The original Charlotte Hornets entered the NBA as an expansion team in 1988 along with the Miami Heat, followed a year later by the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves. Their uniforms and color scheme instantly made a splash with their surprising use of the color Teal and the distinctive pinstripes that had basketball fans everywhere excited. The team struggled in their first years, of course, being mostly made up of journeymen, castoffs, and young talent but once their collection of legendary college players like Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, and Kendall Gill started to gel with the veterans, the team made the playoffs in their fifth season. By that time the Hornets had settled into the league and had their normal ups and downs like any other team, both making and missing the playoffs over the next few years. During their original seasons the Hornets had some amazing players but also some less impressive characters. Here are the 10 best and 10 worst players from the original Charlotte Hornets.
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22 Best: J.R. Reid
Known for his distinct high top fade hairstyle, J.R. Reid was one of the best, and most highly recruited players in the country coming out of high school. Reid chose to play for the University of North Carolina where he starred for three years and was a consensus All-American in 1988. He was selected with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. After four years with the Hornets, Reid was traded to the Spurs in 1992 and later played a year in France before re-signing with Charlotte in 1997. Over his first stretch with Charlotte, Reid was an important part of the team, averaging over 10 points and over six rebounds per game. He was not as productive in his second showing a few years later, but he still qualifies as one of the best Hornets.
21 Worst: Tom Tolbert
During his seven year career, Tom Tolbert played for the Charlotte Hornets twice, in his very first year and in his very last year. In between, he had stints with the Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic, and the Los Angeles Clippers. He started off playing college hoops at the University of Arizona for the legendary Lute Olsen, and was an important part of the Wildcats team that went to the 1988 Final Four. In the 1988 NBA Draft the Hornets selected Tolbert in the second round with the 34th overall pick. Tolbert only played 24 total games with the Hornets, 14 during his first year and 10 in his last. He averaged just over two points and just under two rebounds per game in his Hornets career.
20 Best: Glen Rice
As the all-time leader in points scored for the University of Michigan, Glen Rice is easily one of the best Wolverines players ever. Rice was named as an All-American in 1989 after averaging over 25 points per game and leading Michigan to the NCAA Final Four where he was named Most Outstanding Player and helped the Wolverines win the national championship. Thanks to his extraordinary performance in the Final Four, Rice climbed up draft boards and was ultimately selected with the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft by the Miami Heat. Rice played six seasons with the Heat averaging over 20 points per game for three of those years (and averaging 19 for the other one) before he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for Alonzo Mourning. Rice fully established himself as a star in Charlotte averaging 23.5 points per game, being named to three straight All-Star Games and earning the MVP award for the 1999 NBA All-Star game.
19 Worst: Tony Bennett
The son of legendary University of Wisconsin – Green Bay coach Dick Bennett, Tony Bennett played for his father, and together they led the Phoenix to two appearances in the NIT tournament and one in the NCAA tournament during their time together. Bennett was then chosen in the second round of the 1992 NBA Draft with the 35th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets. Bennett spent three years in the NBA, all with the Hornets, playing two full seasons and then only three games in his third season before a foot injury prematurely ended his career. During his time in Charlotte, Bennett scored 3.5 points, grabbed one rebound, and dished two assists in around 12 minutes per game. He did later play professionally in New Zealand and Australia before moving into coaching like his father.
18 Best: Johnny Newman
After four years starring at the University of Richmond with the highlight being an upset in the NCAA tournament over the fifth seeded Auburn Tigers lead by Charles Barkley, Johnny Newman was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1986 NBA Draft in the second round with the 29th overall selection. Newman did not play much for the Cavs as the rest of their draft class in 1986 consisted of three future All-Stars. He moved on to the New York Knicks in 1987 and eventually became a starter and double-digit scorer in his three years in New York. He signed with the Hornets in 1990 and spent four of his most productive seasons there. Newman averaged over 14 points and just under three rebounds per game during his time with the Hornets. He spent eight more seasons moving around the NBA until wrapping up his career in 2002.
17 Worst: Mike Gminski
Mike Gminski was sort of an early beta version of the dominating Duke big men who would come along later like Danny Ferry and Christian Laettner. Gminski played four years for the Duke Blue Devils and was named All-American in 1979 and 1980, and ACC Player of the Year in 1979. He was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets where he played for eight seasons before heading to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1988. After a few years in Philly, Gminski moved on to the Charlotte Hornets where he played for parts of four years. He started well in Charlotte averaging over 11 points per game but his production went down in the ensuing seasons and he ended his time there averaging just over six points and just over four rebounds per game, playing sparingly.
16 Best: Kendall Gill
The leader of the great University of Illinois teams of the late '80s who went to four NCAA tournaments along with Kenny Battle and Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill led the famed ‘Flyin’ Illini to the 1989 NCAA Final Four where they lost on a last second shot to eventual champs, Michigan. Gill was then drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Gill had a solid rookie season with Charlotte, being named as a first-team All-Rookie. He really broke out in his second year averaging over 20 points, over five rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He had another very good year in 1992 but moved on to the Seattle Supersonics in 1993. He returned to Charlotte for part of the 1995 season before spending six seasons with the Nets and then finishing his career bouncing among four other teams.
15 Worst: Stuart Gray
Originally from Panama, Stuart Gray played for three years at UCLA, where he averaged 6.5 rebounds and 7.5 points. Despite his relatively pedestrian production for the Bruins, Gray was helped by the fact that he was 7 feet tall which led him to being selected with the 29th overall pick in the second round of the1984 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers. In his five seasons with the Pacers he only averaged three points per game one time, and never averaged over four rebounds per game. He was shipped to the Charlotte Hornets in 1989 and spent part of that season with Charlotte before moving to the New York Knicks. Gray averaged 2.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 39 games during his short stint with the Hornets. Gray also played on the Panamanian national team during his career.
14 Best: Hersey Hawkins
The best player to ever suit up for Bradley University was easily Hersey Hawkins. He is the school's all-time leading scorer and was the fourth all-time scorer in NCAA history when he graduated. He played every game of his four year career and led the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1986. Hawkins helped Bradley back to the tournament in 1988 while scoring 36.8 points per game, being named consensus All-American, and winning multiple player of the year awards. After playing in the 1988 Olympics with the United States men's national team, Hawkins was drafted with the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft by the LA Clippers. He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers on draft night and spent five years in Philly. In 1993 the Hornets acquired Hawkins in a trade with the Sixers. He was a key part of the Hornets for two seasons in Charlotte averaging over 14 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He returned to Charlotte for his final season before retiring.
13 Worst: Anthony Goldwire
After playing at the University of Houston and being drafted with the 52nd overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, it still took Anthony Goldwire a couple years until he finally cracked into the NBA. Once he did, he managed to carve out a nine year NBA career, bouncing between nine different teams, in addition to a number of seasons of international and CBA hoops as well. The very first NBA team he played for was the Charlotte Hornets where he played less than one season’s worth of games in over a season and a half. He only managed to average over five points and almost three assists with the Hornets in 16 minutes per game during his time in Charlotte.
12 Best: Rex Chapman
After two great seasons with the University of Kentucky, where he lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament twice, including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 1988, Rex Chapman was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the eight overall pick in the first round of the 1988 NBA Draft. Chapman was officially the first player to sign with the original expansion Hornets and was one of the top players on the team in those first few years. Through his four seasons with Charlotte, Chapman averaged over 16 points per game as well as just under three rebounds and just under three assists per game as well. He was traded to the Washington Bullets in 1992 where he played for four years, he had a year in Miami where he led the Heat to a huge upset victory over the 72-10 Bulls by nailing nine threes in the game. He wrapped up his career playing four more years with the Phoenix Suns.
11 Worst: Rumeal Robinson
The point guard who won the 1989 NCAA tournament for Michigan by hitting two key free throws with three seconds left in the game, Rumeal Robinson was also a second team All-American the following season. Robinson was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the 10th overall selection in the 1990 NBA Draft. He played six seasons in the NBA for six different teams, in seven different stints. He averaged over seven points and over three assists for his career but his time with the original Charlotte Hornets was his second shortest and least productive stretch with a team. After a few years with the Hawks he was sent to the New Jersey Nets where he played for a year before being shipped to the Charlotte Hornets as part of the Johnny Newman trade. He only played 14 games in Charlotte averaging 2.1 points and 1.3 assists.
10 Best: Dell Curry
Everybody is aware that Steph Curry's dad was in the NBA, but not everyone remembers that Dell Curry was one of the best players to ever play for the Charlotte Hornets. After starring at Virginia Tech and leading them to two trips to the NCAA tournament, Papa Curry was drafted in the first round with the 15th overall pick by the Utah Jazz. He played one season for the Jazz before being traded to the Cavaliers, and then he was selected in the expansion draft by the Charlotte Hornets in 1988. Curry ended up sticking with the Hornets for a decade, and was the last player from the first Hornets team to leave. During his time in Charlotte, Curry was their key man off the bench, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors in 1994 after coming close to it a number of previous times. Curry is one of the all time Hornets leaders in points and three pointers. He averaged 14 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting over 40% from three during his career in Charlotte.
9 Worst: Sidney Lowe
A member of the ultimate Cinderella story team, the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack, Sydney Lowe was the point guard and one of the team leaders for Jimmy Valvano's squad that upset Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwan’s Houston Cougars in the national championship game. After the thrilling finish to his career with the Wolfpack, Lowe was selected in the 1983 NBA Draft with the 25th overall pick in the second round by the Chicago Bulls. Lowe was shipped to the Indiana Pacers shortly thereafter. Lowe spent four seasons in the NBA bouncing between five different teams. His time with the Charlotte Hornets was short and unimpressive. Although he did dish out almost seven assists per game, he played only 14 games and averaged less than two points and just over two rebounds per contest.
8 Best: Larry Johnson
The University of Nevada Las Vegas basketball program hit its apex in 1990 under coach Jerry Tarkanian and his stars Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, and of course Larry Johnson, when they hammered the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA national championship game. The Runnin' Rebels looked to surpass that climax the following season as Johnson was named consensus All-American for the second straight year while winning both the Wooden Award and being named the Naismith Player of the Year in 1991. Unfortunately the Duke Blue Devils had other ideas and enacted their revenge in the Final Four ending UNLV’s season with a 34-1 record. Johnson moved on however, and was drafted with the first overall selection in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He proceeded to be named Rookie of the Year while averaging just under 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. He lasted five fantastic seasons in Charlotte scoring 19.6 points and grabbing 9.2 rebounds to go with 4.1 assists per game.
6 Worst: Rafael Addison
Following a four year career at the University of Syracuse where he helped the Orangemen to four NCAA tournament bids as well as a trip to the Sweet 16, Rafael Addison (Pictured Right) was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 39th overall selection in the 1986 NBA Draft. After one season with Phoenix he played four seasons in Italy before returning to the NBA with the New Jersey Nets in 1991. After another stint in Italy in 1993 he then played for the Detroit Pistons in 1994 and joined the Charlotte Hornets the following year for his final two seasons in the NBA. During his time in Charlotte he averaged 3.2 points and less than a rebound and an assist playing under 10 minutes per game.
5 Best: Alonzo Mourning
Alonzo Mourning established himself as a presence at Georgetown right away in his freshman year when he led the nation in blocked shots and the Hoyas advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. He was named consensus first-team All-American in 1992 and second team All-American in 1990 for the Hoyas while making the NCAA tournament all four of his years with the team. Mourning was drafted with the second overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets right after Shaquille O’Neal. He only played three seasons with the Hornets but he averaged over 21 points and just over 10 rebounds per game while leading them to the playoffs twice. When Mourning and the team were unable to agree on a contract extension he was traded to the Miami Heat. He continued his great career in Miami until kidney problems slowed him down. After successful kidney surgery and some time with the New Jersey Nets, Mourning returned to the Miami Heat to finish his career, winning a championship in 2006.
4 Worst: Earl Cureton
Despite playing his college basketball at Robert Morris University and the University of Detroit, Earl Cureton still managed to be notice by NBA scouts and was selected in the 1979 NBA Draft and carved out a 12 year career in the league. He began his time in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers who selected him in the third round with the 58th overall pick. He spent two years in Philly winning in NBA championship with the Dr J. and Moses Malone Sixers, before being shipped to Detroit in 1983. Cureton landed with the Charlotte Hornets in 1989 and played two seasons for them with a break in between where he played in Italy for a year. As a Hornet he scored six points while adding just under six rebounds per game.
3 Best: Muggsy Bogues
Despite being the shortest person to ever play in the NBA, Muggsy Bogues had an impressive career, spending 10 seasons with the Hornets in addition to five more seasons with Golden State, Toronto, and Washington. Bogues played his college hoops at Wake Forest where he ended his college career as the all-time leader in the ACC in both steals in the assists. Bogues was drafted in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets where he joined 7-foot-7 inch Manut Bol, putting the shortest and tallest players in the NBA on the same team. After one season in Washington he moved to Charlotte where his career took off. During his time in Charlotte Muggsy averaged 8.8 points AND 8.8 assists in addition to pulling down just under three rebounds per game. He also somehow blocked 39 shots in his career including one of Patrick Ewing.
1 Worst: Terry Dozier
Despite starring for four years at the University of South Carolina where he averaged over 13 points and over four assists during his time with the Gamecocks, Terry Dozier was not selected in the1989 NBA Draft. Dozier eventually got his shot at the NBA when the Charlotte Hornets signed him is an undrafted free-agent early in the 1989 season. He only ended up playing nine games for the Hornets before he was waived. His full statistical line in the NBA was 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game along with less than one assist, less than a steal, and less than a block in just over 10 minutes per game. He did manage to play professionally for an additional 12 years in Australia’s National Basketball League.
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