Column: Pelicans shaking up the New Orleans sports scene



New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis reacts after making a 3-point shot during the first half of Game 4 of the team's first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in New Orleans, Saturday, April 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld)

Andrew Lang

It took almost 16 years for a city that bleeds black and gold to finally embrace the navy blue and red of the New Orleans Pelicans.

The New Orleans Pelicans completed their first sweep in franchise history against the Portland Trailblazers to move on to the second round of the playoffs, something that hasn’t happened since 2008. But this victory meant more than just another win. It brought back hope for a franchise long deprived of it.

The New Orleans Pelicans have seen countless setbacks in recent years. When All-Star DeMarcus Cousins went down with a torn Achilles tendon it just seemed like another lost year. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time the team was crippled by injuries.

How could we forget the seasons of nagging injuries to Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday missing over half of two seasons, Ryan Anderson battling against both the suicide of his girlfriend and a neck injury, and a Tyreke Evans also missing over half of two seasons? All of these players were supposed to improve Crescent City basketball.

Talking to Pelicans fans during those seasons was a challenge. There just seemed to aura of negativity be surrounding the team. Many fans, myself included, believed that what could go wrong always would. No lead was safe. No player would remain healthy. It seemed that this team and its fans would always seem irrelevant when compared to the powerhouse of local fan support and recent tradition of success that surround the New Orleans Saints.

Now, the Pelicans are playing better and have brought back some optimism to the fan base. They were able to battle through the major injury to Cousins. And, for right now, they seem to be the most important thing happening in New Orleans sports.

Basketball may never become New Orleans’ favorite sport. The basketball history the town has doesn’t lend itself to basketball being popular. From the old New Orleans Jazz moving to Utah to Chris Paul leaving, it always seemed like New Orleans was scared to get too attached to the Pelicans. After all, it seemed like all we ever heard from the national media was how All-Star Anthony Davis was eventually going to leave one way or another, taking his talents to Bean Town or the Windy City.

After this series sweep, it truly feels like a turning point for the franchise and for the fans. Anthony Davis has established himself a top-five player in the NBA and he is under contract for at least two more seasons. Holiday has also proven himself an elite two-way player.

But more important than that, the Pelicans’ success on the court has brought a renewed passion for this team to the fans. The two home playoff games against the Trailblazers were a sea of red. The fans were the loudest they’ve been all year. Every good play for the Pelicans during those games had the fans erupting. They believe in this team and they believe they can win, no matter who they are up against.

They’ll get a chance to bring that noise to the second round against the defending champions as the Pelicans are set to take on the Warriors. No matter what happens in the series with the Warriors, this team has brought back hope to the fans for a bright future for the New Orleans Pelicans and reignited a passion for basketball in this city. If the Pelicans can carry this success into future seasons, they’ll have the city behind them every step up of the way.