On This Date in Sports October 30, 2002

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After 14 seasons, in Charlotte the Hornets play their first game in New Orleans, beating the Utah Jazz 100-75. It is a long-awaited return to the NBA to the crescent city as they had been waiting for a team since the Jazz relocated to Utah in 1979. The New Orleans Hornets would post a record of 47-35 in their first season, qualifying as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round in six games.

The NBA first attempted to put a team in New Orleans in 1974, with the expansion Jazz. Hoping to attract local fans the Jazz acquired LSU legend Pistol Pete Maravich. However, the Jazz could never find a comfortable home in New Orleans. As they played most of their games in the cavernous Superdome which hurt attendance figures. Hoping to bring the NBA back to New Orleans, the city built a new arena next to the Superdome in 1999 and lured the Hornets away from Charlotte three years later.

The Charlotte Hornets joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1988. Their early years saw them achieve great success in the Queen City as they were among the leaders in attendance in the NBA. Things began to fall apart, however, when Owner George Shinn was accused of sexual assault. While Shinn was found Not Guilty in a highly publicized trial broadcast on Court TV, his reputation was damaged hurting the Hornets attendance. At the same time, Shinn demanded a new arena for his team creating a deeper rift between the team and the city. In 2002 George Shinn was allowed to move the team to New Orleans, while the NBA announced plans to place an expansion team in Charlotte in 2004.

The Hornets had modest success in New Orleans in their first few seasons, but when Hurricane Katrina struck the team was forced to play two seasons in Oklahoma City. The Hornets played a hand full of games in New Orleans while the city recovered from the aftermath of Katrina. The NBA committed itself after the recovery efforts to making basketball in New Orleans work, buying out George Shinn in 2010 when he began to express a desire to move the team. Eventually, the Hornets would be purchased by Tom Benson the longtime owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

Shortly after Tom Benson took over the team, he announced plans to give the Hornets a name more suitable for Louisiana. That led to the team become New Orleans Pelicans in 2013. Meanwhile, fans in Charlotte never warmed to the Bobcats, the name given to the 2004 expansion team. After the New Orleans Hornets became the Pelicans, Benson agreed to give back the Hornets name and their history before moving to New Orleans back to Charlotte in 2014. Resurrecting the name Charlotte Hornets.