Hornets playoffs: Part 6 – Headband fever sparks longest playoff run in season of off-court turmoil in 2001

This is the sixth in a series on Charlotte’s previous NBA playoff seasons. Here’s a look at other stories in the 10-part series:
Part 1 – The Hive Is Alive as the Hornets win their first postseason series in 1993. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/hornets-playoffs-part-1-the-hive-is-alive-as-the-hornets-win-their-first-postseason-series-in-1993/

Charlotte Hornets head coach Paul Silas talks with Jamal Mashburn during a break in the action of a 2001 game. [hornets.com photo]
Part 2 – Homecourt no advantage against Michael Jordan’s late-season return in 1995. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/hornets-playoffs-part-2-homecourt-no-advantage-against-michael-jordans-late-season-return-in-1995/
Part 3 – Hard Ball runs into a motivated former Charlotte All-Star in 1997. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/hornets-playoffs-part-3-hard-ball-runs-into-a-motivated-former-charlotte-all-star-in-1997/
Part 4 – Hornets dispatch Hawks, hand “Last Dance” Bulls their first playoff loss in 1998. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/hornets-playoffs-part-4-hornets-dispatch-hawks-hand-last-dance-bulls-their-first-playoff-loss-in-1998/
Part 5 – Tragedy mars season, then Iverson too much to overcome in 2000 playoffs. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/hornets-playoffs-part-5-tragedy-mars-season-then-iverson-too-much-to-overcome-in-2000-playoffs/
Part 7 – Lame duck Hornets again advance to conference semifinals in 2002
Part 8 – Early season trade sparks expansion franchise into playoffs in 2010
Part 9 – First-year head coach, offseason free agent acquisition led to playoffs in 2014
Part 10 – Franchise snaps long postseason losing streak with 2016 postseason play

By Richard Walker

After losing in the first round in the 2000 NBA playoffs, the Hornets entered another offseason of uncertainty and impending change.

And on Aug. 1, 2000, the Hornets traded Eddie Jones, Anthony Mason, Ricky Davis and Dale Ellis to the Miami Heat for Jamal Mashburn, P.J. Brown, Otis Thorpe, Tim James and Rodney Buford.

The move was criticized by many at the time as it was perceived as the latest move in franchise history where a potential free agent – this time Eddie Jones – was traded away rather than signed to a long-term deal after being a Hornets’ All-Star; Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice were the others in the previous five years.

Only this time, with second-year guard Baron Davis improving all the time and with Mashburn and Brown in particular playing as if they had something to prove, the Hornets came out trade winners – especially when they swept the Heat later in the 2000-01 season.

Unfortunately, off the court issues were growing louder and louder – and eventually led to the franchise’s move out of town in 2002.

On the court, Charlotte started fast with 10 wins in November and December for a 20-11 mark at the turn of the new year.

But a January slump – 5-10 record – followed and Charlotte moved into the playoffs as a No. 6 in the Eastern Conference.

Silas and the players also were increasingly being swept up in the controversy over whether or not the team would stay in Charlotte.

On March 5, 2001, Charlotte City Council voted to hold a referendum on whether or not to build an uptown arena.

On March 26, 2001, the Hornets applied to the NBA to move to Memphis.

But the playoffs created a new breath of Hornets’ hysteria as Charlotte’s sweep of Miami coupled with players like Davis wearing a headband led to a fashion movement at home games.

Baron Davis sparked “Headband Fever” during the Charlotte Hornets’ 2001 playoff run. [hornets.com photo]
City leaders wore head bands. Minority owner Ray Wooldridge wore a head band. And many in the arena on April 27, 2001 also wore head bands when Charlotte completed a 3-0 sweep of the Heat.

Charlotte began the sweep with impressive 106-80 and 102-76 wins in the first games, respectively, at Miami.

In the clincher, the Hornets led 58-31 at the half before winning 94-79.

The controversy surrounding the team led Sports Illustrated to do a cover story entitled “A Week In The Life Of A NBA Playoff Team” during Charlotte’s playoff run that resumed in Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Hornets lost 104-92 and 91-90 in the first two games before Mashburn and Davis sparked Charlotte to wins in the next three games of the series.

Mashburn had 36 points in a 102-92 Game 3 victory as the headbands returned at home and 31 points in an 85-78 Game 4 victory at home.

In Game 5 in Milwaukee, Mashburn and Davis were dominant in the fourth quarter as the Hornets won 94-86 to end the Bucks’ 12-game home winning streak that dated to March.

One win away from clinching the franchise’s first conference final, a crowd of 23,509 (all of them given headbands entering the arena) delighted as Charlotte built a 48-33 lead late in the first half.

But Sam Cassell led a rally by scoring 20 of his 33 points in the second half and the Bucks rallied to take a 104-97 victory that forced a decisive seventh game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee three days later.

A 3 p.m. NBA on NBA nationally-televised tipoff started well for Charlotte as the Hornets led by eight points four different times in the first quarter.

But Milwaukee took the lead for good late in the third quarter and the Hornets got no closer than six points in the fourth quarter of a 104-95 loss that ended their season.

As bad as that was, the news got worse 16 days later when voters rejected a referendum to build a new arena – and the die was cast for the team’s move to New Orleans in the summer of 2002.


The 2001 Hornets
Record: 46-36 (6-4 in playoffs)
Head coach: Paul Silas
Top scorers: Jamal Mashburn 20.1, David Wesley 17.2, Baron Davis 13.8, Elden Campbell 13.1, Derrick Coleman 8.1
Top rebounders: P.J. Brown 9.3, Campbell 7.8, Mashburn 7.6, Coleman 5.4, Davis 5.0
Notes: Brown was named second team NBA All-Defense after the season ended. The Hornets set a franchise record with the most consistent starting lineup in history; They were able use guards Wesley and Davis, forwards Mashburn and Brown and center Campbell for 69 games (42-27 record). And Davis and Wesley started all 82 games.