Jefferson Named 10th on Hornets 30th Anniversary Team
By Sam Perley
No player contributed more to the then-Bobcats franchise-record 22-game turnaround between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons than veteran center Al Jefferson.
With nine seasons of NBA experience under his belt, Jefferson somewhat unexpectedly inked a three-year deal with Charlotte back in the summer of 2013. Utilizing one of the prettiest traditional post games of his era, Jefferson spun, pivoted, dipped and dunked his way to marks of 21.8 points on 50.9 percent shooting, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks over 73 outings his first year with the team.
Jefferson’s marvelous debut season in Charlotte – which also included Player of the Month Awards in both March and April of 2014 – helped pushed the organization to its first playoff appearance since 2010. He became the franchise’s first player to reach All-NBA status since Eddie Jones in 2000 by making the All-NBA Third Team, while also finishing eighth in the NBA MVP voting.
‘Big Al’ dealt with injuries over his next two seasons in Charlotte, but still managed to put up averages of 14.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks in 112 appearances (79 starts) from 2014-16. Jefferson and the Hornets returned to the playoffs again in 2016 and took the Miami Heat to seven games in the opening round, marking the first playoff wins since NBA basketball returned to the city in 2004.
Across three years in Charlotte, Jefferson averaged 17.5 points on 49.5 percent shooting, 8.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 185 regular season games (152 starts). He ranks sixth on the franchise’s all-time rebounds per game leaderboard, eighth in points per game and first in career defensive rebounding percentage (26.6 percent).
In an interview with Hornets.com in March of 2016, Jefferson spoke about being one of the primary faces of the franchise as it ushered in a new name, identity and culture across his tenure with the team.
“It means a lot. I’ve seen a lot since I’ve been here,” he said. “One of the reasons I signed was because I knew the type of player Kemba [Walker] could be and the pieces that they had here. To see these boys grow and to see this team grow, to see all that happen from when I first got here, it’s one of the highlights of my career – I know that. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Now 33 years old, Jefferson spent the last two NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers and recently signed a contract with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.