International Hornets Fan Series: Say Hello to James Plowright AKA “British Buzz”

When it comes to choosing a particular sports fandom, sometimes it’s simply determined by where one is born. Or maybe it’s passed on from one generation to the next. For James Plowright, it came down to the limited apparel choices at a Reebok store in Alabama way back in 2006.

“They had two jerseys – a LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers jersey or an Adam Morrison Charlotte Bobcats jersey,” he said. “One of my friends started a basketball team at school before going on to play Division III in the US. He got me into it and when I went on holiday to America I was determined to buy a basketball jersey.”

“Charlotte had just remerged as an up-and-coming new team after moving away. It fit quite well as I was also new to the sport and I’ve always been someone who likes to root for an underdog. I knew who LeBron James, was but buying his jersey seemed boring to me, I had no idea who the Charlotte Bobcats were or who Adam Morrison was. I wanted to go for something new and it just snowballed from there, I guess.”

Plowright isn’t any ordinary fan though, but rather part of a growing contingent of Hornets followers from outside the United States and North America. Long known on Twitter as @BritishBuzz, the Manchester, England native’s fateful decision upon entering that one Reebok store has kicked off a lifelong devotion (and borderline obsession) with the Charlotte Hornets.

“I used to listen to the games on the radio with Steve Martin before League Pass was a thing. I watched grainy streams online and when League Pass became a thing, that really helped. That’s kind of my route to here, really. I’ve written for various websites over the years about the team and stuff like that more during school and university. When the working world happened, it’s a lot harder to stay up until four in the morning watching basketball on a regular basis.”

Despite the five-hour time difference, Plowright says he watches all the Hornets home games and most of the East Coast games. For ones out west, he catches up the next day on League Pass while turning on the blinders to social media.

“I have to try and go the day without checking Twitter, Facebook or anything to get the score,” he said. “I’m one of those people that as soon as I see the score, I find it hard to watch the game. If I know we lost by 20, I find it hard to sit through and watch the hope go and fade away.”

Now going on 15 years of following the team, Plowright has accumulated a large number of favorite team memories from afar, although a couple in particular resonate above the others.

“I think two stick out. A triple overtime win over the Lakers at Staples Center back in 2006. That was one because at school, one of my good friends was a big Lakers fan. So, I set my alarm for like 3:30 AM and was begging the game to end, but it kept going to overtime and I had school in like an hour and a half. Miracle After Midnight in Sacramento is another game. Troy Daniels hitting that three sticks with me.”

Plowright recently attended his first Hornets game in person, taking in the team’s New Year’s Eve Day matinée contest against Kemba Walker and the visiting Boston Celtics. After tuning into countless games from roughly 4,000 miles away, being up close was a “surreal” experience for the long-time fan.

“I always said that my first [game] would be the first playoff game. I said no matter when that is, I will go to that. Problem was, the first playoff game [in 2010], fell right in between my exams at school and I knew I couldn’t go. It’s been a long time coming. Fifteen years or so I’ve been waiting for this. It’s a bit surreal to be here, but very exciting.”

The game was part of a larger trip Plowright and his girlfriend, Jess, took to the United States over New Year’s, which included stops in New York City and Asheville. Thanks to long-standing connections on Hornets and NBA Twitter, the couple got plenty of guidance via social media on what to check out while on vacation.

“Me and my girlfriend have never been to New York, so that was amazing seeing all the sights there. Then we went to Asheville, the mountains and took some nice walks there. The hospitality – everyone has just been so nice. Random people were buying us drinks in New York and drinks in New York are not cheap! In Asheville, we were just chatting with some of the guests in the same accommodations who were really nice and gave us recommendations. I’ve been over here and the Hornets twitter community has been tweeting me recommendations which has made this trip feel one of a kind. A small part of me really does feel like I’m from North Carolina!”

Like a majority of other Hornets and basketball fans abroad, social media has had a huge hand in uniting various people from all different backgrounds and nationalities.

“I’m pretty much on an island (literally), which is why I think social media is so important. It enables you to connect the fans who are like minded to you. My ability to connect with people and share experiences like the NBA Draft, free agency, first game of the season, which was crazy this year because of Devonte’ and PJ going off. It used to be forums back in the day like ‘Bobcats Planet’ and then there was a chatroom on Hornets.com. That’s obviously disappeared and NBA Twitter is the thing that kind of exists. That’s just so important to connect.”

Oddly enough, Plowright’s fandom for the Hornets has trickled into other local sports, including the Carolina Panthers, who recently played a regular season game in London this past October for the first time ever.

“I’ve never been a huge fan of the NFL, but I watched Amazon’s All or Nothing series and have started catching some games here and there,” he admitted. “It’s a lot of the same people on social media I’m already connected with. I see them tweet about the NFL and I’m thinking I kind of want to know what they’re talking about and stuff like that. I’ve just become a Carolina fan in general. For college basketball, I support Duke and UNC, which I know is probably a weird thing. I just saw the MLS announcement, which is really cool and exciting. That’ll be interesting to see how that works in the city as well. I’m a big soccer fan back in England as well. I support Manchester United and follow it really closely as well. It’ll be cool to see Charlotte adopt soccer and how that kind of links with people.”

It’s funny how small, seemingly trivial decisions in life can take a person down a path they never envisioned traveling. Buying that jersey (which Plowright still owns and brought to Charlotte last month) has brought with it a multitude of new memories, friends, connections and experiences. The power and influence of what sports are capable of achieving is very real, and for James Plowright, it’s certainly been life-changing to say the least.