Welcome to the refreshed version of The Bird Writes! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here [https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Looking back at what has turned out to be an important part of my life, fandom of the New Orleans Pelicans franchise was an inevitable outcome.
On October 30, 2002, New Orleans welcomed professional basketball to the region again after a long 17-year absence. Not two months earlier, I had called the Crescent City home for the first time in my life. One could say the Hornets and I were meant to join forces and endure all the exciting highs and pitiful lows that have followed from the very beginning.
Having picked up the wonderful game in middle school and consequently fallen in love with everything basketball, the NBA soon thereafter wound up coursing through my veins all through adolescence. I ate, slept and breathed a ball swishing through a net. Playing with friends was great, on the school’s team even moreso, but I was most captivated viewing all the games on television. Nothing we did resembled what my eyes saw; these guys were so damn good! Yet immediately upon watching something spectacular — a buzzer beater or perhaps a rim-rattling dunk — the moment was soon recreated on a plastic rim hanging from my bedroom door. That little nerf ball, missing a lot more than just a few chunks of fluff, had me convinced a professional career was in store. Some day I would fly like Mike.
Like for the legion of similarly aged fans growing up at the time, Michael Jordan sat at the center of my universe. The best way I can describe his play to all those who didn’t get the privilege of watching him live? I’d happily revert back to living in more prehistoric times — no Facebook, Twitter and the countless of other apps that have cluttered lives — for the duration of watching his career all over again. Seriously, one of my favorite arguments to Millennials who think an Uber-less generation had to be akin to third world living is His Airness.
However, there was always one thing missing. Living in Cincinnati at the time, the closest professional team was almost two hours away in Indianapolis. Oh, I liked the Pacers, too, but I always dreamed of seeing my favorite team perform in my own backyard. Like the Bengals. Or the Reds.
Eventually, the pursuit of a graduate degree would grant me my wish and the match couldn’t have been better. A few years prior, my go-to team in NBA Jam battles was the combination of Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill. My favorite piece of clothing was a worn teal hat imprinted with the Hornets logo. And who didn’t believe Baron Davis was probably capable of walking on water?
That first season in New Orleans was highly addictive thanks to Davis, Jamal Mashburn and David Wesley piling up the points, P.J. Brown serving as the no-nonsense muscle and Jamal Magloire burgeoning into one of the league’s better centers. At the end of the 47-35 rainbow was a playoff berth, which was followed by another postseason trip the very next year. Nothing attracts devoted fans more than notches in the victory column so naturally I was hooked.
Of course things quickly went sour, but the arrival of Chris Paul a year later made everyone forget the losses and home games in front of an Oklahoma City crowd more palatable. CP3 quickly ascended to the top of many pedestals, turning into one of the best players in the league at age 22 and leading New Orleans to within a game of the Western Conference Finals.
Although that moment proved to be the highpoint, it hasn’t been a complete disaster since. Paul’s departure initially gave way to more losing, but then another blessing, this time in a much larger package. Anthony Davis burst onto the scene, displaying among other things an incredible agility and touch for his size that led to comparisons like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The likely future Hall of Famer’s talents have yet to translate into consistent team success, but New Orleans sits on the precipice of possibly their greatest era. His friend and also a former Kentucky Wildcat, DeMarcus Cousins, has joined Davis to create potentially the greatest big man pairing of all time. Let that sink in for a moment: of all time. In a period when LeBron James dominates the floor and everyone is looking for the next Stephen Curry or Draymond Green, the Pelicans might have found door number three.
Time will tell.
Hope is abundant, but I understand it’s difficult to ignore the past. The New Orleans franchise has suffered through too many problematic circumstances and enough ill-fated injuries to last a lifetime, making one doubt a string of successful seasons possible. Nevertheless, remember it’s been the hand that was dealt and one should not give up when the going gets tough. As with life, take pleasure in the journey. Not every sports team history can be littered with happy endings, especially when 30 competitors vie for one trophy and our beloved organization is still considered one of the newest kids on the block.
I can proudly say that I’ve closely watched the Hornets/Pelicans history unfold at every turn since that 100-75 blowout of a Karl Malone and John Stockton Jazz team 15 years ago, and I plan to take in an infinite amount of games more down the road. They’re my favorite team so I’ll gladly stand by them through thick and thin. How can I not when they are finally playing in my very own backyard! #ComeFanWithUs
Hey, in the comments below or in a Fanpost on the site, let’s hear your story as to why you follow the Pelicans!
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