Vlade Divac may be one part of the most infamous trade in Charlotte Hornets’ history, but he played well for the team during the late 1990s. In fact, he even holds a team record.
When Charlotte Hornets fans think of Vlade Divac, their minds almost immediately recall the draft-day trade in 1996 that sent the Hornets’ 13th pick, Kobe Bryant, to the Los Angeles Lakers. It still stings to this day, but in reality, it was always going to happen and frankly, most Hornets fans still have the utmost respect for Kobe.
It’s not like Vlade was terrible, or anything. He helped guide the Charlotte Hornets to the playoffs alongside greats like Glen Rice, Anthony Mason, and Dell Curry. He wasn’t the most prolific scorer nor was he the greatest rebounder, but he was still an integral piece to the team’s success during that time.
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He was so integral, in fact, that he would set a single-game record for blocks during the 1996-1997 season. Now, I know what you’re saying. “Oh, who cares about blocks?” I care and so do a lot of other people.
Blocks are fun. I’d say they’re just as fun as dunks, in some cases. Blocks are a way to tell someone that for that one play, you’re deliberately keeping them from doing their job and you get to rub their face in it. Dikembe Mutumbo made a whole career out of it and everyone loves Dikembe.
So, back to the record. It was February 12th, 1997. The Hornets were fighting for playoff positioning, sporting a record of 30-20. It might seem weird to see the Hornets with a winning record, but it was a different time.
That night, the New Jersey Nets rolled into town, hoping to upset the Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls. At this time, the Nets weren’t that great, with a record of 14-34. This looked to be an easy one for the home team.
It was, for the most part, as Charlotte would dominate the entire second half after being down by four points at the half. Glen Rice, as usual, handled the scoring, with 27 points. Anthony Mason nearly pulled off a what would have been a nice triple-double with 21 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 assists.
We’re here to talk about records, though, and as nice as those two stat lines were, Divac deserves the attention here. Vlade never put up truly gaudy numbers like other centers from his time, but he was good to go off a handful of times a year.
This night wasn’t exactly one such occasion, but it was memorable in that had he just nabbed one more board, he would have had the somewhat rare points, rebounds, and blocks triple-double. Had Mason dished out two more assists, the team would have had the even rarer instance of two teammates in the same game with a triple-double.
Anyway, Divac’s final stat line was 18 points, 9 boards, and 12 blocks. Had he also not committed six personal fouls, he might have gotten that aforementioned triple-double, but, alas, we’ll never know.
The important part here, though, is the 12 blocks, which all the way back then, set a new Hornets record for blocks in a game, breaking Alonzo Mourning’s previous record of 9. The closest since then? Nearly ten years later when Emeka Okafor had 10 in a game in 2007 against the New York Knicks.
What makes this even weirder is that Divac would swat away 9 in a game just 12 days later. The month of February was a veritable block party for the 7’1″ center from Serbia. Sadly, Vlade would only last for just a pair of seasons in Charlotte before moving off to Sacramento to become a vital part of the Kings team that would prove to be a championship contender in the early 2000s.
Though his tenure with the Hornets was short, it was pretty sweet. Not many people can set a franchise record in any one stat and Divac did it just under two years with the team. At some point, that record will fall, but until then, enjoy it, Vlade.