“What we need to do is create some enthusiasm for the Hornets since they’re doing so bad.” That’s what Dennis Easterling was thinking while driving home from Atlanta. A local radio guy, Steve McCoy, told him he had spent two weeks on a billboard, vowing to stay there until the Braves won the National League pennant that fall. Then the Easterlings passed the Longhorn restaurant billboard on their way home.
As it turned out, a friend of his knew the man who owned the restaurant and the billboard. Bill Dukes, the owner, was looking for some extra publicity and loved the idea. This is the kind of press money can’t buy. A deal was made – Easterling would live on the billboard until the Hornets win two games in a row.
Easterling had a plywood box built between the billboards — about 4 feet wide, stuffed with blankets and known as The Hive. The Longhorn provided food. I know what you’re thinking; it’s the first thing I wondered. What about bathroom breaks? Easterling followed the Guinness Book of World Records rules. He could leave the billboard for five minutes every hour. That gave him time to use the portable toilet right next to it. On Dec. 6, 1991, the Hornets lost to the Chicago Bulls, falling to 5-15. It was showtime.
Three times in December, the Hornets were close to winning two games in a row. Close, but no cigar. As the stunt lasted, it got more publicity. Advertisers started to send merch – a free mattress, a cell phone, and cable television. It was fun at first, but he didn’t expect the Hornets would suck so much. Easterling’s only form of bathing was with a sponge and a 5-gallon bucket of water from a nearby car wash, and he had gained 20 pounds.
On January 4th, the Hornets beat the Suns. There was hope, as their next opponent were the Sacramento Kings. Five days later, on January 9th, the Hornets won 109-96, beating the Kings and releasing Easterling from the billboard, 35 days after he had gone up. From that day on, he is known as The Billboard Man.
Here’s a fun fact. During the entire Process, the 76ers were the worst team in the league only once and never finished a season with a single-digit win record. That feat and the worst regular-season record still belongs to the ’11/’12 Charlotte Bobcats with a stellar record of 7 wins.
If Easterling had pulled his stunt that season, he would’ve spent a year on the billboard. They didn’t win two games in a row the entire year.
P.S. They lost the no.1 to the Pelicans who drafted Anthony Davis. With Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal still on the board, with the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, they selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.