Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So the "buzz" is real again in Charlotte. After several months, heck, even years, of fans wanting the Hornets name and mascot to return to Charlotte's NBA team, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan announced last evening that the team has officially submitted their application to the NBA to change their name to the Charlotte Hornets, beginning with the 2014-15 season. They've created a new marketing campaign called "Back The Buzz" and have launched a website, The Hornets returning is major news, obviously, for the city, but also for the state, region, across the entire league, and for millions of people who grew up Charlotte Hornets fans.

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Aside from all the fanfare and away from all the sports reports you're reading, let me tell you what this all really means to you.

In Jordan's official statement, he said, in part: "The response we received during the process of researching this decision was overwhelming and made it clear to us that you wanted the Hornets name back in Charlotte." I believe that. I've lived in Charlotte since 2005, moving here a couple of months before the Bobcats embarked on their second season and first in their new Uptown arena (which eventually would be named Time Warner Cable Arena). Back then, many fans couldn't let go of having lost the Hornets to New Orleans, despite having been granted a new NBA franchise so quickly, thanks to NBA Commissioner David Stern and original Bobcats owner Bob Johnson.

Initially, I was against the idea of Charlotte getting the Hornets name back. I felt like the city and fans needed to embrace this new era, and stop holding onto the past. This was my view, and I'm one of those people who grew up a Charlotte Hornets fan, from my small town in South Carolina. I even chastised Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in December 2011 for wearing a Charlotte Hornets hat to a Bobcats home game (sitting next to Jordan at that). And, of course, up until a few months ago when the New Orleans Hornets announced they would be changing their mascot to the Pelicans, Charlotte getting the Hornets back wasn't even possible.

After grassroots campaigns like "Bring Back The Buzz" and "We Beelieve" launched a year or two ago and gained momentum, and after I met John Morgan of We Beelieve during the taping of an episode of 282 last year, I started to warm up to the idea. Now, it's no longer just an idea. It's on the path to becoming reality.

The Bobcats are going to have to spend a few million dollars as the team becomes the Hornets--new logos, uniforms, team colors, signage at the arena, around the city and the NBA; new merchandise--which means it's going to be extremely difficult to sell Bobcats gear during the 2013-14 season (expect major markdowns). Essentially by listening to the desire of fans and making this investment, Jordan is showing his commitment to this city and franchise, something that's been questioned in the past. I think some of his moves over the past couple of years, including his many philanthropic deeds in the community (the Book Bus, for example) and the purchase of an Uptown condo and, more recently, a mansion on Lake Norman, have quieted that doubt.

So now the move is on you, Charlotte. You asked for the Hornets, and they'll be yours again. You're going to need to pack out home games during the 2014-15 season, when your newly named team amasses another losing record. This isn't me being negative, this is my presumption based on recent history. The Bobcats finished with the worst record in the NBA in 2011-12 and the second-worst in 2012-13. That's the result of poor decisions and failed moves in the NBA Draft and with trades, and I don't expect the team--which is currently without a head coach--to play much better next season. In 2014-15, I expect the former-Bobcats-now-Hornets will continue to be far below .500.  But you're going to need to cheer them on at TWC arena, because those of you who frequently touted the nostalgia of the Charlotte Hornets often talked about how Charlotte Coliseum had sold-out crowds for several years, even when the Hornets weren't that good (364 consecutive home game sellouts from December 23, 1988 through November 21, 1997, to be exact). Because y'all were excited about the team. (In 2010, as part of Charlotte magazine's "Where Are They Now?" feature, I gave an update on all 15 players and the head coach of the inaugural 1988-89 Charlotte Hornets team, including Muggsy Bogues, Rex Chapman, Dell Curry, and Kelly Tripucka.)

Another thing that's often pointed out is how Charlotte Hornets gear, referred to as retro or throwbacks, saw a resurgence in popularity a couple of years ago and the trend continues today. My "Summer of the Snapbacks" blog post from nearly two years ago continues to get ridiculous traffic, largely from people Googling snapback hats, including the Hornets kind. Fashion is largely based on fads, but you're going to need to show your support by buying the "new" Charlotte Hornets stuff, beginning with the Back The Buzz merchandise Jordan Brand has just launched.

Time to show and prove, Charlotte Hornets fans.


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