Going from terrible to great requires some luck and some care, and the Charlotte Hornets had a bit of both in the early ‘90s. The years-old expansion team had been bad for a few years, but turned back-to-back top-two draft picks into Larry Johnson (1991) and Alonzo Mourning (1992) and instantly became a playoff team.
That tandem really could have helped lead Charlotte to the top of the Eastern Conference, if not further, but so many factors worked against them. Zo and LJ began to resent one another as the former surpassed the latter’s skill while the latter commanded the league’s biggest salary. Johnson suffered a series of back injuries that sapped his athleticism at a young age. Michael Jordan returned from his baseball-playing hiatus at exactly the wrong time for the best Hornets team ever. And a 1995 lockout pushed by Mourning’s agent helped the big man become an unrestricted free agent at a young age, spurring contract demands that Hornets leadership refused to meet.
Just a few years later, Johnson and Mourning found themselves in different jerseys, and engaged in a bizarre fistfight — key figures in a famously fierce Knicks-Heat rivalry that grew out of a whole other breakup between coach and team.
Watch the video above for the full Johnson-Mourning BEEF HISTORY.