The early 90s were a magical time. Michael Jordan dominated the NBA, but then temporarily retired. Jordan’s absence created a fun period when the league was up for grabs. No team represented this time of opportunity and potential like the expansion Charlotte Hornets. The team was a brief phenomenon that fans won’t forget. However, if you’re too young to remember, here is why the 90s Hornets were awesome.
The Charlotte area loved basketball and was excited to get an NBA franchise. They even held a ticker-tape parade to celibrate their measly 20-win inaugural season. The excitement was palpable on TV and therefore was infectious. The team was fresh and cool. Even their mascot Hugo was awesome because it was designed by Cheryl Henson (daughter of Jim Henson).
The Hornet’s uniforms were audacious because of the color scheme, pinstripes, and pleated shorts. They were created by famous designer Alexander Julian. The Hornets sold tons of merchandise because of how fashionable the gear was at the time. The Hornets Starter Jacket was a phenomenon by itself. Some believe it was popular because it was the only Starter you could wear without your teacher accusing you of gang affiliation. However, the colors were popular because of the exciting players wearing them.
Before he was Stephen Curry’s dad, Dell Curry was an NBA sharpshooter with a lightning-quick release. He was taken by the Hornets in the 1988 expansion. At the time of his retirement, Curry was the Hornets’ all-time leader in points
Chicago-born Gill played for four years at the University of Illinois. He led the school’s famed “Flying Illini” team to the Final Four in 1989. The Charlotte Hornets took Gill fifth overall in the 1990 NBA draft. Gill was a fan favorite because of his well-rounded game. The teal and purple looked great on Gill. However, he was the first to defect when traded to the SuperSonics. I’ll never forget the episode of Nickelodeon’s “My Brother and Me” that guest-starred a freshly traded Kendal Gill.
The Charlotte Hornets selected Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues in the 1988 expansion draft and he became one of the faces of the franchise. Muggsy is the shortest player ever to play in the NBA, maybe making him the most relatable. Lasting over a decade in the NBA at 5’3”, he may also be one of the toughest players ever. Muggsy was a surprisingly ferocious defender because of his ability to seemingly pick an opponent’s dribble off the floor. He might have been more successful if the Monstars didn’t temporarily steal his talent in 1995.
Grandmama (Larry Johnson)
Larry Johnson was a human dunk machine from UNLV. Charlotte took Johnson with the number one pick in the 1991 NBA draft. Johnson won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 1992. He also made two NBA All Star appearances with the Hornets. You knew Johnson was tough because he still looked mean in a dress. Johnson’s personality shined while playing his own grandmother in Converse commercials. Grandmama became a cultural sensation for a brief period. He also had his talent robbed by the Monstars, although it was really a back injury that stole his athleticism.
Zo (Alonzo Mourning)
During this era, Georgetown was producing badass shot blockers and Mourning might have been the most ferocious. The Hornets took Mourning second overall in the 1992 NBA draft. He quickly became a fan favorite because of his intensity. Mourning made two NBA All Star appearances with the team. A rookie Mourning eliminating the Boston Celtics with a 20ft jumper might be the biggest moment in franchise history. Zo left the team because of a contract dispute. He may be the biggest reason why the 90s Hornets were awesome because his departure set off a chain of events that didn’t only lead to the destruction of the team. It also led to the temporary destruction of the franchise.