When Chris Paul came from behind to overtake Houstons Tracy McGrady and earn a starting spot in the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, ballots that had been cast in NBA arenas were a significant factor in helping Paul erase a 100,000-vote deficit. Its unlikely that anyone supported the push to make CP3 a Western Conference starter more than a pair of brothers from New Orleans, 13-year-old Ragene Barrett, and 15-year-old Ryan Turner. The siblings combined to fill out a staggering total of 15,700 ballots, voting for the Hornets 6-foot point guard each time.
I voted for Chris because I think hes going to be the MVP this season, Ragene said. So he should start in the All-Star Game. I was mad when I heard that he probably wasnt going to (get voted in), because I know hes the best point guard in the league. We tried to help him out as much as we could.
On Jan. 26, about two hours prior to the teams home game against Philadelphia, Ragene and Ryan got to meet their favorite player, along with several other Hornets players.
I really appreciate what you guys did, a smiling Paul told the brothers upon meeting them on the New Orleans Arena court. If I could take you with me to Phoenix for the All-Star Game, I would.
As a thank-you gift, Paul gave the teenagers a pair of his sneakers that hed worn in a previous game this season. David West, Peja Stojakovic and Rasual Butler also gave their sneakers to the boys, who proudly toted the footwear around during their behind-the-scenes tour of the Hive. Ragene and Ryan also met Ryan Bowen, Hilton Armstrong and Melvin Ely in the locker room.
How many times did you write my name in? jokingly asked Bowen, whose name was not on the ballot.
Other than meeting the players, perhaps the most exciting highlight of their tour for the youngsters were the Hornets No. 3 jerseys they were given as part of the prize package for taking first place. Ragene didnt waste any time trying on his new Chris Paul jersey, immediately putting it on as he toured the arena.
It feels cool, Ragene said of wearing his Creole blue Hornets road jersey. I feel like Im in the NBA right now.
Hes been contracted to create computer desktop wallpapers for Chris Pauls official website. Hes done technical work and designed websites for several other NBA players, including former New Orleans All-Star center Jamaal Magloire and LSU product Tyrus Thomas.
But Dariusz Ejkiewicz isnt an employee of some high-tech, highly-visible U.S. mega-corporation. Matter of fact, hes never even been to America (though he hopes to visit someday). Ejkiewicz is merely a 23-year-old basketball fan, who loves the Hornets. He lives in Poland, where hes a college student majoring in design.
A Hornets fan since 1993, Ejkiewicz started designing Hornets-themed wallpapers during the teams surprising 01 playoff run to the conference semifinals. Eight years later, he has designed over 1,300 of the items and become well-known for his work, with basketball fans all over the world glimpsing his designs on the Internet.
It started as a small passion, Ejkiewicz says. But now I get so much positive feedback from fans in America. Thanks to that, I managed to get into contact with some players companies. It all started with one wallpaper about the Hornets. At the time, I never wouldve expected that an NBA player would ever see my wallpapers or comment on how much they like them.
Ejkiewicz became an avid Hornets fan at age 7, after his mother bought him a hat with the popular teal and purple Hugo the Hornet logo. Initially, only about one Hornets game every three years was televised in Poland, but now fans like Ejkiewicz have access to all games through the Internet and satellite TV.
Ejkiewicz attended the Hornets 2008 preseason games in Europe. Although he lives on another continent, Ejkiewicz regularly receives team memorabilia in the mail from appreciative Hornets fans living in the U.S., especially those based in the Big Easy.
People in New Orleans have sent me signed posters, Hornets beads from Mardi Gras, T-shirts from the 2008 playoffs, the CP3 MVP T-shirt, Ejkiewicz lists during a March phone call from Poland. There was also a group of fans who went to the airport after a road game last season and had Ryan Bowen autograph one of my posters. Hornets fans in New Orleans have been great to me.
Win or lose, you can often count on Cherese Oatis to provide her unique perspective after Hornets games on SwarmCity.com. The Metairie resident quickly established herself this season as the most prolific user of Hornets.coms new social network, posting more than 50 personal postgame videos and writing frequent opinionated blogs about the Hornets.
And no, I dont have a life, jokes Oatis, who in reality is employed and also serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the girls basketball team at East Jefferson High, where she graduated in 2007. In between, she tries to squeeze in as many trips as possible to the New Orleans Arena, to watch her favorite team.
I just believe that fans play a part in how a team plays and I would love to motivate more people to support the Hornets and be a fan like me, Oatis says, explaining her devotion to the team. I like to show people my love for the Hornets, so that maybe theyll say, Hey, why does she love the Hornets so much? They must be good, so lets check them out.
I also like to tell my friends and family that I made a new video on SwarmCity.com and for them to go watch it.
Oatis has played basketball since her childhood in New Orleans, and began following the Hornets in 2002, the year they moved to the Big Easy.
Ive been a fan ever since they came down from Charlotte, she says. But I really didnt get active until the 2006-07 year. I fell in love with the Hornets during the Chris Paul Era.
The New Orleans Superbees
After enjoying costumed New Orleans Saints fans such as Holy Moses and Mr. Saint bring their unique and memorable flair to football games in the Superdome, Frank Scandurro and Rhett OKeefe had an idea: Why not try the same thing at Hornets home games in the New Orleans Arena?
Just like that, the New Orleans Superbees were born.
We noticed the people who dress up for Saints games, Scandurro says. We wanted to give that to the Hornets organization and the rest of the fans. We decided that the best way to do that would be to create a Superbee costume.
As a result, the two friends whose Superbees attire always includes Chris Paul road jerseys, gold Umbro shorts, purple baseball socks, CP3 headbands, Hornets wristbands and superhero capes for every home game are now among the most recognizable fans in the Hive.
At every game we have people who come up to us and scream, Hey Superbees! and high-five us, Scandurro says. Most fans that go to the majority of the games know of us by now. We have actually been recognized outside of the games not in costume as well.
Scandurro and OKeefe have appeared on the BuzzVision video screen repeatedly throughout the season, including joining Big Easy Balcony MC Brittany in handling the lead-in to the Hornets lineup introductions (Crescent City, are you ready? Its game time!).
Although it may take a few more seasons before the Superbees become as iconic as their football counterparts like Holy Moses, Scandurro says about four out of every five of his fellow fans shows appreciation for the duo.
The reaction is 80 (percent positive) and 20 (percent negative), Scandurro says. Eighty percent of the people say they love it and thank us for having such great spirit. They always ask to hear the story of how it came about.
Others say they dont like it, Scandurro continues, before joking, but we know that this is just pure jealousy.
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