaching for the hottest new star, the team constantly preaches things like community, humility, and the value of team.
With all that being said, how should we remember the Hornets? How will we remember the Hornets? Well, I'm pretty sure that the Hornets have already been mostly forgotten in the minds of Oklahoma City denizens. A couple of playoff runs and an exciting young team can do that. We're far from a situation like that of Charlotte, where people still haven't accepted the Bobcats.
But the Hornets should be remembered as the blueprint for today's Thunder. Had the Hornets never come to town, the Thunder could look much different. Don't believe me? Try to remember the first few months of the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The everybody clap your hands song played, every other possession. The floor was barely completed in time for the start of play. In game entertainment was bare bones, at best. KSBI, the loacl independent affiliate which carried some games, had some wonky trumpet noises coming out of every break. KSBI would also have technical errors that could make you miss an entire quarter of action. (No Joke!) Don't get me wrong, FSOK wasn't far behind in the early days, but man, KSBI was atrocious. Most importantly though, the team gave us nothing to cheer about, and memories of Hornets greatness were all that kept the spirit alive during much of that first season.
So while I doubt anybody will mention how tonight's Hornets game is the end of an era, I think that it's important to look back and remember what the Hornets provided us back in the day.
Whose ball is it?