It’s that time of the year all NFL fans hate – the off season. Since there’s not much going on in the way of New Orleans Saints football I thought I’d do something a little different on the site and offer a little Basketball history.
A big thanks to Luke of Dunk or Three for the post.
New Orleans has a long and storied history when it comes to basketball. The sport has had a professional presence in the city since 1947. While it has had its ups and downs over the years, it continues to be a popular pastime to this day. Keep reading to learn about the fascinating history of basketball in New Orleans.
Professional Basketball League of America
The first professional team to come to New Orleans in 1947 was the Hurricanes. However, this first team was short-lived. The Professional Basketball League of America folded before playing a single season in its entirety. The Hurricanes only played eight games, managing to win three of them, before the league concluded its play.
Southern Basketball League
Even though the Hurricanes were short-lived, it wasn’t long until there was a new team in town. The next professional team to come to New Orleans was the Sports in 1948 as part of an expansion of the Southern Basketball League.
Unfortunately, this team was not to last long in the city, either. The Sports were only able to garner seven wins in their thirty-one-game season. This pitiful season would be their only one as the Southern Basketball League disbanded at its conclusion.
American Basketball Association
New Orleans did not have another professional basketball team in its midst until 1967. In that year, the city was happy to welcome the Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association.
Finally, things appeared to be turning around for the sport of basketball in New Orleans. The Buccaneers boasted an impressive winning season in their first year and played in the championship. Even their second season included a strong finish with the team making it to the second round of the playoffs.
However, unfortunately, the good times were not to keep on rolling for this team in New Orleans. Their third season was less than spectacular, and the group picked up and moved to Memphis in 1970.
Women's Professional Basketball League
In discussing the history of basketball in New Orleans, we certainly can’t forget about the women. New Orleans had its own women’s professional team from 1979 until 1981. Unfortunately, the Women’s Professional Basketball League ceased to exist following the conclusion of the season in 1981.
National Basketball Association
Finally, the National Basketball Association joined the scene where they remain to this day. In 1974 this league brought its first team to New Orleans, the Jazz.
The Jazz started by playing in Municipal Auditorium but quickly moved over to the newly completed and impressive Superdome for their remaining seasons. While the team showcased less than stellar performance for its four years in New Orleans, they did host one of the best players ever: Pete Maravich. However, even a superstar was not enough to keep the Jazz in New Orleans, and in 1979 the team left for Utah.
If the name Pete Maravich is not ringing a bell, then his famous nickname, Pistol Pete, may be more familiar to you. Although he was born in Pennsylvania and raised in the Carolinas, Maravich came to fame as a star player for Louisiana State University from 1967-1970.
He joined the NBA after the Atlanta Hawks drafted him as the third overall pick. Although he played well in Atlanta, it was not a natural fit. His first two seasons represented a respectable start in the league, but his third season brought him into the spotlight as a pick for the NBA All-Star Game. His fourth season brought him another All-Star Game appearance, but unfortunately, the Hawks missed the playoffs entirely.
At this time in 1974, the Jazz was looking for someone to excite their developing fan base. Maravich was a natural choice both because of his dominant play and his existing connections to the state of Louisiana from college.
Maravich continued to perform exceptionally well, but the team as a whole routinely put up some of the worst records in the league. Maravich’s career in New Orleans included two All-NBA First Team placements and three NBA All-Star Game appearances, but injuries began to give him trouble.
Ultimately, the team’s financial health was also struggling, which is why they decided to move to Salt Lake City, where Maravich played his final season. Maravich died of heart failure at the young age of 40 in 1988. However, he was able to see himself inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987, just before his death.
In 2017, the Atlanta Hawks joined the New Orleans Jazz and Louisiana State University in honoring Maravich by retiring his jersey. According to the NBA, his wife and son spoke at the ceremony.
New Orleans once again endured a period without a professional team, but that all changed in 2002. In that year, the Hornets moved into the city. They were excited and ready to play in the city’s newly built arena.
After the devastating loss brought upon New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, the team had to move to Oklahoma City for two years. While playing in their home away from home, they were the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. The team was able to return to New Orleans for the 2007-2008 season, where they have remained ever since.
The team has put up substantial numbers over the years and renamed themselves in 2013 to more closely reflect the city they called home. Once the Hornets completed their name-change to the Pelicans, Charlotte Bobcats owner, Michael Jordan, took the name back to the Carolinas, renaming his team for the 2014-2015 season. The Charlotte Hornets is the name of that team to this day.
Following the name change in 2013, the Pelicans have continued to play intense basketball in New Orleans and show no signs of moving on any time soon. According to their playoff history, the team has made the playoffs seven times since 2002 and advanced to the second round twice. However, the team has yet to make it to the third round or the finals.