Where Are They Now?: George Shinn

George Shinn

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Unlike many members of his rarified fraternity, George Shinn's ownership of a pro sports team wasn't a dalliance or a diversion, it was his primary business.

It's a business Shinn is preparing to leave after owning the NBA's Hornets for more than two decades.

The sixty-nine-year-old Kannapolis native is no stranger to tumult, first in Charlotte, where the expansion Hornets spent fourteen seasons, and then in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina forced the team to relocate to Oklahoma City for two seasons. But only when Shinn encountered his own mortality did he decide to depart the game that has consumed his life for twenty-two seasons.

In November he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. His battle with the illness forced him to watch much of the 2009-10 season from afar. He received treatment at Baltimore hospital and recuperated primarily at his mountain retreat in Tennessee.

With less than a month left in the season, he returned to his courtside seat at New Orleans Arena, cancer free and looking considerably trimmer. But beating back the most ferocious challenge of his life apparently spawned a change that was even more profound.

George Shinn decided he no longer needed basketball.

It wasn't long after that word surfaced of Shinn's intention to sell his majority stake in the Hornets. He is negotiating the sale to minority shareholder Gary Chouest, a Louisiana billionaire who owns an offshore vessel service company (Shinn would not comment for this story because of the pending sale).

How Shinn is judged as an owner may depend largely on geography. "The perceptions that followed George Shinn from Charlotte — frugal, incapable/incompetent — have persisted to a degree," says John DeShazier, sports columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Overall, though, I'd say he has been a pretty good owner." After the NBA forced Shinn to keep the team in New Orleans and not move it permanently to Oklahoma City, DeShazier says, "he did everything in his power to make it work [and] immersed himself in the community and has done his best to carve a niche in a football-crazed town."

Perhaps his legacy, then, will be this: on three different occasions, he gave a city the NBA, and in the case of Charlotte, he also took it away.

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