(My apologies about the wait for the final two moments on the countdown. I began a summer class this week that's already bit into my time and I didn't want to rush out the top two moments after spending my time on the first eight. But here it is for you all. Thanks for following along and all feedback is welcome for this moment, the entire countdown itself or any omissions you wanted to discuss. Thanks. - MWK)
Since the city of Charlotte was granted an NBA franchise by Commissioner David Stern back on April 5th of 1987, the Hornets organization has had one owner: George Shin. Through two relocations, one temporary and one permanent, through great times and bad times; there has been one guy who oversaw everything in the Hornets organization. For better or for worse, George Shinn is the only owner the Hornets fans have ever known. That was all supposed to change at about this time last year. Near the end of the 2009/2010 season, Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest was set to purchase majority ownership from Shinn and give the franchise a local owner who had made his riches in the oil business. Then the BP Oil Spill happened, Chouest got cold feet, and an imminent deal became a questionable deal. Then it became no deal at all. In December of 2010, the Hornets became the first team in the league's history to be owned by the NBA itself. Sorry to end on such a somber note, but the number one moment and story for this season is the Hornets purchase by the NBA.
There are plenty of rumors as to why the Hornets ownership transfer from Shinn to Chouest didn't go through. Scenarios such as Chouest's fortune taking a blow from the oil spill, Chouest being skeptical of the impending NBA Lockout, Chouest wanting more minority owners to invest in the team, Shinn having cold feet, Shinn wanting a big number, etc. were all discussed in terms of the failure of the sale. It truly was a "pick your poison" of options. Be that as it may, the sale did not happen. George Shinn has been criticized as being particularly thrifty as of late; refusing to go over the NBA's luxury tax line (and why should he considering the team disappointed the last two seasons prior to this one). He tried to basically sell Tyson Chandler at the trade deadline back in 2009 and the team made a handful of moves last year to get underneath the line. The Hornets were Shinn's only business at the time of the sale and they simply weren't making any money. It made sense why he wanted to give them up. Chouest bought a minority stake in the team in 2007 when the Hornets returned from Oklahoma City full time and was a local Louisiana business man, Hornets season ticket holder and someone with deeper pockets than Shinn. It looked like a win/win for New Orleans Hornets fans. For whatever reason, the deal did not happen.
On December 6th of 2010, with the Hornets reeling after their 11-1 start and sitting at a 2-6 mark since then, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the league would be purchasing the team from owner George Shinn for $300 million. Panic immediately set in for the local fans in New Orleans with rumors that the team was to be relocated or even the potential scenario of the team being held as a bargaining chip for the owners in the impending collective bargaining agreement talks. With the Hornets no longer having an owner, it's entirely possible that the NBA use the Hornets as a dice of sorts, threatening the thought of contraction to get the players to cave in with their demands. With no owner now to speak up for the Hornets franchise, it's certainly a plausible situation. In fact, Stern went so far as to say on February 15th, 2011, that the owners would certainly consider a Hornets contraction. But Stern has also publically stated that his intentions are to keep the team in New Orleans and his purchase of the team may have provided proof of that.
Larry Ellison, a businessman whose Oracle Corporation is located in northern California and who is figured to be the fifth richest man in the entire world, was rumored to be interested in buying the Hornets and moving the franchise to San Jose. He reportedly offered Shinn $350 million for the team but that Shinn decided against it and took less money by selling the team to the NBA. Stern, who encouraged the Hornets to move back to New Orleans when they were having cold feet following their stay in Oklahoma City and who also went out of his way to give the 2008 All Star Game to the city as well, appointed New Orleans native and league executive Jac Sperling to oversee the operations of the team on a day in/day out basis as a normal owner would do. Sperling and Stern were steadfast in their notion that the league would not interfere with any of the Hornets moves in the front office and that proved to be true, as they OK'd the Hornets taking on Carl Landry's salary in the Marcus Thornton trade; a move that infuriated Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Whether anyone likes it or not, the biggest question mark for the Hornets is their ownership and the franchise can't move forward until that situation is taken care of. Chouest has not been completely removed from the equation and it's possible he could still purchase the franchise and save all of our hopes and dreams by keeping the team in New Orleans and seeing it through prosperous times. But with relocation and even contraction as a possibility entering the eventual NBA Lockout, the Hornets have no representation in that forum and both are scenarios that could affect the Hornets stay in New Orleans. It also truly leaves us with no answers as to how the league will oversee the Hornets moves this offseason or how they will delegate funds to resign players like Chris Paul and David West. It's a questionable, uncertain time in New Orleans and it's all because of the ownership situation. Because no story this year has impacted the future of the Hornets more than this, the NBA's purchase of the Hornets comes in as the number one moment for the 2010/2011 season.