With it being a slow time of the year for the NBA I decided to look back on the New Orleans/Charlotte/OKC Hornets all time best players. It was tough, but I came up with three players at each position. Keep in mind that these picks are also from someone who did not start watching the Hornets until 1995. Thus these players are well for the most part the players I remember watching the most in my lifetime. Okay enough with the blabber onto the team. First up we got are the Point Guards.
Starter: Chris Paul (19.3 ppg, 10.7 apg, 4.7 rpg, and 2.4 spg in 345 games with Hornets)
Back-up: Baron Davis (15.3 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.8 rpg, and 1.9 spg in 381 games with Hornets)
3rd String: Muggsy Bogues (8.8 ppg, 8.8 apg, and 1.7 spg in 632 games with Hornets)
This was the easiest choice for starter of all the positions. The best player to ever wear the white and teal Hornets jerseys is Chris Paul. And no matter what the future holds for him and the Hornets he will continue to be considered the best player in Hornets history. From the moment he stepped out on the court as a rookie in 2005 he demanded respect from his teammates and he was a leader. He has never once looked overwhelmed or confused while on the court. He has been a constant leader. In the history of the NBA there never has been a player with his leadership skills, quickness, speed, toughness, amazing ball handling, and in such a small body (6 feet tall) with the exception of the great Isiah Thomas.
Second place went to Baron Davis who led the Hornets to the playoffs five times. Third place is one of the faces of the Charlotte Hornets in the 5 foot 3 Tyron “Muggsy” Bogues, who is my personal favorite player of all time along with Michael Jordan.
Starter: Dell Curry (14 ppg, 2.9 rpg, and 40.5 3-pt% in 701 games)
Back-up: David Wesley (14.7 ppg, 4.7 apg, and 1.5 spg in 522 games)
3rd String: Eddie Jones (19.2 ppg, 2.8 spg, and 4.2apg in 102 games)
You may be wondering why Eddie Jones is third with such impressive stats? Well it is because he only played a season and half with the Hornets. Jones did make the all star team in his one full season with the Hornets and he also helped the Hornets to the playoffs. Wesley who played a small shooting guard standing only 6 feet tall with shoes on. But he knew his role on the team and always did the best he can, a true professional.
The starter at the 2-spot, Curry, actually only started 77 games in his 701 games with the Hornets. But Curry is first in franchise history in games played (701), points (9,839), FG attempted (8,559), FG made (3,951), 3-pointers attempted (2,294) and made (929). Additionally, Curry ranks third in Hornets’ history in 3-point percentage (40.5%) and fourth steals (747). For his career, Dell Curry hit 1,245 3-points, good for 29th in NBA history. Curry may be the player who is most associated with the Hornets franchise.
Starter: Glen Rice (23.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 44.4 3-pt% in 240 games)
Back-up: Jamal Mashburn (21 ppg, 6.6 rpg, and 5 apg in 217 games)
3rd String: Bobby Phills (12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 37.7 3-pt% in 133 games)
One of the best shooters in NBA history gets the starting nod at SF in the hardest decision at any position. Rice barely beat out Mashburn. Rice played three seasons with the Hornets and he never failed to average worse than 21.6 ppg, 4 rpg and made at least 42.4% of his 3-pointers. During the 1996-97 season, Rice had his best season as a pro averaging 26.8 ppg, 4 rpg, made 86.7% of his free throws and hit a staggering 47% (207-of-440) of his 3-pointers. That season, he led the league in 3-point percentage and his scoring average was third in NBA, behind only Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. Rice was simply spectacular that season, which included a All Star MVP award where he holds records of 24 points in the second half, 20 points in the third, and went 8-11 from three. He ranks first in franchise history in scoring average (23.5 ppg) and 3-point percentage (44.4%), and despite spending just three seasons with the team, ranks fourth in 3-pointers made (508) and seventh in points (5,561). Rice is one of the top 3 players in Hornets history despite only playing 3 seasons with the team.
In a close second is Jamal Mashburn. Mashburn led the Hornets to the second round of the playoffs and took the higher seeded Milwaukee Bucks to a games 7 where the Hornets lost. I still remember trying to imitate Mashburn’s turn around fade away shot that I still consider one of the toughest shots in basketball, yet Mash always made it. In third place is the late Bobby Phills who was one of the best role players the Hornets ever had on their team.
Starter: Larry Johnson (19.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg, and 49.7 FG% in 377 games)
Back-up: David West (16 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 48.7 FG% in 460 games)
3rd String: Anthony Mason (13.4 ppg, 10 rpg, and 4.8 apg in 236 games)
Another tough decision here, but I went with the 1991 #1 overall pick Larry Johnson. Johnson was dominant in the first few years in the league where he help lead the Hornets to two playoff appearances in five seasons. Each of those playoffs the Hornets were eliminated by Michael Jordan and the Bulls, once in the first round and once in the second. But what LJ did before any other Hornets player did was he was the first superstar for the Hornets. Johnson showed the rest of the NBA that a great player can win with the Hornets. Unfortunately for Johnson, back problems ended his career way too early.
The back-up PF is David West. West did not play much with the Hornets until his third season where he broke out with 17.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg in 34 minutes per game. The following two season West increased his averages as the Hornets went to the playoffs both times. The third stringer is one of the great power forwards of his time in Mason. Mason was a solid scorer, rebounder, and an exceptional passer for a big man.
Starter: Alonzo Mourning (21.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.2 bpg, and 51.2 FG% in 215 games)
Back-up: P.J. Brown (9.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg in 475 games)
3rd String: Vlade Divac/Elden Campbell
At the starting center position we have the second greatest Hornets player of all time in Alonzo Mourning. Only problem with Zo was he never got the attention he deserved because he was second overall in the 1992 draft behind some guy name Shaquille O’Neal. Thus Mourning was always second fiddle to Shaq. Along with LJ, Mourning helped lead the Hornets to their first winning season (44-38) in his rookie year and into the playoffs for the first time. LJ and Zo was the best front court duo the Hornets ever displayed in their 21 seasons in NBA. Mourning is also the centerpiece of arguably the best moment in Hornets history. During his rookie season the Hornets took on the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs as a #5 seed. After dropping the opening game at the Boston Garden, Mourning turned in an outstanding 18- 14, with six blocks in Game 2 as the Hornets snagged the home court. Following a 30-point win in game 3, the Hornets found themselves trailing by a single point in the dying seconds of Game 4. Faced with a return trip to Boston for a deciding game, they found Mourning at the left elbow and he buried a dramatic 20-foot buzzer-beater to clinch the Hornets’ first-ever series victory and give the franchise its first, and maybe still its biggest, signature moment.
The back-up center is the constant professional and best role player a team could have in P.J. Brown. The third string was a tough one to choose for me so I went with both Vlade Divac and Elden Campbell.
That is it. The best Hornets players of all time. Can you think of someone that I forgot? Let me know. Hope you enjoyed it.
About the Author
Written by Andrew Tressler