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NBA Finals: George Shinn wishes Thunder the best during NBA Finals

The former Hornets owner remembers how well the city and state treated his family and players while displaced by Hurricane Katrina
by Berry Tramel Published: June 8, 2012

George Shinn answered his phone with “hello,” and I responded with a hearty “George Shinn.”

Shinn trumped my enthusiasm.

Berry Tramel! I'd recognize that voice anywhere. How are you doing, my lad?”

Who else calls me lad? Ol' George never was one of the NBA's more sophisticated owners, but he always was on the high side of charm.

And that hasn't changed.

As Oklahoma City revels in the Thunder making the NBA Finals, an old friend chimed in congratulations.

Shinn, who brought his refugee Hornets here in 2005 for two memorable seasons that forever changed our city, sent a letter to The Oklahoman, saluting the “wonderful people” of Oklahoma, Thunder chairman Clay Bennett and his organization on reaching the Finals. We're printing the letter in this sports section.

Shinn took the Hornets back to New Orleans in summer 2007, then sold his beloved franchise in 2010 because of health (cancer) concerns and financial problems.

Bennett brought the Thunder here in summer 2008, and the Hornets quickly became a distant memory. But what fun they were. Shinn's Hornets provided great entertainment and a team that played hard, and we fell for this sport long before any of us ever had heard of Kevin Durant.

So it was good to chat with Shinn on Friday.

“You guys are very fortunate and very blessed,” Shinn said. “I couldn't be happier for you. I think it's just absolutely wonderful. Something I chased for over 20 years in my life, and I never even made it to the (conference) finals. It's tough. It's tough. So hats off to the boys from OKC.”

These days, Shinn splits his time between a home in Nashville, where his sons live, and Durango, Colo.

Says he doesn't really miss the NBA.

“I'm staying busy,” Shinn said. “I'm doing a lot of work trying to help people, doing a lot of speaking and preaching. I'm working with ministers.

“Going through this cancer scare, I'm healthy right now, thank God. The Lord had looked after me all these years. It's time for me to give back.”

But Shinn says he misses the people, and that includes Bennett, who over the years has been his business partner and fellow owner and sometimes adversary.

Bennett put together the corporate support that made the Hornets successful here. He tried to buy into the Hornets but never could reach agreement with Shinn – Bennett wanted at least 51 percent; Shinn offered nothing more than 49.

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by Berry Tramel
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 Oklahoman,...
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