Berry Tramel: George Shinn showed OKC how fun NBA could be

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 5, 2010 at 7:58 am •  Published: May 5, 2010

George Shinn is leaving the NBA. Prostate cancer is doing what Clay Bennett failed to do. Convince Shinn to sell his beloved New Orleans Hornets.

Shinn is expected to announce this week an agreement to sell his majority share of the Hornets to partner Gary Chouest, a Louisiana businessman.

Shinn is going to miss the NBA, but the NBA is going to miss Shinn more.

Who would ever think that possible? Who would think that a rascal like Shinn, a thorn in David Stern's side for all kinds of indiscretions, would be good for the league?

But Shinn made things fun. We know that well in OKC.

Shinn didn't bring the NBA to Oklahoma City; Oklahoma City brought the NBA to Oklahoma City. Shinn and his Hornets were floating refugees in September 2005, when this remarkable story started.

But Shinn showed us how much fun pro basketball could be. His Hornets, not always a winner on the court in any of their three homes and not always a winner at the box office in Charlotte or New Orleans, always were an entertainment winner.

Shinn showed Oklahomans that a night in an NBA arena was a night of merriment, no matter the score. From Hugo to the Honeybees to the video-screen antics, the Hornets provided a big bang for the mighty big bucks required of an NBA ticket.

Oklahomans had a fair amount of access to baseball's pastoral charms and the NFL's Roman Coliseum violence. But few of us had spent any appreciable time watching the NBA live.

The competition was good. The entertainment was better. Your 5-year-old, your grandmother, your wife who didn't know the difference between Moochie Norris and Chuck Norris, they all fell for the show and clamored to get to the Ford Center on winter nights.

Shinn, a poor boy made good, is unlike other NBA owners. He's completely unsophisticated. But that blueblood deficiency gives him empathy with the paying customer; he believes in sending the masses home happy.

Game presentation, the NBA calls it, and the Hornets set a high standard that the Thunder had no choice but to match.

Shinn delighted in his two years sitting courtside at the Ford Center and reveling in his dumb luck of finding another Charlotte, where his early Hornets were the toast of the league for their packed crowds and unbridled enthusiasm.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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