There have been 38 different numbers worn in New Orleans Pelicans (Hornets) history, ranging from number 0 to number 54 with plenty of numbers in between. But no number has been worn more often in franchise history than the number 5, which has been donned by eight players starting with Elden Campbell in 2002-2003 and most recently by Jeff Withey last season. There hasn’t yet been a standout number 5 in the franchises history but there have been some useful, if unspectacular, players to wear the uniform throughout its history.
The First to Wear #5: Elden Campbell, 2002-2003
The Most Recent to Wear #5: Jeff Withey, 2013-2014
Elden Campbell was a fitting start to the legacy of number 5 for the New Orleans Pelicans (Hornets) franchise. Campbell played in 41 games for the then Hornets and came off the bench in 40 of them while averaging 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. As a veteran big man Campbell understood and played to his role of providing help as a bit of a stretch big without three-point range and was a nice presence for the Hornets at the time.
After he left the number took a six game stop with Maurice Carter who wore it for the final games of his NBA career, something that Cardell Johnson did in 15 games in the middle of the 2011-2012 season. After Carter’s short stint in the 5 Speedy Claxton came and again gave the Hornets solid minutes off the bench wearing the number 5, as he started just 6 of the 87 games he played in his time in New Orleans. During his 71 game stint in the Big Easy in 2005-2006 Claxton averaged 12.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds while backing up Chris Paul for the Hornets team that spent time in Oklahoma City.
After Claxton moved on Mike James took his turn in the number 5 jersey, appearing in 21 games for the Hornets late in the 2007-2008 season. James averaged just 2.7 points in 8.7 minutes after arriving in the Bonzi Wells trade. James left after that season and after a season without a number 5 appearing off the bench Marcus Thornton arrived to bring the number back to its rightful place.
Thorton sparkled off the bench for the Hornets in 2009-2010, appearing in 73 games with just 17 starts while pouring in 14.5 points per game to go along with 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists during that time. Thorton would struggle a bit the next season, averaging just 12.8 points per game in 46 games, before being traded mid-season to the Sacramento Kings, ending his run as the bench number 5.
After Johnson’s 15 game and McGuire’s nine game stints Withey arrived this past season to take his turn in the number 5. Like every player to wear the number before him Withey settled in as a bench player for the Pelicans, averaging 11.8 minutes, 3.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in his rookie season. With his solid play in minimum minutes, Withey established himself as an NBA player capable of helping in a limited role and added another player to the long list of number 5s in franchise history who were bench players at best during their time in the jersey.
With the amount of individuals to have worn number 5 in franchise history it seems amazing that the Pelicans/Hornets have never had a starting quality player wear the number yet. With Withey potentially entrenched as a solid backup center for the next few years things don’t seem likely to change anytime soon. There may be five starters on every NBA team but for the Pelicans franchise number 5 seemingly dooms a player to a career as one of the other 10 players on the roster.