New Orleans Pelicans (NBA)

International Players, 2023-24 Season

Dyson DanielsGuardAustralia2023-24Bendigo, Australia
Jonas ValanciunasCenterLithuania2023-24Utena, Lithuania

New Orleans Pelicans Team History

The New Orleans Pelicans, established in 2002, have undergone significant changes and achieved notable milestones throughout their history. Originally known as the New Orleans Hornets, the team has seen contributions from a variety of players, including several internationally born athletes who have left their mark on the franchise.

Early Years and Development

The New Orleans Hornets were formed in 2002 after the relocation of the Charlotte Hornets. The team quickly became a staple in New Orleans sports culture. However, in 2005, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina forced the team to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City for two seasons, where they played as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

Peja Stojaković and Early Success

During the early years, the team saw the addition of Serbian sharpshooter Peja Stojaković in 2006. His exceptional three-point shooting helped lead the team to a successful 2007-08 season, where they reached the Western Conference Semifinals. Stojaković’s presence was a significant boost, showcasing the impact of international talent on the team’s performance.

Return to New Orleans and Rebranding

In 2007, the Hornets returned to New Orleans, continuing to build their roster and fan base. The franchise underwent a major rebranding in 2013, changing its name to the New Orleans Pelicans. This change symbolized a new era for the team, aligning more closely with the local culture and heritage, as the pelican is Louisiana’s state bird.

French center Alexis Ajinça joined the team in 2013, providing valuable depth and defensive prowess. His contributions were essential during several seasons, particularly in bolstering the team’s frontcourt. Additionally, Turkish center Omer Asik, acquired in 2014, brought a strong defensive presence and rebounding ability, crucial for the team’s interior defense.

Playoff Appearances and Growth

The 2014-15 season marked a significant achievement for the Pelicans, as they secured a playoff spot for the first time since the rebranding. Key to this success was the acquisition of MontenegrinSpanish forward Nikola Mirotić in 2018. His ability to stretch the floor with his shooting was instrumental in the team’s playoff run that year.

As the Pelicans moved into the 2020s, they continued to build a competitive roster. The 2021 acquisition of Lithuanian center Jonas Valančiūnas exemplified this approach. Valančiūnas has been a key player, offering scoring, rebounding, and veteran leadership, vital for the team’s ongoing development and pursuit of success.

The history of the New Orleans Pelicans is marked by the significant contributions of internationally born players. From early stars like Peja Stojaković to current key players like Jonas Valančiūnas, these athletes have enriched the team’s dynamics and global appeal. The Pelicans’ integration of international talent reflects the evolving nature of the NBA and the broadening horizons of basketball as a global sport.