Hornets Name Going Back to Charlotte Where It Always Belonged

Dave LeonardisContributor IIIMay 27, 2013

Finally, the Hornets have come back to Charlotte.
Finally, the Hornets have come back to Charlotte.Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The "Hornets" moniker is coming back home.

Charlotte's NBA franchise will no longer be known as the "Bobcats" and, instead, will go back to the name it held from 1989-2002. The name became available after New Orleans opted to change its nickname from the "Hornets" to the "Pelicans."

The move gives a floundering franchise a sense of nostalgia and bids adieu to one of the worst nickname choices in league history. The initial "Bobcats" name was an ode to then-owner Robert Johnson, who founded the team in 2005.

Thankfully, new owner Michael Jordan seized the opportunity to give his team a greater sense of history rather than give it more self-serving moniker like the "Microphones" or the "Microwaves."

Ever since the old Hornets team left Charlotte in 2002, it was never a perfect fit in New Orleans. New owner Tom Benson said as much in the press conference to announce the team's new nickname earlier this year:

The Hornets name came from Charlotte. That fits in Charlotte. It doesn't fit into New Orleans, La., or our area here. Benson . The Hornets don't mean anything here. We needed something that symbolizes New Orleans and Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

While the name change is purely cosmetic, it can also represent a symbol of change for both franchises. The Pelicans have aggressively tried to rebuild the franchise since Benson's takeover last summer and have a budding star to help with the transition in forward Anthony Davis.

As for Charlotte, it will switch back to the "Hornets" name during the 2014-15 season, a year after the Pelicans. Like New Orleans, it will be looking for a clean slate. 

For nine seasons, the Bobcats were mostly synonymous with mediocrity. They made the playoffs just once during that span and finished with an overall record of 250-472. That's a winning percentage of just under 37 percent. 

A season ago, they went 7-59 and finished with a .106 winning percentage, the worst of any franchise in NBA history. They have had countless draft busts from Sean May (No. 13 overall, 2005) to Adam Morrison (No. 3 overall, 2006) to D.J. Augustin (No. 9 overall, 2008). 

While last year's 21-61 record isn't something a franchise hangs its hat on, there are at least signs that the team is headed in the right direction. Kemba Walker drastically improved in his second season, raising his shooting percentage from 36 percent in 2011-12 to 42 percent in 2012-13 as well as upping his scoring average by five points per game. 

Last year's No. 2 overall pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, has shown flashes of being a guy who can affect every aspect of a stat sheet. Another former draft pick, Gerald Henderson, has drastically improved over the past two seasons. He's averaged at least 15 points per game the last two years after failing to average double digits in scoring his first two seasons. 

The team also has a promising big man in 20-year-old Bismack Biyombo. They will also look to add another piece with the No. 4 overall pick in next month's draft. 

With a new name that fans remember, team support will be at an all-time high. The clamor to bring back the "Hornets" name should lead to packed houses once again in the city of Charlotte. 

While the change will bring back memories of the old days, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson won't be walking through that door and lacing them up any time soon. The new name may help with momentum, but it won't put wins on the board. This is something Jordan knows all too well.

Ultimately we still have to play the game at a high level, which is what the Hornets did for a very long period of time. Changing the name does not guarantee that we're going to be a playoff-contending team. We still have a lot of work to do to build that.

The biggest key will be Jordan himself. He struggled to make the right moves to fix the Wizards when he was president of basketball operations in Washington in 2000. Much like in Charlotte, Jordan had a ton of misses on draft day, most notably No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown in 2001. 

Inevitably, Jordan felt the best move to help the team was to come out of retirement and he subjected the masses to two hard-to-watch seasons in a Wizards uniform. He retired in 2003 and was ultimately fired by Abe Pollin. 

While the name change will initially create buzz (pun intended), fans are only going to stay committed to the team if Jordan can turn them into a winner. It is imperative that MJ hits on the No. 4 overall pick next month, be it with Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel or Kansas shooter Ben McLemore, to give the team momentum going into the new look in 2014. 

Time will tell whether this move works out. The important thing is the name is back where it rightfully belongs. As long as there is a franchise in Charlotte, it only makes sense for them to be called the Hornets.

Much like the "Pelicans" moniker in New Orleans, the "Hornets" have local significance as well. During the Revolutionary War, the city of Charlotte was described as "a veritable nest of hornets" by British general Lord Charles Cornwallis after the townspeople drove the British away in 1780. 

Jordan said it is too early to know if the team will keep the old Hornets' colors, although it would be a nice look to adopt an updated version of the purple and teal. It would also be a nice touch if old Hornets staples like Mourning, Johnson and Muggsy Bogues were on hand for the Hornets' revival. 

As for the "Bobcats" name, it will join the 1950 Anderson Packers and the 1964 Baltimore Bullets on the list of short-lived names that were quickly forgotten. Hopefully, the team's culture of losing disappears with it.