We Want That Old Thing Back

by May 21, 2013

by Steven J. Gaither / @gwriter85

So after months of speculation, it looks like Michael Jordan will follow his friend Spike Lee’s advice and do the right thing: Bring the Hornets name back to Charlotte.

On Tuesday, Jordan announced the Charlotte Bobcats will began the process of changing the team’s name to the Charlotte Hornets. The change would return the name of Charlotte’s original franchise, which relocated to New Orleans in 2002.

This news comes months after New Orleans announced it would be known as the Pelicans following the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. But even before that announcement came, a grassroots movement called Bring Back The Buzz began lobbying for the name to return back to its original home.

Almost as soon as the news of the change broke, you could hear social media buzzing about the change. Many skeptics point that the change in the name won’t change the team. And they are partially right.

I was a toddler when George Shinn brought the Hornets to Charlotte in the late 1980s, so it’s not a stretch to say my friends and I grew up with the Hornets. The Hornets were a big hit initially, leading the League in attendance for several seasons. Though they never went past the second round during their time in Charlotte, their talented mid-90s group of Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry remain cult heros in the region to this day.

Eventually, Shinn and Charlotte soured on each other as the team failed to keep its star players (they traded Johnson, Mourning and a kid named Kobe Bryant in a span of less than 18 months) and secure a new arena deal. The team bolted for New Orleans, leaving Charlotte without an NBA team until the Bobcats came to town in 2004.

As a kid growing up in a small town north of Charlotte, the Hornets were larger than life. There was nothing like driving through Charlotte and seeing that huge mural of Johnson, Mourning and Bogues towering over the city like teal-clad superheroes. The Hornets were so cool that Kris Kross even wore the franchise’s gear frontwards. There’s just something about that purple and teal and the words “Charlotte” that fit hand-in-hand.

It’s hard to explain the impact the Hornets brought to the Charlotte region. It turned us from a small, regional city to a national one. It’s very likely that there would be no Carolina Panthers without the Hornets’ early success. And though things ended ugly between the Hornets and the city, it seems as though time has softened those wounds. It’s almost like seeing the girl that broke your heart at a class reunion: neither one of you are as young and naive as you were the first time, but you are both available and figure you might as well give it a shot.

Though they were around for almost 10 years, the Bobcats never caught on. And with just one Playoff appearance, bad drafting and a horrible color scheme, it’s easy to see why.

The name change won’t change the team’s management. It won’t make them draft better players. It won’t add more wins to their record. It won’t even turn the Time Warner Cable Arena back to The Hive. But it will bring something back to Charlotte that the Bobkitties have never been able to give it: Buzz.

This change is more about emotion than results at this stage. We know Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning aren’t walking through that door. But right now, we don’t care. This goodwill won’t last forever, but we want that old thing back. And for the first time in a long time, His Airness delivered it to us.

Steven J. Gaither is a multi-media journalist and founder of HBCU Gameday.