When the regular season came to a close, the city of New Orleans bid adieu to the "Hornets" moniker and prepared to embrace a nickname for its professional basketball franchise. Starting next season, the team will take the court as the Pelicans.
During a quarter of a century run that spanned three cities, the Hornets managed to peak just below the NBA's elite. The team earned its only division title in 2008 and made the playoffs 12 times in 25 years.
Young stars came and went throughout the franchise's history. Most of them managed to make bigger names for themselves with other teams. From Larry Johnson to Alonzo Mourning to Glen Rice to Baron Davis to Chris Paul, the Hornets franchise became a revolving door for young talent.
The main person to blame for the constant roster shuffling was former owner George Shinn. Shinn was notorious for being frugal, which was evident in his decision to deal away talent for less than market value in an effort to save a few pennies.
This year, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson took over the franchise and brought an end to an old regime that hamstrung the team's potential. Benson's arrival led to the changing of the team's nickname from Hornets to Pelicans, which happens to be the Louisiana state bird.
Today, we will take a look back at the history of the team formerly known as the Hornets. We will pay our respects to 25-year journey filled with promise and missed opportunities.
As a new chapter in the Big Easy is set to begin, let's close the last chapter by reminiscing on the logos, jerseys and style that made the Hornets so noteworthy.
The early logo of the Charlotte Hornets was pretty basic. The team opted for a very ordinary drawing of a Hornet, dressed in high-tops, dribbling a basketball.
In the team's defense, this was the mid-80's. A quick Google search of team logos of any sport during that era is sure to evoke some horrid images. The Hornets would stick with some variation of this logo for the brunt of the team's history.
The biggest positive spawned from this design choice was that it led to the arrival of the team's mascot, Hugo. Hugo would entertain fans during game breaks with an assortment of acrobatic dunks that he'd perform with the aid of a trampoline.
Along with Chicago's Benny the Bull and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, Hugo became one of the most recognizable mascots throughout professional basketball. He even earned a spot as a secret character for the "NBA Jam: Tournament Edition" video game.
The logo, as well as, Hugo introduced the team's colors of teal, purple and white. As someone who spent a childhood adorning Hornets attire, it made finding matching clothes a bit difficult. Still, much like the team itself, the logo would evolve as the years went by.
The Hornets opted to use teal as the primary color for its home jerseys. There were purple pinstripes running vertically down the front and back. They also had white letters and numerals with a slight green trim on the outlines.
For away games, the base of the jersey was the traditional white. The lettering was teal with the same purple pinstripes from the home uniforms in the background. The team even created an alternate jersey, which was predominantly purple.
The Hornets would have some form of these three colors in their uniforms during its 17-year stint in Charlotte. When the team was relocated to New Orleans, they added yellow to its mixture of colors.
The early Hornets jerseys were unique. Many of the NBA's franchises at the time were utilizing basic colors like the Knicks' blue and orange or the Lakers' purple and gold. The teal base to the home jerseys set the Hornets apart from other teams.
By the 2000's, the team's uniform had a dated look. Luckily, the move to the Big Easy brought along a much-needed revamping of the team's image.
During the early years of the team's stint in Charlotte, the Hornets were a collection of unheralded young players and cagey veterans. They mixed guys like Kelly Tripucka and Kurt Rambis with upstarts like Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues.
It wasn't until 1991 that the team would land its first budding superstar. With the first pick of the '91 NBA Draft, the Hornets selected an undersized power forward out of UNLV named Larry Johnson. A year later, they drafted Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning to help Johnson inside.
The combination of Johnson and Mourning gave the team one of the best young interior tandem in the league. "Grandmama" won Rookie of the Year honors in 1991 and would go on to All-Star appearances in 1993 and 1995.
As for Mourning, he made the All-Star Game in 1994 in his final season as a member of the Hornets. The following year, the team opted to break up the duo by shipping 'Zo to Miami. In return, the team received another emerging star in sweet-shooting forward Glen Rice.
While Rice was coming along, the team dealt away Johnson to the Knicks for Anthony Mason. The Johnson and Mourning trades were the first of a never-ending saga during the George Shinn era. Rice was eventually sent to Los Angeles for Eddie Jones.
Eddie Jones was later traded to the Heat for a package headlined by Jamal Mashburn. Mashburn was joined by a rookie point guard named Baron Davis, who also was sent packing during his prime years.
While in Charlotte, the team had many candidates for the honor of being the team's franchise face. The problem is none of them lasted long enough to actually hold that title. By the time the team landed a bonafide star with longevity in Chris Paul, they were playing in New Orleans.
The team changed styles from being dominant in the front-court early on to a more guard-oriented approach going forward. The inability to keep the stars they developed inevitably crippled the progress of the franchise.
As you can tell by comparison to the previous logo, the new design didn't change much when the team moved to New Orleans in 2002. If anything, the image is a bit cleaner than the one from the Charlotte days.
There are no squiggly lines signifying the dribbling of the basketball. The look of the Hornet itself is sharper and the artist was even nice enough to give the soles of Hugo's shoes a little color. The biggest difference is the font of the lettering and the obvious change from "Charlotte" to "New Orleans" in the heading.
The logo underwent some minor tweaks while the roster kept receiving major changes. The constant shuffling of young stars made it tough for fans to find a name to hitch their wagon to.
By the time Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul fell to the team in the 2005 NBA Draft, the effects of Hurricane Katrina would devastate the city and force a temporary relocation to Oklahoma City.
On the bright side, the new logo had a more refined look and the team's determination to emerge from the disaster made them a feel-good story. The city's embracing of the team during their first stint in the Big Easy was also proof that the franchise could still profit in yet another small market.
The Hornets maintained the color teal as the base of its home uniforms when it moved to New Orleans. However, the new digs brought forth a change of secondary colors.
The team scrapped the purple and went with more of a gold trim that was akin to the city's football franchise. The lettering and numerals had a more modern look that was a refreshing change from the dullness of the old uniforms.
On the road, the team sprinkled green and gold on the letters and numbers to go with the white base. The sides of the jersey had a broad green and gold stripe. The color got some attention on both jerseys, with all three of the main colors being represented along the neckline of the jersey.
The new threads were short-lived, as the team would have a different look when it returned to New Orleans for good in 2007. Still, much like the original uniforms, the unique colors of the Hornets outfits helped the team stand out.
The emergence of Baron Davis gave the team a noteworthy player capable of selling merchandise. Davis' flashy dunks and crisp passing was worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, it was a show that wouldn't last very long.
The Hornets' first stint in New Orleans saw point guard Baron Davis start to come into his own. He averaged at least 17 points and six assists per game during the team's initial run in the Big Easy. With Jamal Mashburn alongside Davis, the Hornets were becoming a fun team to watch.
The problem was that excitement didn't turn into postseason success. The team went 47-35 in its first season in the Big Easy, but were knocked out by the 76ers in the first round. After the season, the team fired coach Paul Silas and replaced him with Tim Floyd.
Floyd got the team off to a 17-7 start in his first year, but they would eventually finish 41-41. Much like the previous season, the Hornets were eliminated in the first round. Floyd was sent packing and the team brought in Byron Scott to run the show.
Scott went 18-64 in his Hornets debut, which was the worst record in franchise history at the time and the first losing season since 1991-92. A year later, Hurricane Katrina hit and the team called Oklahoma City home for two seasons.
Before the hurricane would ravage the city, owner George Shinn ravaged the roster. In early 2005, the team sent Davis to Golden State for a pair of expiring contracts. Fortunately, the draft a couple months later would yield Chris Paul as Davis' replacement.
The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina left the Hornets scrambling for a Plan B. They moved the franchise to Oklahoma City for a couple of seasons while New Orleans continued to rebuild.
As for the logo, the team went with two courses of action. The first logo was comprised of the old design with the words "Oklahoma City" on the bottom. Since the move to OKC was temporary, there was no point in going with any elaborate changes to the team's look.
The second image is seen here. It's a large hexagon with the team's colors on the perimeter. The traditional teal coloring is still at the forefront of the logo with a huge "H" in the middle. It wasn't very flashy, but it was a nice alternative.
The Hornets only managed to stay in Oklahoma City for two seasons, but the exposure was enough to convince the team to eventually move a franchise there permanently.
Once the team moved to Oklahoma City, the team didn't make too many changes to their attire. The OKC uniforms were carbon copies of the New Orleans jerseys with the exception of a couple of patches.
The team wore "NOLA" patches as a way of representing its former home, while also adding the new "H" logo to the color. With such a close resemblance to the old uniforms, the Oklahoma City outfits don't have much significance beyond nostalgic purposes.
The team didn't last long enough in Oklahoma City to make a huge impact and the lack of overall success in the standings made the two-year run largely forgettable. It was basically the same look in a new setting.
Still, even with the slight changes, the Oklahoma City jerseys are a big improvement from the team's Charlotte uniforms. The font had a more stylish approach and the emerald green coloring in the letters was a nice touch.
With Chris Paul now in the fold, Oklahoma City got its first taste of an NBA superstar. CP3 earned Rookie of the Year honors while playing in Oklahoma and those two seasons in the team's temporary home was the start of things to come.
Chris Paul's combination of speed and court vision brought an exciting style of play to the Hornets. He averaged nearly eight assists per game during his first two seasons in Oklahoma City.
However, the team still couldn't manage to put together a winning season. Under new coach Byron Scott, the Hornets 38-44 and 39-43, respectively, in 2005-06 and 2006-07. The lack of success could be attributed to a number of things.
First, it has to be exceedingly difficult for a team to gain a home court advantage with two different homes. The Hornets played a majority of its home games in the Ford Center, while also playing a few in New Orleans.
Second, the team was lacking in proven talent. Paul was emerging as one of the league's best point guards, but his supporting cast consisted of raw youngsters like J.R. Smith and Desmond Mason. It was a huge burden to ask a rookie like Paul to carry a team with no real supporting cast.
The brief tenure in Oklahoma City was a rough patch for the franchise, but it ended up working out for everyone involved. OKC got a Seattle Super Sonics team that evolved into a title contender and the Hornets found a home that embraced them in New Orleans.
The franchise's best days were about to come.
In 2007, the Hornets returned to New Orleans for the first time, post-Katrina. This time, they unveiled a new logo.
The "Fleur de Bee" was designed by then-Hornets Executive Officer of the Board Chad Shinn. It was the team's take on the fleur de lis. After Hurricane Katrina, the fleur de lis changed its meaning from one of heritage ("fleur de lis" translates to "flower of the lilly" in French and its origin dates back to when the region was under French rule) to a beacon of hope and rebuilding.
The idea started out as a simple patch that the team would wear on its jersey and evolved into an alternate logo for the franchise. It is the perfect combination of local flavor and team style. It incorporates the team's colors nicely, while giving the hornet a more modernized look.
The result was the best rendition of any of the franchise's logos. It was an excellent sign of solidarity between a basketball team and a city in need of someone to represent them. It was also welcomed change away from the cartoonish images of the past.
The only downside to Tom Benson, whose Saints football team also utilizes the fleur de lis in its logo, deciding to change the identity of his franchise was having to bid adieu to this excellent symbol. The pelican may be the state bird, but the Fleur de Bee fit the Hornets image perfectly.
Like the city of New Orleans, the Hornets are a team starting from the bottom and looking to rebuild itself. They encompass the city's determination to return to glory. Piece by piece, they slowly drawing closer to the big picture.
Hopefully, Benson will find a way to incorporate a new take on the fleur de lis on the Pelicans.
The Hornets have had a number of different jersey choices since returning to New Orleans. At first, the team utilized something similar to its old Oklahoma City attire, with name of the city being the only major change.
From there, the team underwent a few more severe wardrobe changes. The more recent jerseys had "NOLA" sprawled across the front of them with the old-school pinstripes cascading from top to bottom. They still kept the traditional teal look, but also added a yellow alternative.
The biggest addition to the Hornets' new clothing options were the team's Mardi Gras jerseys. They were a celebration of the city's most recognizable event. They were also one of the ugliest jersey concepts the sport of basketball has ever seen.
The Mardi Gras jerseys were an odd combination of green, yellow and purple. They were solid green on the front and purple on the back with yellow lettering. They looked like the equipment manager accidentally dropped a bag of Skittles in the washing machine when cleaning the old uniforms.
Thankfully, the Mardi Gras jerseys are only worn for a short period of time. As for the others, teal home jersey with the yellow lettering is a unique blend of colors. They represent the last remaining memories of the team's teal infatuation.
The team will switch to red, navy blue and gold as its main colors next season. Hopefully, there are no plans in the works for a Pelicans Mardi Gras jersey anytime soon.
New Orleans' second run as the Hornets was a tale of two different eras. For the first four years in the Big Easy, the team was led by Chris Paul. They clinched their first division title in 2007-08 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Byron Scott also won Coach of the Year that season.
The team made it back to the playoffs the following season, but Scott's tenure with the team ended prematurely. From there, Portland Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams was hired to take over the team. He led the Hornets to a playoff berth in his first season, but was eliminated in the first round by the Lakers.
Williams brought a more defensive-minded approach with him and had the perfect guard to implement it in Paul. Paul led the league in steals three times as a member of the Hornets and has done it twice as a member of the Clippers the past two seasons.
By 2011, Paul's lack of desire to stay in New Orleans led to a changing of the guard (no pun intended). The former Wake Forest star was shipped to the Clippers for a package headlined by shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Gordon played all of nine games in his first season. The team's lack of success in his absence led to the worst record in the Western Conference that season, finishing 21-45. That poor performance also helped the team win the rights to select Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
The combination of Davis and Gordon along with the addition of Ryan Anderson gave the team a trio that could potentially lead the team to the playoffs this past season. Instead, injuries and a lack of experience forced the team to finish 27-55.
With another lottery pick and possibly better fortune in the health department, the Hornets could once again compete for a playoff spot next season. With a new name, new logo and a new approach, the hope is that the team can open the next chapter differently than they closed the last one.