Today marks a date of historic significance in the 25 year history of Charlotte NBA basketball, as one game would become a turning point in the history of a young franchise back in their inaugural season of 1988-89, as the Charlotte Hornets, who were just 6-17 at the time were preparing to face Michael Jordan, who is of course the owner of the new version of the Hornets, and the Chicago Bulls, who were 13-10 before a sellout crowd of 23,388 at the Charlotte Coliseum and a national television audience on SuperStation WTBS in a game that would put Charlotte on the map as a NBA hotbed.
December 23rd,1988 wasn't your typical Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city of 350,000 residents at the time, as many of us Charlotteans were either out doing some last minute Christmas shopping, or flying in and out of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to visit our families for the holidays. For the Charlotte Hornets, a young expansion franchise that was finding it's way around the NBA in its second month of existence, they were hoping to give the fans something to cheer about.
It would come in the form of Michael Jordan playing in his first professional basketball game in his home state as a member of the Chicago Bulls, the Hornets opponent that night at the Coliseum, and believe me, the place was jam packed with those wearing Purple and Teal on that December night in 1988.
The turning point of that night's game was in the final quarter of action, as many of the sellout crowd that were there, while the rest of us were either watching the game on television, or listening to the game on the Hornets flagship radio station at the time, 1110 WBT, whose 50,000 watt signal would reach "From Canada to Cuba", were all wondering what would happen next. Chicago was up 85-77 at the time, but the Hornets would eventually go on a run of 10-0 to capture the lead at 87-85.
Jordan, who eventually led all scorers with 33 points in his first NBA game back in North Carolina, would make a layup to tie up the game at 101, and with less than 26 seconds left in regulation, everyone inside Charlotte Coliseum was on their feet to find out if the Hornets would send it to overtime, or go for the win. For the team's first head coach, Dick Harter, he knew that if you wanted to send the crowd home happy, go for the win.
With less than three seconds left in the game, Hornets guard Robert Reid would miss his shot, then it would come to forward Kurt Rambis, who would put it off the rim, and he got the ball back when they got a fresh 24 on the shot clock and put it in the basket at the buzzer, to give the Hornets a 103-101 win, sending the 23,388 into a frenzy that night at the Coliseum, as the game would signal the beginning of "Hornets Hysteria", when the Charlotte Coliseum would sellout night after night for the next 364 Hornets games, while going on to lead the league in attendance in 8 out of 10 seasons.
If you're a Hornets fan since that first season in 1988-89, you knew that this game was indeed a memorable one in Charlotte NBA history, when you combine the 14 seasons of the original Hornets franchise, along with the 10 seasons of the Bobcats era, and many of us still have memories of this game to this very day, as this game against Chicago 26 years ago was truly another memorable moment in Charlotte Hornets history.
For those of you who were wondering who led the Hornets in scoring that night, it was Kelly Tripucka with 30 points.