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A REAL PISTOL.
November 8, 2002

by Bill Hogan

 
 

If I told you I was going to rip a professional team owner named George, I bet your first instinct would be to think - Steinbrenner.

Well your first instinct would be wrong. This George is worse. "Worse than Steinbrenner? Who could be worse than Steinbrenner?"

 
 

I'm talking about George Shinn, principle owner of the New Orleans Hornets. That's a basketball team for those of you (and there are many) that don't follow the NBA.

Of course, even if you do follow the sport, the name may not seem familiar. Until last week's season opener at the New Orleans Arena, the Hornets home court was in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As a sportsfan, I rank owners that move their team from the city that loves and supports them among the worst in sports. Art Modell – who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore - and Bob Irsay – who moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis – are one and two on my list of the biggest &%$#@!s to own a sports team.

George Shinn is making a solid bid to replace both men at the top of my list – which is a surprise to me.

Except for the few occasions when I would receive email from a friend in the Charlotte area declaring his undying hatred for Shinn, I never gave the owner, the team or the city any thought.

But the Hornets' first game in the Big Easy is news. And I'm curious by nature. So I decided to find out more about George Shinn and the reasons why he decided to head south after twelve seasons in Charlotte.

A keyword search at cnnsi.com produced a half-dozen articles written in 1999 about a lawsuit filed by a Carolina woman accusing Shinn of sexual assault. According to the articles, Shinn met the woman at a drug rehab center, invited her to his home and allegedly "forced" her to have sex with him.

Shinn admitted to bringing the young woman to his home but claimed that the sex was consensual. He was cleared of any wrong doing. I don't know what really happened but I couldn't help but wonder: consensual or not, what was the owner of the Hornets doing trolling for "dates" at a drug rehab center?

That same year, Shinn had the opportunity to sell a portion of the Hornets to Michael Jordan. The deal fell through when Shinn refused to make MJ an equal partner. (All the while crying the blues about playing in an outdated arena and shrinking fan attendance).

MJ is a God in North Carolina. Making him an equal partner would have guaranteed season-long sellouts.

Apparently the city's reluctance to build Shinn a state-of-the-art arena complete with six-figure luxury boxes at the expense of the Charlotte taxpayers was the last straw. He would take his team and move to New Orleans for the 2002-2003 season.

Personally, I think it was that sexual-assault case that motivated Shinn to fly south for the winter.

Shinn's first order of business was to endear his team and himself to the Louisiana locals. So he decided he would retire the jersey number of a bayou legend. The greatest scorer in the history of the NCAA while attending Louisiana State University and one of the NBA's 50 greatest players – Pistol Pete Maravich.

In the 1970's NBA, Pete Maravich was Magic, Bird and Michael all rolled into one six-foot-five-inch scoring machine.

I have a lot of problems with this P.T. Barnum-like marketing ploy. Pistol Pete never played for the Hornets. And his number seven is already retired by the Jazz – the team he played for in New Orleans and Utah.

Pete Maravich died tragically of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 40 (Ironically, the same year the Hornets joined the NBA). He's not here to approve or condemn Shinn's antics. It's shameful.

Huey P. Long was a corrupt Louisiana politician in the 1920's and '30's. But he was loved by the people he governed. August 30th is a state recognized holiday in Lousiana. Huey P. Long Day.

I think it would have been more appropriate for George Shinn to mark the Hornets' New Orleans debut October 30 with Huey P. Long night – maybe even give away Huey bobblehead dolls.

The basketball legend of Pistol Pete Maravich belongs to LSU, the New Orleans/Utah Jazz and the state of Louisiana. Not the Hornets and certainly not to George Shinn.

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