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Charlotte Bobcats: Are We Watching the Last Games of the Bobcats?

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Charlotte Bobcats: Are We Watching the Last Games of the Bobcats?
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Things are moving swiftly in Charlotte, if not on the basketball court, then in the front office. 

Season ticket holders will get to join some of Charlotte's management as well as NBA deputy (and soon to be outright) commissioner Adam Silver in a "town hall" event to end the season, where valued patrons of this basketball team get to ask questions, get answers, and receive first-hand knowledge on the managerial aspect of what's happening in Charlotte, and what the future holds.

The fact that Adam Silver will be appearing is a fairly big deal. Two years ago when he was just the guy who announced the second-round picks in the NBA drafts, maybe it wouldn't be a big deal, but as the very near future NBA commissioner, it's a big deal.

It could be to quell the anger that is certainly abundant amongst Charlotte faithful. It could be just to show that the league cares about the worst team in basketball. Or it could be the sign of something much, much bigger.

There's no point in beating around the bush. The New Orleans Hornets will become the New Orleans Pelicans effective immediately upon the conclusion of their NBA season, which for the non-playoff team, is April 17 (along with the Bobcats, who'll be playing their final game on the same day).

The Hornets name is available. And guess what? I don't think it's going to be on the market for long.

Let's take a look at the unofficial things. Just last month, Jordan brand announced their re-release of the retro Jordan V Grape basketball shoes.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
David Stern (left) has endorsed the re-branding, and Adam Silver (right) could do the very same during the town hall event.

That news, in and of itself wouldn't be a big deal. The Grapes are one of the most iconic sets of basketball shoes ever released. The fact that Michael Jordan and his name-brand are releasing the shoes this summer? That makes it a little interesting.

But then, this. It was just announced that, on the final day of the season for both teams, an entire line of Jordan Grape shoes, shorts, shirts, hats, socks, and whatever else you need to play basketball on the court during the summer would be released.

That's exciting. That is legitimately exciting. It's like Michael Jordan and his brand and everyone in the front office have already made their minds up, and they're either teasing us with a glimpse at the hopeful future name-change back to the Charlotte Hornets, or they're playing a cruel joke on all of us.

A lot of us feel alienated to the point of giving up anyway, so I seriously doubt it's the latter. The timing is too perfect, and the money Jordan stands to make by selling what is ostensibly Charlotte Hornets gear will be astronomical. 

Charlotte management, including Jordan himself, have done official polling with season ticket holders, there have been numerous unofficial polls everywhere you look on the Internet, and the movement to bring the Hornets name back to Charlotte on Facebook and Twitter is growing larger and larger every day.

Heck, you can't walk down the streets of Charlotte without seeing a "We Beelieve" t-shirt, created and printed by one of the main Facebook groups for the cause. It's everywhere. It's all but unanimous for Charlotte basketball fans.

The people of Charlotte, and essentially every NBA fan with any passing knowledge of the sport believes it's time for the Bobcats name to be put to rest.

I could link you to more and more evidence and hints at what is, at this point, likely around the corner, but visiting that Facebook page, and just opening your eyes and doing a Google search will do all of the work for you. 

Is it a done deal? Yes, absolutely. I can't say which way they've decided to go, but I'm nearly 100 percent sure that Jordan and the rest of management already know what this team will be called in the future.

The recent teases of the Jordan Grape releases, the upcoming visit from Silver, the polls, the emails, everything indicates that times are changing, and it's I'm pretty much positive they already know what they're going to be doing.

So are we watching the last games of the Charlotte Bobcats this season? Is an entire re-branding possible this offseason, or would they have to wait one more year to officially adorn the sacred teal and purple?

Well, the NBA already owns the rights to the Hornets as a name, so no issues on that front. If naming rights were not already owned, it could be a process that takes years, so thank goodness for that. David Stern has even endorsed the re-branding. It would cost roughly $3 million outright to re-brand, which is toilet paper money to Jordan.

The biggest hurdle is actual physical re-branding... on-the-court uniforms, stadium revisions, advertisement, promotion, merchandise... all of that would have to change rapidly for the Bobcats to become the Hornets in one offseason.

Hornets or Bobcats?

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I don't think that's a huge hurdle, either. The Bobcats don't sell much merchandise, because... well... let's face it... they're the Bobcats. It's a name born of vanity with no history, and it's a team that has never, ever been better than mediocre.

Retro sales of Hornets gear outsells official Bobcats merchandise by a mile; it's just a matter of converting that into actual money for the organization.

As far as advertising and promotion—the word would be out with one single sentence. This is a self-feeding promotion born for and by the people, and Time Warner Cable Arena would be jam packed and sold out likely within hours of ticket sales. Not a problem.

What does this do for the current Bobcats? As a team, it could do at least something to improve the team. Just recently I wrote about the offseason the Bobcats will have, and at the end I briefly mentioned what the name change would do for the city and for the team.

It's obvious, isn't it? Putting money and logistics aside for a second, isn't it just as clear as day what bringing the Hornets name back to Charlotte would do for basketball culture?

This city would actually have pride in their team again. Not just "stick with it because they're my team" pride, but genuine, "I love my team no matter how bad they are" pride.

As for the players on the court? It probably won't buy them any more wins, but it certainly won't hurt. More energized crowds, a team playing with the knowledge that their name has a great sense of history for this city... it very well may make this team better.

The legendary Charlotte Hornets trio. Left to right: Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning

A few paragraphs ago, I linked you to a Facebook page called "We Beelieve: Charlotte...take back your Hornets!" A few months ago, I had the privilege of speaking with one of the main founders of that particular community.

His name is John Morgan, and shockingly, he's a teacher. I say shockingly, because if you know anything about teaching, you know how insanely hectic it is, and if you don't... well, I can vouch personally.

But still, John is there with every little story, ready to post it at a moment's notice with vigor the likes of which have made this more than just a sideshow movement. When I asked him what he thought bringing the Hornets name back to Charlotte would do, he very eloquently said:

"I think you're going to see a groundswell of public support and enthusiasm; heck...we already have, and nothing's even official yet.  I think it's going to give this franchise the honeymoon period afforded most expansion teams that, due to the acrimony of the Hornets' departure and the myriad PR blunders of the first few years, this team never really had.  That being said, we all understand: the wins have to come.  We're under no illusions that teal and purple pinstripes are going to solve turnover issues or hit clutch free throws for us.  At the same time, actually having a community rally behind the team, (as opposed to the general sense of apathy that we currently have), could do wonders to inspire the team's on-court performance; motivation is a mysterious thing.  Bottom line: the re-brand puts butts in the seats.  It sells gear.  It reignites a fanbase that has found other places to spend its discretionary dollar.  For a franchise that, by any account, has been hemorrhaging cash for years now, this is extremely important.  Making this organization financially viable goes a long way toward securing the future of basketball in the Queen City, and that's the most important issue of all."

That's the best summation of this situation that I could ever ask for.

Pride. Money. Butts in the seats.

And no more Bob Johnson. Time for Michael Jordan to make his first genuinely good move as an NBA executive.

It's time to bring back the buzz.

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