Arguably the biggest sports story of Sunday was delivered by a team from Louisiana. A pro basketball squad that marched into Hollywood and shocked the two-time, defending World Champion Los Angeles Lakers 109-100 in the opening contest for both in the NBA playoffs.
All the big movie stars like Jack Nicholson were sitting courtside at Staples Arena while it happened. The game was on the front page of ESPN.com and certainly dominated Sportscenter highlights as well.
Yet, in a recent poll conducted by WAFB.com, 64 percent who voted said they "hardly ever" watch the team who pulled off the shocker on the West Coast. Welcome to the world of the New Orleans Hornets.
The result of the recent poll gave me mixed emotions, because I too have struggled with the Hornets' place in our Louisiana sports world. At times, I find myself getting a little annoyed with that 64 percent, finding their tone a bit arrogant and condescending. It's the ole' "I don't like pro sports" or "I like LSU and nothing else" small-minded mentality that some actually continued to embrace as the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl.
Yes, I know the state continues to subsidize Tom Benson and his Saints. And, I agree that's very hard to defend at this point. But, you can still cheer for the LSU Tigers and Southern Jaguars on Saturday and then do the same for the Saints on Sunday. In my opinion, that's the way it should be. There's room for everyone and that includes the Hornets. Do you have to watch them or spend a dime on a ticket? Of course not. But, to say naive things like "I hope they leave" is simply asinine.
In case you haven't noticed, LSU basketball and baseball are struggling lately. Isn't it nice to have as many sports options as possible? Even if many of those options fail and let you down, chances are ONE of them will make you feel good. And, the Hornets certainly did that to many people Sunday afternoon.
Yet at other times, I struggle with the NBA also. The season tips off around Halloween, in the heart of football season. It's simply a tough challenge to shift gears to basketball so quickly and the NBA season is likewise too long. With a marathon 82 game regular season, it's usually a total stretch to call any contest "a big game" or "must win."
And, I certainly can't stand the overpriced, guaranteed contracts of the players. They can give as little effort as they wish or nurse a small injury for as long as they want. They can run the league and likewise get coaches fired if they feel that coach is pushing or disciplining them too hard. And at the end of the day, the players can strut out of the arena with their headphones on without a care, knowing they'll get their millions no matter what. That's not to say all of them or even most of them do. But, they can.
However Sunday afternoon, I found myself glued to a pro basketball game. It might be late April, but it had the feeling of "March Madness." The Hornets were the Cinderella on this occasion. They indeed were suppose to be destroyed by superstar Kobe Bryant and his Lakers. The series was expected to be a joke, opening and closing faster than "Sex In The City 2."
Yet, there was Chris Paul looking like one of the best players in the world, because he is. CP3 dribbled and hopped around defenders as if they were standing still. He scorched and popped the nets for 33 points. He was Drew Brees, calmly leading the offensive attack and rifling passes to teammates for 14 assists. Did Chris Paul give his best all year? Was he sometimes disinterested? Does he have a wandering for another home like New York or Charlotte? I can't answer that. All I know, the guy we saw on Sunday was incredible and a joy to watch.