Mugsy Bogues. Larry Johnson. Alonzo Mourning. All three of these players were part of one of the more popular teams in the NBA during the 1990s. Unfortunately the team they were on, the Charlotte Hornets, eventually leveled out financially and made a move to New Orleans; however, after a 12-year absence and with the help of Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, the buzz is back with the team’s original moniker.
It has been a long, arduous process for Charlotte. The city itself never wanted to lose its basketball team, but it also did not want to have a relationship with former owner George Shinn due to his accusation of sexual assault. While he was found not guilty, he had no other choice but to move the team to New Orleans for the 2002-2003 season.
However, because the city of Charlotte was missed in the NBA, the league granted an expansion that was created by Robert Johnson for the 2004-2005 season. Since the Hornets franchise still existed, Johnson named the team after himself as the Bobcats. In 2006, Michael Jordan bought a stake of the team, while also receiving control of the basketball operations. Due to the struggling franchise losing money though, Johnson sold the team to Michael Jordan in 2010. Jordan, while in charge of the team, has been harshly criticized for several player personnel decisions.
Something happened over the last year though that brought optimism to the Charlotte fanbase. It started with New Orleans changing its name from the Hornets to the Pelicans. Immediately after, Jordan made the biggest news of his stint as owner when he announced that the franchise would go back to the Hornets name for the 2014-2015 season.
This all came to a head Tuesday when Jordan, other executives and several ex-players, including Mugsy Bogues, opened the doors of the arena to 200 fans for a press conference that made the name change official. Not only will the name change back to its former moniker, but the franchise will also reclaim the statistics, history and records attached to the team from its glory days.
While it is just a name, the change could not have happened at a better time. This past season, despite struggles early on, the team managed its first playoff berth since the 2009-2010 season. As such, they are a team on the rise with a solid core of Al Jefferson (21.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg), Kemba Walker (17.7 ppg and 6.1 apg) and Gerald Henderson (14 ppg).
Considering they are in the weak Eastern Conference, the new Hornets have a chance to compete and further the legacy of Bogues, Johnson, Mourning and many other classic Hornets players. The main thing on the mind of Jordan, of course, is to have the arena buzzing like it used to when it led the NBA in attendance for several years. Additionally, in the 1990s and early 2000s, it had a winning culture by having eight seasons of winning records, seven playoff appearances and made it to the semi-finals four times in the past.
Earlier this year, the team unveiled its new altered mascot and colors. On Tuesday when the team was officially announced, a new website hornets.com was uploaded to the net in addition to new social media accounts, reflecting the name change.
It has been a long process for a town who has been itching for return to its former basketball glories. No one knows for sure how these Charlotte Hornets will play come next season, but if their increased 2,000 tickets sold for next season has any indication, the buzz will back for the 2014-2015 season.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey