Of Course the Pelicans Will Retire Chris Paul’s Jersey

By:
Published: February 24, 2014
Chris-Paul3

Chris Paul faces the New Orleans Pelicans tonight, a team he’s never played for. Despite that, he’ll be the first player to have his jersey retired by the Pelicans. Why? Because they wouldn’t exist without him.

It’s really that simple.

Last time the NBA All-Star came to New Orleans the future of professional basketball wasn’t at all secure in the Crescent City, and not just because of Hurricane Katrina. While the storm certainly destabilized the team, forcing them out of town for most of two seasons, it was not the only problem the Hornets faced in New Orleans.

In 2002-2003, the Hornets first season in New Orleans, they finished 19th in attendance, winning 47 games and losing in the first round of the playoffs. The following season saw similar results on the court– 41 wins and a first round playoff loss– but off the court the downturn was much more profound. They finished second to last in the league in total attendance and were able to sell or give away barely over 83% of tickets.

It was never a sure thing that professional basketball would work in New Orleans, and seeing attendance drop off so drastically after making the playoffs in year one was anything but promising news. In 2004-2005, the final season before Katrina hit, the team was in disarray. An 18-64 record resulted in the worst attendance in the league and an even further decline in the number of tickets sold or used.

With the fourth pick in the 2005 draft, the Hornets drafted Chris Paul and things changed forever.

(Hurricane, two years in OKC, yada yada, you’ve heard this before)

When the Hornets returned to New Orleans full time, they were hardly the biggest news in town. The Saints were making noise, the city was being rebuilt, and in general people had other things on their mind than the return of a team many still called the Charlotte Hornets.

David Stern, Jac Sperling, Hugh Weber, George Shinn and the Benson’s all made invaluable contributions to the effort, perhaps each of which was somehow as essential as the last, but none of them ever scored a bucket or grabbed a rebound. They never blocked a shot. They never really mattered at all once the game started.

There are a million reasons to go to an NBA game that aren’t the game itself, ranging from the normal (your boss invited you), to the absurd (your friends like to play “Where’s Waldo?” in large crowds). What it comes down to in the end, though, is that the game itself keeps people coming back.

What Chris Paul did in the year after Katrina was single handedly electrify the hearts and souls of thousands of what are now Pelicans fans, and in the process make an average team good enough to win a playoff series and nearly a second.

CP3 was a special player his first two years in the league, and he remains a special player today, but what he did in 2007-2008 and again in 2008-2009 will go down as two of the best seasons by a point guard in history. Knee problems won’t keep him from being one of the best of his time, but they likely kept him from entering the conversation of all time greats.

He’ll never be that player again, and he never has to be. His greatest contribution to the NBA and the city of New Orleans already took place.

In those two years he showed thousands of New Orleanians what they would be missing if they didn’t fight to keep their team. He proved that post-Katrina New Orleans could support a basketball team, and as a result they have.

You don’t have to like Chris Paul, or root for Chris Paul, or even respect Chris Paul, but it’s hard to argue that there would be a professional basketball team in New Orleans if not for him.

46 comments
ykendall87
ykendall87

CP kept basketball in NO because the arena had a leasing clause that required a certain attendance and the city struggled to keep up despite having one of the NBA best records in 07-08. The team sparked interest led by the games top PG and runner up for MVP CP. Attendance increased and fulfilled the lease on the arena BARELY! Those 2 seasons helped basketball in NO because without their strong play it would have been difficult to put people in seats watching a sorry team hell they barely made it with one of the best teams in the NBA. So for you bitter people who think Stern was the sole reason for basketball staying in NO you're wrong the team's strong play was critical led by CP. Stern 's hands would've been tied if the lease on New Orleans Arena wasn't fulfilled and that bought him time to find new owner.

ykendall87
ykendall87

CP is the best player in the history of the franchise point blank.

yaboytonez
yaboytonez

For all of you "CP3 turned his back on us" bashers what team did he leave? Besides David West who was a 20 & 8 guy with little defense WHO did Paul have?

ykendall87
ykendall87

You people ripping Paul are unbelievable. He played for a cheap owner who's team was owned by the NBA for nearly 2 years. Gary Chouset was suppose to by the team then pulled out after the oil spill. The GM fired Byron Scott after 9 games and coached with ZERO coaching experience. The attendance was horrible despite having a team with best record in the NBA. Smallest market in the NBA the Hornets were a organization in utter disarray CP last couple years with no stability whatsoever NO gave Paul no choice 

Pluto D
Pluto D

I don't think we should or will retire CP's jersey, but this is a good article and I fully agree that we wouldn't be where we are today without him, as a team and as a city. There is simply no question about it IMO. I am surprised to see all this dissent here in the comments. Yea he left, but he is a human being. Besides, his departure ultimately set up the arrival of AD, destroyer of worlds. Would you have it any other way?

Come On Pelican
Come On Pelican

The day I see a Chris Paul jersey hanging from the rafters in Smoothie King Center is the last day I'll ever attend an NBA game there.  It made me sick enough just to see some locals walking around the Arena wearing his jersey at last night's Clippers game.  I didn't boo CP3, but I certainly cheered every time he missed a shot and got called for a foul.

golfsharkjt
golfsharkjt

I am against the idea of retiring Paul's jersey for many of the reasons noted by previous posters.  Also, the Pelicans seem intent on erasing the prior history of NOLA basketball (e.g. removing Pistol Pete and Bobby Phills' jerseys from the arena).   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, current ownership owes Chris Paul no such tribute.  He bolted before Benson bought the team.  Thanks for the memories CP3, but 2007-2008 is a distant memory and I'm more interested in the history AD and company will make.

mateor
mateor

I don't know. He always seemed like he was going to go. We had 2008, which was awesome. 2009 was not as successful as we would have liked, and from there out, we were in the countdown to departure stage.

He will probably go to the Hall and will probably wear a Clipper jersey.  I bet the Pels do retire his jersey someday, though.

I would rather get moving on PJ Brown retirement. That was a class act through some real thick and thin.

Steven J
Steven J

It will never happen. It should never happen. Great player, meant a lot to New Orleans. But retiring a jersey? That takes a very long commitment and lots of dedication towards an organization. 

kwilly
kwilly

Actually there wouldn't be a team in New Orleans if not for David Stern and Tom Benson.  

kwilly
kwilly

So the team should retire the jersey of a player who spent 4 years with the team and half of that time was spent trying to get away?  Aren't you the one who thought CP3 was going to sign with the Pelicans during the offseason?

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

No need to retire his jersey. In fact, doing so may be a slight to the deserving people who have their jersey retired in the future.

jmald1
jmald1

i will say chris paul jersey should get retired after he done playin basketball but u cnt blame chris paul from leavin. he wanted to play for a contender nd better talent and only thanks to chris paul leaving we have anthony davis so we should b grateful for da years he gave us and its time for us to move on real talk. . we happy for his success but WE IS DA PELICANS NOW NOT THE HORNETS ITS DA PAST AND WITH ANTHONY DAVIS WE HAVE A FUTURE SO RETIRE HIS JERSEY AFTER HE DONE PLAYIN ITS RESPECTFUL TO HIM AND THE FANS WE THAT SUPPORTED HIM WHILE HE WAS HERE. FOR THE PELICANS FANS THAT SAY DNT BECAUSE HE COWARDLY LEFT THATS A CLASSLESS THING TO SAY IT BEEN COUPLE OF YRS GET OVER IT WE ON A WHOLE NEW CHAPTER AND HE CONTINUE TO BRING NOTICE TO DA CITY OF NEW ORLEANS AND HE DID ALOT FOR THE CITY SO STOP ACTING LIKE SCORN EX GIRLFRIENDS AND MOVE ON DAMN DATS WAT I GOT TO SAY 

usufruct
usufruct

I went to or watched almost every game of this Chris Paul era, and I couldn't disagree more with retiring his jersey.  This was proposed in an article I saw on twitter, and it's even more absurd to read it here, given that was some national writer.  You retire a player's jersey when he retires playing for your team after years of loyalty, not after he works in a place for several years after his rookie contract then leaves when times get tough.  I don't blame him for leaving, but retire his jersey?  Come on, man.  Fact is he moved on for greener pastures and, today, he wouldn't come back to NO for all the money.  He won't retire a Pelican so why should we retire his jersey?   

And the reason the team's still here is not chris paul, it's David Stern.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara moderator

Then lets retire Drew Brees's number too in the SKC. If Brees doesn't signs with the team, New Orleans doesn't have a basketball team. Put #9 in the rafters!

DavidLBrown
DavidLBrown

I totally disagree with retiring the No. 3 jersey. I loved Paul when he played here, but when he cowardly left because he didn't think he could win here, I lost a lot of respect for him. He did not give Dell and Monty a chance to prove that they could build a winner. I take a lot of pleasure watching the Clippers lose in the playoffs. As far as I am concerned, he could have accomplished the same things here that he has accomplished in LA, which is nothing. 

Come On Pelican
Come On Pelican

Seriously? The best New Orleans Hornets team ever was the 2007-08 team that lost to the Spurs in Game 7. In addition to All Stars CP3 and DWest, the team included eventual Olympic Gold Medal winner Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic (8th all time in 3 pointers and 2011 NBA Championship Ring recipient).  That season, with 0.8 seconds left and a multi-year Mavericks losing streak on the line, Peja received an inbounds pass and sunk a 3 pointer that put the game into overtime and catapulted the Hornets to a win over the Mavs and the franchise's best season ever. Two years later, all four of those starters were gone.

ykendall87
ykendall87

The arena just got a sponsor like yesterday after 10 years in NO?? If you're a real NO fan you know the organization was unsteady at the time and CP was suppose to trust Demps and Monty with no track record and still no owner? BE serious

Pluto D
Pluto D

@Come On Pelican  really? it made you sick? we're not talking about Lakers fans infesting the building (that makes me sick), we're talking about a player who had a significant impact on this city. but to each his own.

GerrityJoe
GerrityJoe moderator

@golfsharkjt All I have to do is drive around New Orleans to see Chris Paul's lasting legacy. He built courts around the city, and created fans that would never have existed without him.

Those distant memories are what allowed the team a chance to stay here. They're what made people fight to keep the team.

GerrityJoe
GerrityJoe moderator

@kwilly -- Without any of the three, there's probably no team in New Orleans. I'd throw in Hugh Weber to that as well.


Too bad only one of them plays basketball, or I'd advocate for all of them to have their jerseys retired.


Why is is that people go to games again? Oh yeah, to watch basketball.

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

@Jason Calmes Agreed.   What about the jerseys that used to hang in the rafters up until this season?  Pistol Pete and Bobby Phils I believe.   CP3 did not earn any loyalty from this organization, since he took his first opportunity to bolt.   He could have brought Doc Rivers and some talented players to New Orleans if he wanted to, but he didn't.   I realize that this generation of players is different, but why reward mercenary behavior?    DWest is more deserving, but still would not make the cut in my book.    Wait until you have a deserving player who sacrifices and perseveres and shows commitment to this city, along with being a superstar.   I'm looking at Anthony Davis if he stays with the Pelicans through his 12 -15 year career and helps us build a contender.   Maybe Jrue or Tyreke or Ryno if they are part of our upcoming dynasty.

GerrityJoe
GerrityJoe moderator

@usufruct And damn, I don't even like Chris Paul anymore. I just fail to see how basketball exists here without the awesome seasons he had after Katrina.

GerrityJoe
GerrityJoe moderator

@usufruct  I literally state that without David Stern it wouldn't have happened. Without Paul, though, Stern doesn't make that move.

GerrityJoe
GerrityJoe moderator

@Michael McNamara Don't quite get this argument from you. Brees didn't play basketball. It's the same reason I'm not arguing we should retire Tom Benson's theoretical number, or Davis Stern's. There's one basketball player who made it possible for all those other pieces to fall into place.


I've just yet to see anyone explain how basketball exists without CP3 being drafted and playing like a beast. Do you think that basketball exists in New Orleans if we draft anyone else in that draft? Considering how close we came to not meeting attendance mandates, I don't.

ykendall87
ykendall87

@Come On Pelican  you don't make sense Chandler and Peja were already gone and West had just left too. You expected him to stay with no stability at all? He didn't leave one player you named they were all gone before Paul.  

yaboytonez
yaboytonez

Hahaha you have to be joking! Peja NEVER played a whole season. His 1st Hornets season he signed a 60 million dollar deal and played 13 games. In 07 77 games, '08 62, '09 61! In that 07 season he gave us 16 pts in every other year 13 & BELOW! Chandler played 3 seasons. The last one he only played 45 games. Averaging 12 rebounds then 11 rebounds but barely 11 points a game. These are ROLE players. Paul had nobody's that HE made great. Are you drunk?

yaboytonez
yaboytonez

Exactly. These are obviously NEW fans who don't know their history. Names like Jeff Bower, Gary Chouset, Byron Scott....Paul was a great player & person to this city. Should receive an award not retired jersey though.

Come On Pelican
Come On Pelican

I thought that was you wearing that Chris Paul jersey.

yaboytonez
yaboytonez

Exactly. This fan base has some weirdos

kwilly
kwilly

@GerrityJoe @kwilly  The facts as I remember them are that Shinn was on the verge of selling the team to Larry Ellison of Oracle who would have moved the team to San Jose.  To prevent this from happening, Stern convinced the other owners to purchase the team.  Benson was then convinced to buy the team.  I fail to see how cp was involved in any of that.

usufruct
usufruct

Huh? I know you mention stern but the article clearly emphasizes cp over him. Stern has made it known that he wants bball in this city and he has proven that statement with actions. Actions that had nothing to do with Chris Paul. Also, I'm not sure what you're referring to as "that move" but I can't think of a stern move that had anything to do w Chris but for vetoing the lakers trade. And that had nothing to do with keeping the team here.

Steven J
Steven J

@GerrityJoe @Michael McNamara That's great that he was drafted by the Pelicans. But the same argument can be made for every team. If they didn't draft good players that kept the fans interested then the franchise would no longer be relevant and possibly be moved. He kept the fans interested, and was a great player. But when you think of CP3 10 years from now, everyone will probably remember him as a Clipper. who will possibly retire his jersey.

yaboytonez
yaboytonez

Terrible analogy. Marriage is for richer or poorer. This was business. He deserves a philanthropy award for all he's done. I feel the same way about Reggie Bush. I mean even Shaq is in the Nola Sports Hall of Fame. What's a small thank you from this city. Not now, just whenever he retires.

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

@yaboytonez All those are great reasons (excuses) for Paul to bail.  He did have the option to stay and do his part to fix the issues.  Joining the Clippers transformed that organization from perennial losers to winners for now, and it is conceivable that the Hornets could have been similarly transformed.  One of the reasons the ownership situation was so difficult to resolve was the uncertainty about Paul and West.   I agree that there were many other issues and problems that were not in CP3s control.

Bottom Line:  CP3 was good for the city while he was here.  He made a calculated and smart choice to move on, but that does not mean the the team he dumped should reward him for that.   If your wife dumps you for a richer guy, you don't build a statue of your ex in your front yard, even if you weren't the best husband.   It's time to boldly do nothing.....

Pluto D
Pluto D

@Come On Pelican  

I'm not saying anyone should cheer for him when he comes to town, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with booing the hell out of him either. Both are totally valid. 

I'm just shocked that you and so many others are disgusted to see that people are still wearing Paul's jersey, as if it's an insult to our franchise. Like him or hate him, the man spent six years here and was a positive influence in our community. He made the Hornets relevant and put together some of the most impressive seasons ever played by a point guard. So naturally, that's going to have some sort of lasting impact on people.

Sure, his departure wasn't pretty, but he always gave his all with the team he had. He felt like he had better chances to win elsewhere after being in the middle of a messy, unstable situation at the time. It's HIS career. He's a real person with real emotions, not an unfazed warrior god, like some of us wish.

Anyway, boo him or cheer him all you want. Just don't attack the people that still appreciate him. Personally, I still respect him and wish him the best, as long as that doesn't prevent the Pelicans from world domination. 

yaboytonez
yaboytonez

What negative circumstances? He was traded.

Come On Pelican
Come On Pelican

I really don't get where you're coming from, Pluto. So you're saying that when a former player who departed New Orleans 4 years ago under negative circumstances visits our stadium, we're supposed to cheer him and wear his jersey, but at the same time we're supposed to trash the head coach who's still here and working 80+ hours per week to try to help the current team succeed?  I only became a Hornets fan when I bought season tickets for the first time when they moved here in 2002, but I have to admit a lot of folks' ideas about what it means to be a "fan" in the NBA is much different from any other sport I've ever followed.  I can't stand it when locals show up at our arena and wear the jersey of and cheer for players on the visiting team. I frequently smile and shake my head in appreciation of amazing plays such as those I saw from Blake Griffin in the Smoothie King Center on Monday night, but I'll never actually cheer for or support any opposing player.

Pluto D
Pluto D

@Come On Pelican  I was hoping you'd puke all over it for me. How disgusting it is to watch a talented player make real life decisions as a real human being, isn't it?