It’s our birthday!
That’s right, At The Hive is celebrating its 8th year since joining SB Nation, and its 10th since its inception.
I realized that some of our newer readers might not know the history of the site and just how far its come since its inception, so I reached out to David Arnott and Ben Swanson to help me reconstruct how it happened.
Let’s get to it!
How did Rufus On Fire come to be?
David: I moved to Charlotte in summer 2007 and was not an NBA fan at all. I'd only ever been to one NBA game in person, so, that fall, when some new co-workers suggested we go to Bobcats games, I figured it was worth it for the novelty alone.
After a couple games, however, I started developing an affinity for the team. Emeka Okafor! Raymond Felton! Gerald Wallace! As soon as I started developing strong opinions about the team, I felt compelled to write and publish them. I was certainly aware of Queen City Hoops and Bobcats Planet as the most prominent Bobcats blogs/fan sites at that time, and figured there was room for more voices.
Ben: I think it was probably at some point between 2007 and 2008 (that I first found the site). The Sam Vincent season was frustrating after what progress the team had made and then when a proven coach like Larry Brown was hired after that, it really injected some excitement. I had probably visited RoF before Brown's hiring, but that first season was when I really began commenting and participating.
How did Rufus on Fire get its name?
David: As I recall, the name came about from a morning brainstorming session in the Sporting News office with my friend, Brent (who ended up being the biggest Jared Dudley fan on the planet). We were throwing blog names around, and none of them seemed all that great.
But then we got to talking about how much we both loved the mascot, Rufus, so maybe the name should be a play on his name. We may or may not have started with Raise The Rufus before striking Rufus On Fire. It just seemed right, and the whole process, from start of conversation to me setting up the first version of the blog, took about 15 minutes.
What did you see the site becoming?
David: I aspired for Rufus On Fire to be like the best baseball blogs I was reading in 2007. Even though I’m a Giants fan and still love McCovey Chronicles, USS Mariner was probably my strongest influence. I wanted the site to be intelligent, first and foremost. I’ve never liked sports writing that assumed the audience is unthinking, so I wanted any site I ran to challenge and inform readers.
At the same time, it’s basketball. There’s always room for whimsy.
At the very start, I felt like I was writing for Brent and my non-Bobcats fan friends in the Sporting News office — I’ve looked at early posts and gotten flashbacks to the conversations that sparked them.
When the site was independent in those early months, there were strangers visiting and commenting, but it took on a whole new dimension once the site shifted to SB Nation because of the FanPosts and FanShots, and, eventually, because commenting on game threads developed into its own separate sport.
I think over the years, while I didn’t change my opinions based on the audience, I certainly changed how I invited conversation and participation.
Any memories from the early days of the site?
Ben: That first playoff push was a lot of fun, especially with the small, devoted community we had — folks like Andrew Lail and Bruce Barker were fun to follow the games with. Also, trying to get Gerald Wallace into the All-Star game was a blast. I think David made a song, if I remember correctly.
David: I can’t pick a favorite, so I’ll just throw out the four moments that pop into my head when I think about running the site. One, bumping into Boris Diaw in Freedom Park. Two, making the Bobcats Song video. Three, the basketball fiction contest. Four, being completely spent after this game but still rushing home to write a recap. If you know where to look, you can spot me in the lower left hand corner.
How and why did the site transition from David to Ben?
David: My departure was rushed because it was unplanned. One day, I was called into a meeting at work where I was told I’d get to do a lot more writing for Sporting News. But I immediately realized that would preclude me from continuing with Rufus On Fire.
I sent a message to SB Nation about it, having already identified Ben Swanson as the person I thought would be best to take over, if he was willing. Thankfully, he was up for it, and within a week, Ben was in charge.
Ben: David had approached me over email or Facebook about it. I was thrilled at the opportunity, to say the least. At that time, I was blogging with some friends at Bobcats Baseline and also doing a weekly post with the Bobcats' site itself, but to be able to do it every day was a chance to do a little more than just analysis.
When we transitioned the site, I believe it was over the All-Star Break of 2011. I was just a sophomore in college. I didn't really have much a social life aside from school, so I didn't think the time commitment would be a huge deal, but it did knock me on my ass, especially the 10:30 p.m. ET tipoffs. Over the next couple years at Chapel Hill, my time management was really out of whack. I did game previews in my 9 a.m. media communications class and wrote breaking news whenever I had the chance, which was often in other classes or between classes. It didn't take me too long to realize I'd need help. After reaching out to interested basketball-minded aspiring writers, things got a bit smoother.
Josh: Ben and I had been talking on Twitter for a few months and one day he unexpectedly asked me if I wanted to join the site. I believe Connor Huchton came on board at the same time, and we eventually added other writers like Seerat Sohi and Dakota Schmidt. It was surprisingly difficult to find local writers in the early days.
Ben and I were both studying journalism at the time and I’d just begun to dabble in sportswriting. It seemed like a good opportunity to grow with someone I liked and I took it. I hadn’t even spoke to David until a couple of months after I started.
Ben: One of the things I always enjoyed doing with the site was making things a bit goofier. Of course, there are times when sports are serious and earnest analysis or conversation is needed, but I did want to add some levity where I could, which was often in the game previews.
The raps with Christian Smith were always ridiculous and weird, and the Microsoft paint doodles had the same inane purpose. I also have fond memories of doing a time-traveling gamer of the 2006 triple-OT Bobcats-Lakers game.
Josh: Ben actually brought a burnt DVD of that game to Toronto in 2012 and we watched it the first night. Kobe scored 58.
How and why did the site transition from Ben to Josh?
Ben: I left when I got a job with the Denver Broncos in the summer of 2014. I turned the site over to Josh as the new managing editor, and it's gone better than I could ever imagine.
Josh: Ben had just graduated and was looking for a job. He asked if I wanted to run the site and I said yes. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I quickly got the hang of it. Ben was very helpful in the early weeks.
Did you foresee At The Hive becoming what it is today?
David: I definitely did not see At The Hive growing into what it is today.
At the start, I thought the site would be something interesting for a dozen people, at most, and I’d get to share some thoughts about basketball and the Bobcats that might one day lead to better writing gigs.
If I was really lucky, I figured, I might get to nerd out over email with the good folks at Ball Don’t Lie. I’m proud to have handed off the site to a line of talented people who have made it a home for the Hornets’ most passionate fans.
Ben: I mean, from where it was when I first began commenting, no way. The advances that SB Nation's platform has had since that time are immense and have helped build its infrastructure to where it's at now.
From where it was when I left, I kind of saw where things were heading but I don't think I had the time between my other jobs to make that happen. I had a lot of hopes for other media inclusions, like video (we did Google Hangouts or whatever on draft night) and a podcast, but I really didn't have the equipment to do either of those. And now, the addition of a great podcast with Locked On Hornets is huge. And the breadth of articles is now much wider than At The Hive or Rufus on Fire ever had. The site has made remarkable strides as the leading Hornets blog.
Josh: It’s still pretty crazy to me how big the site has become.
It’s been a wild ride. A lot of learning, a lot of trying new things.
How do you feel about this year’s Hornets team?
David: I haven’t been able to watch many games this year (I’ve got a two-year-old, I start work at 5:30 a.m., yada yada yada, excuses excuses…), but what little I’ve seen reinforces the notion that a team like the Hornets, that I believe has been thoughtfully and cleverly constructed, has no room for error if it wants to contend for a title against teams that have one superstar and are equally cleverly-constructed, or have two or more such stars.
Are we going to say the Raptors are the best-possible version of this kind of team? They’re — what? — the sixth-best team in the league? Be disappointed all you want that neither Zeller nor Kaminsky has turned into a superstar on the current roster, but those picks have turned out about as well as could be expected given what was known when they were made.
My plan, as a fan, is to be excited about having a very good team to watch, even though I know their odds of beating one of those top six teams in a seven-game series is VERY low, and to trust Rich Cho knows what he’s doing and will roll the dice for a superstar in the draft when the right opportunity arises.
Ben: This season has been up and down. The team had a great start and is still above .500 in the middle of the East's top eight, but I'd really like to see them close out the teams they should close out, like the Pistons the other night or the Nets a week or two ago. That's not the most trenchant analysis, but it's a bit concerning to see them have to play the Nets tough.
I'd like to see the Hornets do something they have never done in 27 seasons: win the division. They're a half game back of the Hawks right now, and the Hawks seem to be preparing for a rebuild. I'd of course like to see them achieve more than just winning the division, but I think if they can shape up and cement themselves as the Southeast's top team, it could position them for some success in the playoffs.