Professional Basketball in Charlotte: Best Single Season Performance

by Frank S. Collins

The city of Charlotte has witnessed several great single-season performances during the tenure of the city's three professional basketball teams. 

Gerald Wallace's acrobatics have provided the highlight reel for several of the Bobcats' first five seasons. At the same time, Emeka Okafor has averaged double-digit rebounds and between 13 and 15 points per game in each of his five seasons.

One could debate that the best single season performance by a Charlotte Bobcat was provided by Jason Richardson during the 2007-2008 season when he averaged 21.8 points per game. 

Local fans know the best is yet to come for the Bobcats. With Larry Brown at the helm and several talented players on board, the Bobcats are moving in the right direction.  The anticipated acquisition of a shooting guard next season by draft, free agency, or trade could produce the player who will arise as the Bobcats single-season leader in the near future.

Charlotte's other two professional basketball teams have featured players with very impressive numbers. Several Cougars and Hornets are strong candidates for the city's best single-season performance.

The Charlotte Hornets played in Charlotte from 1988 to 2002.  When you think of the Hornets, the names that typically come to mind are Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, and Muggsy Bogues. 

During the 1992-1993 season, Johnson and Mourning had their best seasons.  Larry Johnson averaged 22.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and Alonzo Mourning averaged 21 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Mourning also averaged roughly same numbers the next two seasons.

Bob Bass was a genius as a General Manager. Each time Charlotte faced losing their stars (Mourning, Johnson, etc.), Bass was able to trade them for equally talented players. 

In a multi-player trade Alonzo Mourning was swapped for Glen Rice. 

During the 1996-1997 season, Glen Rice finished third in the league in points per game (26.8) behind Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. He led the league in three point field goal percentage (47 percent), and finished third in three pointers made. 

Rice also played in all 82 games, while leading the league in minutes played. During the All-Star game Glen Rice scored 26 points and was named MVP. He also earned a spot on the All-NBA 2nd team.

After warming up the first two months of the season, Glen Rice really took off. From Dec. 30, 1996, to the end of the season (54 games), Rice scored 40 or more points in seven games, 33-39 points in fifteen games, and only scored below 20 points in four games. He averaged nearly 30 points per game during this span.

In later seasons, Eddie Jones, Jamaal Mashburn, and Baron Davis produced impressive stats, but they did not approach what Rice accomplished in the 1996-1997 season.

The Carolina Cougars played roughly a third of their season's home games in Charlotte from 1969 to 1974. Charlotte shared the team with Greensboro, Raleigh, and other cities. 

The Cougars were led by Bob Verga in 1969. Verga finished second in the league in scoring at 27.5 points per game and earned a spot on the all-ABA first team that season. 

Two years later another Cougar started off the season with impressive numbers. Jim McDaniels was averaging 26.8 points and 14 rebounds a game after playing 58 games. 

However, during a push to make the playoffs, McDaniels quit the team and signed with Seattle of the NBA. 

During the 1972-1973 season Larry Brown took over as coach of the Cougars and brought Billy Cunningham to the team from the NBA. 

Cunningham averaged 24.1 points, 12 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game during this season for the Cougars. 

He finished fourth in the league in scoring, led the league in steals, was fifth in rebounds, third in assists, and was named the MVP of the ABA. The Cougars had the best record in the ABA during the 1972-1973 season. 

When deciding who had the best single season of professional basketball in Charlotte note that Billy Cunningham and the Cougars only played 13 of their 42 home games in Charlotte during the 1972-1973 season. The team played more home games in Greensboro. Should this be considered?

Who would you pick: Billy Cunningham, Glen Rice, or another star who played in Charlotte?


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