Out of all the numbers worn in New Orleans Pelicans (Hornets) history it is hard to find one with the impact of the number 3, which is incredible when the names of four of the five players to wear it are read off. But as is so often the case in the NBA, one player can change a franchise and a number and that is the case with New Orleans and the number three as Chris Paul captivated fans all around the league during his six seasons in New Orleans all while making the teal and gold number 3 one of the best looking and most popular in the NBA, peaking when he was the third highest selling jersey in the league in 2009.
The First to Wear #3: Randy Livingston, 2002-2003
The Most Recent to Wear #3: Anthony Morrow, 2013-2014
For a number that would eventually hold such significance for the New Orleans franchise number 3 got off to a very inconspicuous start when Randy Livingston took hold if it for 12 total minutes in the 2002-2003 season. Livingston scored the first basket in the numbers history in a January game against Milwaukee during which he totaled four points and scored the sixth and final points in his New Orleans career two nights later in a win over the Toronto Raptors.
After Livingston moved on Darrell Armstrong took on the number for 79 mediocre games in 2003-2004 before changing back to his normal #10 for 14 games in 2004-2005. Baxter took his four game turn in the number in 2004-2005 before finally passing it off to Paul who would become the team’s first superstar early in his career.
Paul dazzled his entire career in the number 3 but the highlights came during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons when Paul settled himself into the tier with the league’s top three or four players. In 2007-2008 Paul averaged 21.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals in 37.6 minutes per game, earning an All-Star and a spot on the All-NBA First Team. Paul followed that season up with one that was arguably better, averaging 22.8 points, 11.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals in 38.5 minutes a night. The performances led to him becoming one of the most popular players in the league and because of it New Orleans merchandise exploded, finishing sixth in total sales behind just the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
The number 3 stayed dormant for a few years after Paul’s departure to the Clippers but Anthony Morrow put it back into use this past season. Morrow was solid, averaging 8.4 points per game while providing the Pelicans a threat from beyond the arc with his 45 percent three-point shooting percentage. But Morrow never truly had a chance to live up to the gaudy past of the number three and with his moving on to Oklahoma City this offseason it looks like the newly acquired Omer Asik will take his turn in one of the most popular numbers in franchise history.
It remains to be seen if the number three will ever be retired for Paul after all he has done for the franchise but there are cases to be made either way. Paul was terrific during his time in New Orleans when he was on the court and he probably helped keep a team in the area after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. On the other hand Paul never played a full 82 games during his time in New Orleans and forced his way out after six seasons, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many of the fans in the area. Only time will tell but no matter what the decisions is made Chris Paul will always be the lasting memory of an entire group of fans when they think about New Orleans and the number 3.