For a few days following the abrupt end of the 1998–99 NBA lockout, Percy Miller, better known as No Limit Records rap mogul Master P, was heir apparent to the recently retired Michael Jordan—at least in terms of recognition off the court. A preseason invitee to Charlotte Hornets training camp, P was the most interesting person in basketball. At the time he was a 31-year-old rapper worth $361 million with little basketball experience attempting to make an NBA roster. It was an absurd proposition cloaked in hubris, like Donald Trump for President—or Jordan patrolling the outfield for the Birmingham Barons. But unlike Jordan and (hopefully Trump), P almost succeeded.

As part of the NBA’s initiative to lure back fans following the fractious lockout, the Hornets held a free inter-squad scrimmage at the Charlotte Coliseum on Saturday, Jan. 23, 1999. The team expected 8,000 people for the 12:30 p.m. exhibition. Fans lined up from 7 a.m., and the Hornets, fearing that anyone near the entrance would get crushed, opened the gates 20 minutes early. The announced attendance was 15,371. Bedlam ensued inside the arena as the Hornets took the court to Master P’s biggest hit, “Make ’Em Say Uhh!”

“It was louder than our regular season games,” remembers former Hornets guard Eldridge Recasner. “I played in the NBA for eight years and never saw that many people at an inter-squad scrimmage. I’m not blowing smoke. I couldn’t believe all those people were there to see this guy.”

With P on the bench to start the game, the crowd, which included No Limit artists C-Murder, Mia X, Mystikal, and Mr. Serv-On, chanted, “We want P! We want P!” Their request was granted. P soon entered the game, and quickly hit a three-pointer. He held three fingers in the air. One fan waved a sign reading: “Goodbye MJ; Hello Master P.”

In 16 minutes of action, Master P had 9 points on 3-6 shooting, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 turnover in the teal team’s 83-77 win over the black team. After the contest, P told reporters, “I know that’s what I can bring to the league. I’ve got a big following and sold a lot of records. I just came to show the world I can play basketball.”

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