Here's the thing about remembering the best Bobcats game I ever attended: I don't remember many. Now, that may come as a surprise to some but, stop traffic, there haven't been that many. Yes, the Bobcats have made two glorious trips to the postseason, but they have yet to actually win a game so I can't really go with one of those games as the best. (Although I did have a Ned Beatty "Rudy" moment prior to Game 3 last season.) Playoff games are special. They're fantastic. But aside from them being great for the team, the actual games were deflating.
I recently wrote that the most memorable Bobcats game for me was the first one at the new arena. It was a win, it was in a shiny new arena and it was a Saturday night. It's weird because the Hornets were last here so long ago, but most Charlotte fans can still rip off four or five landmark games from the original Hornets run. Beating Michael Jordan and the Bulls on a Kurt Rambis tip in. Beating Charles Barkley on a called charge at the end of the game. Alonzo Mourning's shot from the top of the key to beat the Celtics in the playoffs. Easy. Not so easy for the Bobcats.
But it does seem right to pick a game from last season as the best I've ever attended. It was a transcendent year for the Bobcats, and the final one. After a decade of bumbling, losing, grumbling and boozing (fan's perspective), last season was quite refreshing.
The Bobcats had a brand new coach, a shiny new centerpiece and the knowledge that regardless of how the season played out, it was the last one as the Bobcats. That simultaneously evoked feelings of nostalgia and anticipation as the Hornets were set to return.
One game last year stuck out as the most entertaining and hope-filled I can ever remember. It featured a hometown hero who happens to be among the handful of NBA stars that even NBA stars would pay to see, and it was a Bobcat win.
It was a Monday night in December and the Bobcats were 9-11. The promise of early excitement had yet to really pay off as Al Jefferson fought through a nagging injury and slow start. Ben Gordon was still getting minutes. Charlotte was playing fine, but had lost some winnable games and looked horrid against the Pacers a week and a half prior...another game I saw in person from which I had just recovered.
As Steph Curry's star began to shine brighter, and his first All-Star campaign was getting underway at the beginning of last season, the Warriors were elevated from League Pass favorite to nearly must see TV. Certainly, Curry was someone you had to watch, and him being from Charlotte (with the always hopeful rumors floating that he may somehow end up playing for his hometown team) gave it that extra something.
But the young gun struggled a little early, allowing Charlotte to take a lead into the half. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson were both playing well, and newcomer Josh McRoberts (single tear) was having a nice game. The Bobcats led 53-41 at the break and all was pointing in the right direction for Charlotte fans.
As much as it looked like Curry was struggling with his shot, great players have a knack for producing even when you could swear they're having a bad game. It was one of those, "Curry has 20...25...30? He's not even having a good night" type of nights. He makes the offensive part of the game look so easy at times he lulls you, and the defense, to sleep.
Curry's 3-pointers started connecting in the second half, despite being only 5-16 for the game. His deep shots are so bombastic that each seems to carry extra weight. And when the diminutive frame of the young guard starts contorting in exaltation after a particularly sharp dagger from deep, you know you're watching something truly special.
To see one of the game's great shooters do his thing in person is amazing. But this is a Bobcats memory. And Kemba Walker was more than up for the challenge. Walker was pretty efficient on this night and his offensive game was about at its peak. The young point guard certainly didn't want to be outperformed in his town and fortunately for him his shot was falling. While Curry put up 32 shots, Walker attempted about half (18) but connected on better than 50 percent of them. He hit two of his five 3-pointers but really made hay at the free throw line, going 9-11 for the game and only turning the ball over twice.
Charlotte needed Walker's scoring on this night and he did not disappoint. He also chipped in five rebounds and five assists to go along with his 31 points. It wasn't quite Game 7 Bird vs Dominique, but it was pretty good.
Plus, it went down to the wire. Curry drilled a 28-foot 3-pointer to cut the lead to a bucket with eleven seconds to go. Walker was fouled and made both free throws to push the lead back to four. Curry couldn't connect on another three though, and after a David Lee bucket reduced the margin to two again, Walker went back to line and hit two more clutch freebies to seal the win.
It was a hard-fought game for both teams, and certainly the Warriors were seen as the better, more exciting, and more recognizable team at that point in the season. It was a great team win for Charlotte, but the game also had the back and forth between Curry and Walker, and excellent overall play. You throw that individual display from Curry and it was a very memorable game. I actually remember saying, "that was a very memorable game."
It was also the first time the Bobcats really looked like a team that might be different. After that game, the season had a little more promise. The Bobcats had taken a couple of haymakers from one of the league's best and come out on top. Better than that, they had fought back. This game showed signs of things to come, helped Walker get one big duel and win under his belt, and showed McRoberts (posting a double-double) could really help this team. Jefferson just missed out on his own double-double.
Where that ranks on your list of games in Bobcats history, I don't know. Honestly it probably seems like a pretty random selection. That game showed what that team had the potential to be and it featured a lot of great individual and collective performances. It was a glimpse of what could be and that looked pretty good. Hopefully for Hornets fans there will be a lot more of these games to come.
What was the most exciting game you ever went to? Share it as a FanPost!