HornetsThe Charlotte Hornets (god, it’s never going to get old saying that) made their triumphant return to the NBA on Wednesday, and, in perhaps a sign of things to come, they sent their long-suffering fan base home with big ol’ shit-eating grins instead of a Bobcats-esque bummer. If you recall, the Hornets (then Bobcats) made a surprising run to the playoffs last season, marking only the second time in their brief history they’ve even made it to the postseason. But the rest of their existence has been one letdown after another. The two playoff trips haven’t netted a single win (0-8 overall), and the franchise isn’t very far removed from a season in which they notched the worst winning percentage in NBA history. They also hold the title of “Team That Drafted Adam Morrison #3 Overall”. But after adding Lance Stephenson in the off season, and with head coach and defensive whiz Steve Clifford in his second year, the Hornets are expected to finally make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

Helping to lead that charge is Kemba Walker, a serviceable point guard who the Hornets just extended to the tune of four years and $48 million. The announcement (which came less than 24 hours before tip-off of the home opener) led to the obvious question: “Did the Hornets overpay?” At the moment, sure. But with the salary cap expected to skyrocket over the next couple seasons, that $12 million annual hit — give or take — won’t be as burdensome as it would have been in the past. And, while he won’t win any “Point Guard of the Year” awards, Walker has helped lead the Hornets’ rebuilding process, and is now locked up long term. Also, with the addition of the aforementioned Stephenson, and Big Al Jefferson still in town, Walker — a career 40% shooter — can focus even more on being a distributor.

Walker started out by doing something a lot of NBA players do: punk Brandon Knight. Poor Brandon Knight, it doesn’t matter if it’s on the perimeter, 15 feet out, or under the basket — he just can’t win. Walker assumed the role of his latest tormenter early on with this nifty crossover and step back. Knight tries his darndest to stop it, but to no avail.

Later, Walker thanked his employer for the hefty pay day, and in a way his boss (owner Michael Jordan) would appreciate most. An up-and-coming Milwaukee Bucks team pushed the Hornets into overtime, allowing Walker to play hero for the first time in teal. With the clock winding down and the game tied 106-106, Walker pulled a move out of his boss’ playbook: a dagger step back jumper to just beat the shot clock.

The video above shows Walker’s shot on the broadcast, but thanks to the Hornets’ Instagram account, we have the live reaction from MJ himself.

Fan, player and owner alike… we all get crazy during game-winning shots in OT! #HornetsComeback

A video posted by Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) on Oct 10, 2014 at 8:22pm PDT

Sure, it’s not exactly winning a title, but on a night twelve years in the making, it definitely felt like the beginning of a much brighter era. Now, if we could just bring a certain other team back to the NBA, then all would be right again.

[Photo via Sam Sharpe/USA Today, YouTube, Instagram]