By now you all know the original Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans in 2002 and became the 'New Orleans Hornets' and later as the 'Pelicans'. There's some debate over whether the current Charlotte Hornets are the 'original' Hornets or the Pelicans are the original Hornets, but regardless of who is right or wrong, the current Hornets got the older Hornets history back. But thats not what this thread is about. I'm not really sure why I'm writing this, maybe it's just boredom from the national shutdown or maybe it's because I've been watching older NBA highlights on YouTube but after seeing a video on the Hornets YT channel about the move, it got me to thinking, there's some thought from former employees and beat writers that the team could have stayed in town after all had they won game 6 of the 2001 Conference Semi-finals, and I think they have a case. I'll explain below. So in March of 2001, ownership filed for relocation to Memphis. The mood around town was "Okay, see ya, bye!". By this point, the majority owner (George Shinn) had pissed off the city so much that few people cared about the team leaving, his co-owner was also a villain around here and wanted nothing to do with the city, he was not local and thought the franchise would be profitable elsewhere and Shinn went along with it. He (Shinn) had been accused of sexual assault and had admitted to cheating on his wife, not to mention his refusal to pay Alonzo Mourning and trading Kobe Bryant before he (Bryant) even played an NBA game left a lot of fans upset. There was also the issue with the teams building. The Charlotte Coliseum was a behemoth of an NBA stadium. It was built in 1988 and was considered state-of-the-art when completed, but did not have the luxury suites and whatnot that the newer buildings were coming with, therefore no extra revenue. There was one thing the Hornets did have going for them, while they were not a championship contender they did have a rag-tag group of guys who played hard and played for each other. They found ways to win. They also in a sign on unity after the relocation news broke, wore headbands. I don't remember who started the headband thing (think it was Baron Davis), but the whole team wore them, even the media guys and the ticket-takers caught on. They finished 46-36, good for 6th place. Not a big deal right? Well in this case the opponent they drew set the stage for some interest. Miami and Charlotte had developed a bit of a rivalry in the off-season. There was a blockbuster involving the two. The trade involved multiple pieces but was centered around PJ Brown and Jamal Mashburn to Charlotte, and Eddie Jones and Anthony Mason to Miami. There was a lot of mud-slinging between the parties involved, Heat players were quoted as saying they were better off w/o Brown and Mash, Brown and Mash didn't like Pat Riley, Jones (who didn't want to be in Charlotte in the first place) had negative things to say about his time in Charlotte after the trade, some of the Hornets players were happy to be rid of him, etc. Thought to be a ho-hum, Heat in 4 (remember the first round back then was still a best of 5), the Hornets came out and punched Miami in the mouth. I mean they kicked the Heats ass in the first two games, winning both by 26! Game 3 in Charlotte became the hottest Hornets ticket in years. The building was packed, everyone wore headbands, brooms were being waved, Jones was booed relentlessly every time he touched the ball, and chants of "sweep!" were echoed throughout the night as the Hornets cruised to another lopsided victory. All of a sudden, people were falling in love with the team again. Up next was Milwaukee, speared by a 3-headed monster trio of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell. Again, many predicted quick work by the Bucks, and after the Bucks took the first two in Milwaukee it appeared they would be right. But Charlotte took the next two and won the crucial game 5. Suddenly they were one win away from unchartered territory, the ECFs. This is significant given a date for the vote on an arena referendum was set while the ECFs would have been going on. Polls in The Charlotte Observer showed the public was spilt 50-50 on the issue. Game 6, the Coliseum is once again packed. It is by far the biggest game in franchise history. The headbands are out and people are ready to see the Hornets finally take the next step. The Home team was off to a fantastic start, they had a 10 point lead going into half-time. But, it all came apart. Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson went off and suddenly the Hornets were in trouble. Coming down to the wire, Baron Davis ties the game with a deep 3, but seconds later Ray Allen answers back and the Hornets never scored again in the game. Tie series, and game 7 in Milwaukee forced. The Bucks once again rallied in the second half and advanced to the Conference Finals. The cinderella run had ended for Charlotte. Fast forward to the Arena vote, it failed. That was it. The franchise did stay for another year (largely due to the Grizzlies move to Memphis) but everyone knew they were gone. Seats were tarped off even as the team made another run to the 2nd round of the playoffs before losing in 5 to the Nets. I'm not saying they would have stayed had they won game 6 as it's a bit of a mystery, but the local polls showing the public was spilt evenly on the issue was actually more optimism than thought previously. Their opponent for a shot at the NBA Finals would have been the Allen Iverson-led Sixers, whom the Hornets matched up well with. Regardless of if they had a shot or not of winning that series, a vote for an arena during the conference finals could have been the ticket to them staying long-term. It could have saved them similar to how the 1995 Seattle Mariners saved themselves despite the public rejecting a new stadium (that they eventually got). There's some "what-ifs" to digest. I'm convinced even if they won that game 6, they'd still be the same lousy franchise they've been all these years but they would have had a nice playoff run that could have attracted better talent over time. There's also the notion that maybe New Orleans doesn't get an NBA franchise? At that time the league was still 29 teams and I'm sure they wanted a 30th, but New Orleans wasn't high on Shinns list (he wanted Louisville or Norfolk). New Orleans however had the Smoothie King Center and had a history of the league with the Jazz. I believe the Grizzlies flirted with San Diego and St. Louis before settling on Memphis. As it still remains, the Hornets remain one of 3 NBA teams along with the Clippers, and interestingly enough the Pelicans, to never have reached the Conference Finals. And as it stands now, the Hornets are pretty much doomed to mediocrity until Jordan sells the team, and even then it's not guaranteed they will get out of the hellhole that is 9th place. Still though, to this day this playoff run is the best NBA playoff run this city has ever seen. The franchise has never been to the Conference Finals, not even the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans have done this. Although they failed both on and off the court, for about 3 weeks the city fell in love with their first major league team again.