The 2002–03 New Orleans Hornets season marked the return of National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball to New Orleans. Decades after the Jazz relocated to Salt Lake City, the NBA returned to New Orleans as the New Orleans Hornets were established from the Shinn organization that once made up the Charlotte Hornets.
Originally reckoned as the 15th season of the franchise, the second incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets' reclaiming the heritage of the original Hornets has since retroactively deemed this season as the inaugural season for the franchise that would eventually become the Pelicans.
Baron Davis was hampered by injuries and he was only able to play 50 games. At midseason, the Hornets traded center Elden Campbell to the Seattle SuperSonics for point guard Kenny Anderson. Jamal Mashburn played all 82 games for the first time in his career. He was voted to play in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, his only All-Star Game of his career. He finished with 10 points as a reserve for the East.
The Hornets finished third in the Central Division with a decent 47–35 record, and qualified for the playoffs as the number 5 seed in the East. A six-game defeat to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round knocked New Orleans out of the playoffs. Following the season, Anderson signed as a free agent with the Indiana Pacers.
The Hornets had no draft picks in 2002.
Bold = All-Star selection
At the start of the playoffs, Baron Davis would struggle with back pain. Jamal Mashburn would suffer a dislocated finger in Game 2 of the first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hornets would force a 6th game, but Davis and Mashburn played hurt. The 76ers would eliminate the Hornets in the sixth game. After the season, the Hornets would stun their fans and most experts by firing Coach Paul Silas.
(4) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (5) New Orleans Hornets Last Playoff Meeting: 2000 Eastern Conference First Round (Philadelphia won 3-1; Hornets were in Charlotte at the time)Jamal Mashburn, All-NBA Third Team