Recently we overheard someone talking about the Hornets’ tenuous situation in New Orleans. He professed no interest in the predicament saying, “I really don’t like basketball.”
Truth is, basketball has nothing to do with why the city needs the Hornets. Professional sports have become a measure of how cities are regarded. We would never hear about Green Bay, Wisc., were it not for its Packers. Buffalo, N.Y., would just be a frigid outpost best known for its chicken wings were it not for the Bills. Sacramento, Calif., and Oklahoma City became national cities in stature, rather than regional centers, once they got NBA franchises. Any endeavor – whether it’s ballet, symphony, sumo wrestling or basketball – that brings the best performers on the globe to a town adds sophistication and worldliness.
Each evening when game highlights are shown on ESPN, viewers around the country see professional athletes with the word “New Orleans” on their chests. We know the city already has food and culture on its side, professional sports, quite literally, makes our town big league. In the parlance of modern America, that’s an important distinction.
Beyond the team’s performance on the court, the Hornets have been good neighbors, reaching out into the community in many ways. For example, All-Star Point Guard Chris Paul has been a sterling representative of the city.
As for basketball the sport, it should be embraced as being a thoroughly American invention that now has international reach. While we wish that fouling were less a part of game strategy, we marvel at agile athletes dribbling their way around opponents or flying through the air en route to a score.
Some argue that New Orleans is really a football town. Truth is, every city (except perhaps Los Angeles, which doesn’t have an NFL franchise but does have the Lakers) is a football town during the season. But there’s plenty passion in this city for both, and once the NFL season ends, the NBA competition is just heating up.
We know that the league needs to implement some financial restructuring so that small-market teams can survive better. We also know that whatever happen will take some help from the state. But, with the right ownership, the franchise can succeed here. It won’t be easy getting around obstacles, but as the players have shown, with the right finesse a play can end with a slam-dunk.