Welcome home, Hornets: greeting the team at the airport

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Published: April 4, 2008

The Hornets wrapped up an unprecedented road trip in Miami yesterday. That demolition of the Heat gave them five victories on the trip; something no team in franchise history could claim before. To show our appreciation for a job well done, a group of us fans decided to show up at Louis Armstrong International last night to welcome the team home.

I'd been out there once before, welcoming the team back from San Antonio in February, and the highlight then was Ryan Bowen driving out of the gate with his window rolled down, high-fiving everybody. Besides that, we only got a few waves and honks that Saturday night, but it was all good. We didn't really expect anyone to stop or anything; just wanted to show our support.

Well, last night was different.

First out of the gate was Melvin Ely. His wife girlfriend special lady had come to pick him up, and told him we were waiting. Melvin was cool enough to stop and pose for a picture with us, and even had said special lady take the shot so we could all be in it…

Melvin Ely at the airport

(click images for a larger versions)

Melvin told us how much he appreciated our support, and that he was looking forward to winning his second championship ring this season. We liked that attitude.

Ely went on his merry way then, and soon after a big beast of a truck came roaring out of the gate, massive horns mounted on the hood. Had to be Chris Andersen. Bowen followed a minute later. He was cool enough to stop and sign some stuff, legend that he is. (I'm not big on collecting signatures and memorabilia myself, but I made sure to get Bowen's signature for a friend of mine.)

Just as Bowen left us, I saw Jannero Pargo driving past with that Chris Paul kid in the passenger seat. On request of my fellow fans, Chris told JP to pull over, then got out to do the signing and the posing…

Chris Paul signs for the fans at the airport

Chris Paul poses with fans at the airport

(More pics posted on the HR boards

Good times.

That was obviously the highlight of the evening right there: Hanging out at the side of a runway in the middle of the night with a bona fide MVP candidate. Chris was cool as ever, and sincerely seemed to appreciate us being there.

Not much else to write home about after that. David West flashed us a peace sign as he cruised out. Jordy Hultberg was delighted to see us as usual. Gil McGregor seemed amused by us, too, but didn't fulfill my request for a quick pun. (I was hoping for something like "'Airport?' How about 'Airsupport!'") That's okay though, Gil. Save them for the broadcasts.

Really, I was amazed that anybody stopped for us at all. Consider that they had just touched down from a two-week road trip at 12:30am and probably wanted nothing more than to get home and get some sleep, yet they still took the time to stop and say hey to the half-dozen nutbags in short pants.

Methinks it's moments like last night that really make a difference in creating a connection between a team and its fans. After the Hornets broke everything up and decided to rebuild the team a few years back, George Shinn emphasized the need to acquire guys who were not only good players, but also good people. You know, people who care about the community, make headlines for the right reasons and are always courteous and respectful to everyone they meet.

These days it seems to me that Shinn's vision has become a reality. The Hornets are charging toward the Playoffs with a determined grip on that first seed, while the people of New Orleans fall deeper and deeper in love with the team and its players every day.


I'm hoping we can get some more people to the airport to greet the team in future, so I'll post relevant info here. However, I must warn anyone thinking of making the trip that you'll probably get nothing more than a few honks and waves. The guys stopping last night was the exception rather than the rule. Don't expect a hug from Chris Paul, or for Tyson Chandler to give you his phone number. If you want to go, make sure your main motivation is to simply show support for the team. 

Here's a map thingy showing you where the players drive out of the airport…

(View Larger Map)

Arrival times vary, but we can usually estimate it to within fifteen minutes. I'll mention in future posts when we intend to go out there again, so look out for that and email me (ron [at] hornets247 [dot] com ) for updated info. Even if none of us usual suspects can make it and you'd like to go yourself, I'll do my best to help you out.

Just don't go diving naked in front of Bonzi's ride and getting us all in trouble.

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