The team formerly known as the Hornets has struggled for an identity since relocating from the Queen City to the Big Easy.
When it comes to fanbases in New Orleans, it would not be a stretch to say the Saints are No. 1, LSU Tigers are No. 2, and the Pelicans are No. 3, unless an official roll call of the New Orleans Voodoo can prove otherwise.
New Orleans was a one-sport pony for a long time when the Jazz bolted to Salt Lake City back in 1979. But it was not in the city’s culture to dwell on the past, so the once-divided fan energy consolidated and latched onto the Saints.
When the NBA returned in 2002 with the Hornets, the reception was not as warm as the team would have liked.
While outsiders wanted to dismiss New Orleans as a city that only cared about football, they overlooked one important detail: The Hornets were not born of New Orleans.
During their brief era from 1974 to 1979, the Jazz drew large crowds in New Orleans despite being unsuccessful on the court. The move to Utah was brought on because the team was poorly managed and fell into financial disarray.
Fast-forward to 2012. The Hornets continue the Jazz tradition of performing poorly, but now they struggle to put butts in the seats.
The team had no owner and no serious suitors before Saints owner Tom Benson swooped in to save the franchise. One of his first priorities was rebranding the team to better reflect the city of New Orleans.
After fans voted on suggestions put forth by a local newspaper contest, the team name changed to the Pelicans—a name Benson owned the rights to when New Orleans had a minor league baseball team of the same moniker.
The name was met with mixed feelings, but the people who had lived in New Orleans for a long time understood the cultural connection to the city.
When the name became official, fans then wondered what the logo and uniforms would look like.
Seriously, how catchy would “Pelicans” look going across the front of a jersey?
Well, the uniforms have been revealed, and in the space where the team nickname would usually go is the name of the city with which this team has struggled to connect: New Orleans.
Don’t listen to what anyone who does not live in New Orleans has to say about the uniforms.
No, their colors are not bold or dramatic.
No, there aren’t any zany designs or logos.
Outsiders expect these things from New Orleans—but only from what they’ve seen during Mardi Gras and in snapshots of Bourbon Street bars.
The name change and the uniforms do one thing: Connect the team to the city.
Every time residents watch NBA highlights, they will see their city’s name across the athletes’ chests.
Whenever an announcer says, “Pelicans,” residents will hear a nickname that associates directly with the city.
There are no Bulls in Chicago.
I don’t know what a Knick is, and I’ve never swum in a lake in Los Angeles.
With a revamped roster and a new identity that puts this team on the city’s map of cultural relevancy, the Pelicans are poised to be embraced by New Orleans.