A Nostalgic NBA Fan's Guide to the Charlotte Hornets of Yesteryear

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2013

With the New Orleans Pelicans officially renouncing the Hornets name following the 2012-13 season, it was only a matter of time before the Charlotte Bobcats picked it up. The official announcement for Charlotte's re-acquisition of the "Hornets" nickname came today, Michael Jordan making the official announcement.

Cats owner #MichaelJordan announces team has submitted intent to change name to Hornets to the #NBA twitter.com/bobcats/status…

— Charlotte Bobcats (@bobcats) May 21, 2013

Will that mean the return of all the fun and joy that accompanied the Charlotte Hornets in their 14 years before moving to New Orleans? It's entirely possible.

After all, the Hornets represented a basketball-crazy city. They were gimmicky, never made it past the second round of the playoffs, and had a shifty owner, but they were a fun franchise.

Meanwhile, the team that continues to reside in Time Warner Cable Arena represents a hasty apology to a city that had their basketball team ripped away by a vindictive owner. The Bobcats remain a terrible, nondescript basketball team with barely a glimmer of success. Could a simple re-branding change the franchise for good?

Into the '90s

When the Hornets came to be in 1988-89, they ushered in the roaring '90s of the NBA.

They weren't able to make the playoffs until their fifth year of existence, but they, along with the Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat, were able to start the surge toward the incredibly marketable days of the '90s and beyond.

Charlotte's original uniforms were bold and flashy. Teal and pinstripes stood out in a sea of solid greens and yellows. Their merchandise became synonymous with the early '90s, and their mascot almost instantly became one of the league's most recognizable.

Hugo the Hornet

If there's one symbol that can really encapsulate the Hornets in an odd way, it's the team's mascot, Hugo the Hornet.

People, for whatever reason, loved Hugo. He always had a smile on his face, but he seemed somewhat mischievous as well. Essentially, he was the perfect mascot. There's just something about a creature being blown up and turned into a furry, dancing, dunking mascot.

He, along with the team's bold uniforms, had people gravitating toward Charlotte.

The Merch

Once the team got its footing in the league and the fanbase started to grow, their merchandise started popping up everywhere.

Everything they pumped out was so deliciously '90s. Even looking at some of the stuff the New Orleans Hornets sold in the past few years was good for an instant flashback to 1992. One of the most iconic pieces of clothing that Charlotte put out in its first decade was this two-toned starter jacket.

If you were a Hornets fan, you definitely owned this bad boy or at least some variation.

Famously Fun Faces

Charlotte's NBA tenure started out well with the 1988-89 expansion draft; the team picked up Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues, among others.

Curry and Bogues were rare grabs, both players remaining on the team well into the '90s and making an impact all the while. Along the way, Charlotte would pick up a number of players who became fan favorites.

Larry Johnson enthralled the league with his Grandmama act, plus he was one of the players who had their talent stolen by cartoon aliens in Space Jam.

Alonzo Mourning put the team over the top after being drafted behind Shaquille O'Neal in 1992. From there, all they had to do was build. In their later days, Charlotte was taken over by Jamal Mashburn and Baron Davis as the wave of the future.

Along the way, the team was joined by a ton of recognizable players, including Rex Chapman (and his spandex poking out of the bottom of his shorts), Vlade Divac, Bobby Phills, David Wesley, Anthony Mason, Glen Rice, Kenny Anderson, Matt Geiger, Hersey Hawkins and Kurt Rambis.

Good Times

Throughout much of the '90s, the Hornets were a good team. They may never have been a legitimate title contender—they just missed the two-year window when the league was without Michael Jordan—but the decade was good to them.

From 1993 to 2002, Charlotte never fell below .500, topping out with 54 wins in 1996-97.

The Hornets truly came into their own in 1992-93, their first trip to the playoffs. 'Zo made it known in the first round, knocking off the Boston Celtics with a jumper from the top of the key in the waning seconds of Game 4.

Charlotte Turns on Shinn

So why would a city so in love with basketball fall victim to sagging attendance numbers and general apathy that can kill a franchise? 

Team owner George Shinn was adamant that the Charlotte Coliseum, barely a decade old, was insufficient to house an NBA franchise. Shinn gave the city an ultimatum: Build a new arena or lose the Hornets. The city of Charlotte responded by telling the league the city would build a new arena if Shinn sold the team.

The Hornets skipped town after the 2001-02 season, moving to New Orleans. However, Charlotte was granted an expansion franchise almost immediately in 2004-05, in the form of the Bobcats.

Hopefully they can go back to being the fun, entertaining Hornets from the '90s, rather than the running joke that is the Bobcats.