By By Richard Dark / EMG sports writer
Oct. 31, 2002
NEW ORLEANS On a night all about basketball history, some old names were there. And why shouldn't they be? On the night when New Orleans old NBA team met its brand new one, some former New Orleans Jazz players were on hand to witness the retirement of the jersey of the greatest Jazz player of them all, the late 'Pistol' Pete Maravich.
Leonard 'Truck' Robinson, Aaron James, E.C. Coleman, Rich Kelley, Tommy Green and Maravich's wife Jackie were on hand to help raise the No. 7 to the rafters at halftime. Maravich's jersey is also hanging in Utah's Delta Center in Salt Lake City.
The crowd gave perhaps one of its loudest reactions of the night when the number was unfurled, almost as if to welcome the Pistol back home after the long absence.
'Spooktacular' is a spectacle
On the eve of All Hallows Eve, the entire New Orleans Hornets community had themselves a devil of a good time. To accurately tip off the Hornets opening night in the Big Easy, the team planned a cornucopia of events.
Nearly three hours before game time, hundreds of fans celebrated the return of the NBA to their city after a 23-year absence with a street party of Mardi Gras-like proportions. The portion of Girod Street between the New Orleans Arena and the Superdome was home to a scary street party that lasted until just a few minutes before tipoff.
A local zydeco band entertained the crowd, along with a regular Halloween lineup of fortunetellers, costumed fire performers. New Orleans native Aaron Neville sang the Nation Anthem and performed at halftime.
Powerful pregame pomp
With it being the inaugural regular season game in New Orleans Hornets history, you knew the pregame buildup would be full of special moments and mini-speeches. After a raucous, lights out player introduction, complete with the customary smoke, music and laser lights, co-owners George Shinn and Mississippi State alumnus Ray Wooldridge greeted and thanked the sellout crowd for their support and patience in helping make the NBA's return possible.
Been a while
Wednesday night's season opener marked the first return trip for the Jazz to New Orleans since April 6, 1979. The team moved to Salt Lake City that summer. 'Hot Rod' Hundley, the voice of the Jazz. is the only staff member to have worked in both cities.
Future hall of fame Jazz guard John Stockton keeps on keepin' on. At age 40, he is in his 18th season and still getting the majority of the minutes.
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin also spoke and NBA commissioner David Stern rounded out the pep talks, thanking fans for allowing the league back in the Big Easy.
Other than center Elden Campbell (knee), who is on the injured list for the first five games, guard Brice Drew was also out for the season opener. He had successful surgery to repair a left orbital wall fracture of the eye. Drew suffered the injury when he took an inadvertent elbow to the face during Tuesdays practice.