Welcome to the Greatest Moment series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this edition, we will relive the greatest Charlotte Hornets moment of the 21st century: the team changing its name back to the Hornets in 2014.
Greatest Charlotte Hornets Moment of the 21st Century
The Original Hornets
In 1985, then commissioner David Stern and the NBA looked to expand its fast growing sport to three new cities by the end of the decade. By 1989, the NBA had added a trio of new teams into the fold: the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Charlotte Hornets. As a city, Charlotte didn’t have much going on in the late ’80s. But the banking city was growing and owner George Shinn wanted to bring something fun and exciting to Charlotte. Nothing would be better than bringing an NBA franchise to the Queen City.
For almost nine straight years, the Hornets sold out every game and led the league in attendance from 1988 to 1996. But fairy tales can only last so long. Just as quickly as Hornets games sold out, attendance began to drop significantly. The excitement of making the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time turned to dread as Charlotte could not make the leap to become a championship contender.
The team began drowning in mediocrity, failing to capture its city’s attention. Shinn wanted a new stadium while the city of Charlotte balked at the idea of paying millions of dollars for such a thing.
After 14 years playing in Charlotte, Shinn moved the team to New Orleans in 2002. Just like that, Charlotte was without a professional basketball franchise – but not for long. Only two years went by before Charlotte got its NBA franchise back via expansion in 2004.
With bright orange and dark blue as its colors, the Charlotte Bobcats had an interesting look to them. They also fielded some interesting teams and players, from Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson to Adam Morrison and Emeka Okafor. During the 10-year existence of the Bobcats, the team only managed to make the playoffs twice – in 2009 and 2012. But after struggling in the early years (much like the first Hornets franchise), the Bobcats picked up steam with the additions of Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, as well as the hiring of Steve Clifford as head coach. Something was still missing and Jordan knew it. The city of Charlotte never fully got behind the Bobcats moniker, with seemingly half the fans sporting retro Hornets gear. With a young roster fresh off of the franchise’s second playoff appearance in its history, Jordan made a historic decision.
On May 21, 2013, the team’s majority owner, Michael Jordan, made it official at a press conference: the Charlotte Hornets were returning to the NBA. As new ownership took over the New Orleans franchise and renamed the team, the “Hornets” moniker was suddenly available. Jordan wasted little time, getting approval from the league for the name change just a few months after New Orleans became the Pelicans. One year removed from Jordan’s announcement, Charlotte revealed the new logo and officially announced the change in 2014.
For a franchise that was lacking a signature moment and even a signature win, the change from the Bobcats to the Hornets was that moment. It brought about a figurative “buzz” back to Charlotte, something that had been lacking for years. While on-court success has been shaky, the team is young and on the verge of breaking through in a talent-stricken Eastern Conference. Michael Jordan brought the buzz back, and with it came Charlotte’s greatest moment.
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