Al Jefferson is back in town, but this time he won’t be wearing a Charlotte Hornets uniform. Big Al comes back wearing an Indiana Pacers uni, and as sad as that makes some of us we all realized this day may one day come. Luckily, we can spend time remembering Jefferson and everything he did in his short stay with Charlotte.
What is your favorite Al Jefferson memory?
Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) - His performance against LeBron James and the Miami Heat when LeBron scored 61. The headline from the game was LeBron’s 61, but not many people remember Jefferson’s 38 points and 19 rebounds that pushed LeBron to score as much as he did. Without that performance it’s very possible the Heat don’t win. Big Al pushed them as far as he could.
Russell Varner (@rvarner) - Speaking with him at the 2014 media day. I have never met a more light-hearted, easy going player who was more than willing to open up to a group of bloggers when most players seemed to just be going through the motions when speaking with us. His sense of humor shined that day, and solidified him as one of my favorite players in the Association today.
A close second is anytime he got the ball in the down low and unleashed any of his limitless post moves, such as any of these:
Tucker Warner (@twarner50) - Believe it or not, Chris actually took my answer (I recapped that game many years ago), so I’ll be less specific and say that I’ll always remember Jefferson’s steady presence in the lineup. Say what you will about his defensive ability, but his effort was always there on both ends of the court, and he was a safe bet for an 18 and 9 performance every single night. That’s something that was rare in the NBA during Jefferson’s heyday.
Nick Denning (@nickdenning) - I’ll always remember his dominate game against the Indiana Pacers on March 5th, 2014. He finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Statistically, it wasn’t his best performance that season, but he managed to dominate a Pacers team that went 56-26 and made it to the Eastern Conference finals. It was a statement game of sorts, because it legitimized Jefferson’s play that season, and was also the start of what would be the most dominant month of his career (he’d go on to win player of the month). The Pacers had zero answer for him, and he capped it off by banking a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that served as a slap in the face. As we liked to say, he ate his fair share that night, and put the rest of the league on notice.
If you’d like to relive the game, here it is:
Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) - My answer is simple: seeing Al Jefferson thrive again. Not that he was bad in Utah, but in Charlotte he was finally past his ACL injury and was a key part of their return to the playoffs. The interview he gave where he talked about how he overthinks on defense was great because of his candidness too. Not many players are that honest about their own limitations.
What does Al Jefferson mean to you as a Hornets blogger/fan?
Chris - He made the franchise relevant again. This franchise was the most forgotten, least cared about, team across the entire league before Jefferson showed up. Once he did the franchise finally started winning games, and his All-NBA season gave Charlotte a recognizable face they could sell. Jefferson is largely responsible for bringing Charlotte out of the dark days of basketball.
Russell - He helped save professional basketball in this city. On top of everything Chris said, he proved that Charlotte can be a destination for even top level NBA free agents, something which many were skeptical of beforehand. He gave the city a legitimate stud and, along with Kemba Walker, the best basketball duo the city had seen since at least the days of Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn. Without Al Jefferson, I don’t know if the Hornets are here today.
Tucker - Al Jefferson was what gave the Bobcats/Hornets legitimacy in the eyes of the league. The Bobcats years were mostly a punchline (even the playoff appearance in Gerald Wallace’s best year was mostly perceived as a fluke), and one that only got worse during the years before Jefferson’s signing. As I’m sure you can all remember, the Bobcats once had a season where they only won seven games. Two years later, they signed Al Jefferson and made the playoffs with a winning record. It’s one of the most impressive turnarounds in sports history, and it was only possible because of Jefferson.
Nick - I echo everyone else. He legitimized the franchise. He had his choice of teams, and he chose Charlotte. His role made sense, but he took a big gamble signing for a team that had won just 21 games the season before, and ya know, was the freaking Bobcats, the team that was either not talked about, or referred to as the Hornets when they were. At the time, it seemed like a strange move for both sides, but let’s be clear -- Jefferson was the foundation for where the team is now, and on top of the talent he brought, he helped shape the culture of the locker room. He helped make it a place others wanted to play, so it can’t be understated how important he was for the franchise the past three years, and why they should continue to be a strong organization for years to come.
Derek - To me, Jefferson is emblematic of two eras of Charlotte basketball. The first being the transition from NBA laughingstock into a playoff team and whatever new era we’re transitioning into now. Jefferson loved Charlotte and the Hornets likely would have kept them if they weren’t looking to go in another direction.
In honor of Al Jefferson: Best fried chicken place?
Chris - The answer is Popeyes and I will accept nothing else.
Russell - So many lies you speak, Chris. The correct answer is Bojangles, though I have been told I need to go to Price’s Chicken Coop as soon as humanly possible.
Tucker - That would be Popeyes, and I will accept no substitutes. (Bojangles is good too, but I’m taking a hardline stance here.)
Nick - Chris will fire Russell and me for this, but it’s Bojangles. (Editor's note: I’ve fired you for much less)
Derek- It’s so hard to screw up fried chicken, seriously. The fast food places y’all mentioned aren’t terrible answers. I’m glad no one said KFC, though. Unless we’re sponsored by them; in which case that’s my answer.
But there’s this awesome restaurant in Minneapolis called “Lake and Irving” that serves the best chicken and waffles I’ve had yet. That’s probably my favorite fried chicken. Now, I know what you North Carolinians are thinking: “Fried chicken in the North? Shut up, Derek.” It’s actually great and Big Al himself has probably tried it.