The Bugs Are Back in Town: Charlotte Prepares to Renew Love Affair with Hornets

Austin PennyAnalyst IMay 21, 2013

Michael Jordan announced on Tuesday the Bobcats' intention to file the paperwork necessary to change the franchise's name to the Hornets.
Michael Jordan announced on Tuesday the Bobcats' intention to file the paperwork necessary to change the franchise's name to the Hornets.

When Michael Jordan announced Tuesday evening that the Charlotte Bobcats will officially begin the rebranding process associated with bringing the Hornets moniker back to the city it originated (and belongs) in, you may have been able to hear the cheers as far away as New Orleans.

While there have been, and will continue to be, naysayers who believe that the name should remain a memory in the city of Charlotte and not be returned to the spotlight, the vast majority of people in town have supported the movement to bring the Hornets namesake back to its home.

It's not that we're so jaded that we believe that changing the colors of the jersey and the name on the front will somehow magically turn this franchise into a perennial contender, or that it will even fill up the seats in Time Warner Cable Arena on a nightly basis. It's the fact that now, after over a decade of having a basketball team with no identity and next to no appeal, there is a reason to be proud of the team.

After a long and mostly fruitless battle to be heard in the community, those who were advocates to bringing the Hornets back to Charlotte received a major boost in late 2010 when the much-maligned George Shinn was finally forced out of the NBA after becoming unable to pay loan payments to the NBA.

He sold the team to the league to try to keep the franchise in New Orleans, ultimately opening the door for the possibility of the name becoming available down the line.

The push to bring back the nickname grew exponentially from there and reached a boiling point earlier this year when the new owner of the New Orleans franchise, Tom Benson, announced that the team would be changing its nickname from Hornets to Pelicans. Benson, who also owns the NFL's New Orleans Saints, said then that the name Hornets "didn't mean anything to (the New Orleans) community."

The name surely means something to the community of Charlotte. Bobcats Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Pete Guelli, who joined Jordan at the press conference on Tuesday, said in a CBS Charlotte radio interview that about an 80 percent of those polled were in favor of rebranding the franchise as the Hornets.

Social networking groups dedicated solely to the purpose grew dramatically and even arranged meet-ups at Bobcats games decked out in Charlotte Hornets gear. The most rewarding thing about this name change is the realization that the team heard the community, listened and gave the fans what they wanted.

The next step is to find a way to recreate the amazing atmosphere that was present at The Hive back in the Hornets' heyday in Charlotte while also updating the brand to a time-appropriate entity. While I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem for most, it is unrealistic to expect to step into a time machine to the early '90s every time you step foot in Time Warner Cable Arena going forward.

As Guelli said Tuesday, it will have been 12 years since the Hornets were last in town, and every business adapts and evolves in some way during that kind of time frame.

There are certain aspects of the old Hornets experience that can be easily transitioned to the 2014-and-beyond version. Things such as nicknaming the arena "The Hive," having the team sport the iconic purple-and-teal color scheme and having Hugo as the mascot are no-brainers.

Other traditions like the THX sound effect being played before tip-off and Super Hugo performing dunks to Billy Idol's "Mony, Mony," after the third period would be great to see as well.

Obviously, pop culture has changed dramatically since the last time the city of Charlotte rejoiced about the arrival of the Hornets, but the franchise should do its best to sprinkle in nostalgia where it can, at least to begin with.

The 2014-15 season could be the first legitimate step towards finality in this seemingly never-ending rebuilding period this team has been going through since making its only playoff run in 2009-10. Not only will the Hornets name be back, but they could potentially have three lottery picks in what is shaping up to be one of the better NBA drafts in the last several years.

They will finally be rid of a slew of bad contracts and, as of right now, will have only roughly $11.4 million on the books. While that number is sure to go up, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the team could be at the podium three times during the lottery, or that they could package together two or more of those picks to take whomever they want.

The real cause for optimism, though, is the fact that this franchise has heard the voice of its fanbase and its community and responded positively. As we saw in Charlotte when the original Hornets were in their fledgling years, fan support can play a role in the success of a team. When a team knows the arena it is playing in has the back of the team, magic can happen.

This team was in dire need of finding a way to re-engage and expand its franchise, and it has done just that.

This is a great day for this franchise and for the city of Charlotte. Hopefully this time, the Hornets are here to stay.



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