The Los Angeles Lakers have been a part of many significant dates in NBA history, reigning as one of the premier franchises. However, their game on March 8, 2006, turned out to be much more than a regular season affair.
They were on the road to face the New Orleans Hornets on a night that marked the return of professional sports to a city that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Sports have become a norm in today’s world, providing an outlet for people to get away from their troubles.
Whether following tragedy or capping off a celebration, sports have a way of bringing people together. The sellout crowd of 17,744 turned into an electric atmosphere, with a flurry of emotions filling the air.
The New Orleans Arena served as the first glimpse of hope in a recovery effort that began more than six months ago. The Lakers started off the game with Smush Parker, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Brian Cook, and Chris Mihm.
While the Hornets countered with Chris Paul, Kirk Snyder, Desmond Mason, David West, and P.J. Brown.
Former Hornets owner George Shinn was worried about the city providing an environment to host the game, but witnessed a jam-packed house that had lines out the door. An emotional pregame ceremony gave way to the Lakers taking a 28-24 lead at the end of the first quarter. That was extended to a six-point edge at halftime.
The Hornets began their comeback bid in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to five points going into the final quarter. With the score at 81-80, both teams went on their own runs in the final 12 minutes, turning it into a back-and-forth affair. H
owever, as the game reached its conclusion, Bryant shocked the entire crowd an demonstrated his MVP caliber abilities. He scored 18 of his 40 points in the fourth, as the Lakers emerged with a 113-107 victory.
Odom also had a huge night, scoring 18 points, to go along with 17 rebounds and six assists. Paul led the Hornets with 22 points, 10 assists and three steals. Turnovers turned out to be the key takeaway from the game, as the Hornets committed 13 mistakes that led to 27 points for the Lakers.
Although the Hornets suffered the loss, their city emerged with the win in the grand scheme of things.