It’s official: the Charlotte Bobcats are changing their name to the Charlotte Hornets. Team owner Michael Jordan announced the change Tuesday night.
“Back the buzz.” That was the tagline Tuesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, glowing on screens and printed on T-shirts in the old-school Hornets’ teal and purple colors.
Team owner Michael Jordan said the Bobcats have asked the NBA if Charlotte’s basketball team can once again be the Hornets.
“A lot of research went into us coming to this conclusion,” Jordan said. “We spoke to our season ticket holders, our fans. And overwhelmingly, you guys wanted the Hornets name back.”
If all goes to plan, the Bobcats will play as the Hornets not next season but the one after. The team estimates the change will cost around $4 million.
The Hornets left Charlotte more than a decade ago, and yet some fans are still crazy about them. Here’s what Travis Gill wore to the arena last night:
“I got on a throwback Charlotte Hornets purple hat, teal shirt, purple and teal shoes,” he said.
He was among hundreds of fans who came to hear the announcement. His brother, Tarik Gill, said the team was a huge part of his childhood.
“I grew up around the Hornets,” Gill said. “My dad used to work at the Grady Cole Center, where they first practiced. I got a chance to meet Dell Curry, Alonzo Mourning and Muggsy Bogues. So this right here is kind of like family.”
Gill is one of many in Charlotte who can still rattle off the names of the star players. After the Hornets joined the league in the late 1980s, there were several seasons where the team led the NBA in attendance.
Muggsy Bogues remembers those years.
“The city grew up with us,” Bogues said in an old interview with WFAE. “I mean, they went through our growing pains.”
Bogues said it was amazing how much the home crowd supported the team as it improved and eventually won playoff games.
But attendance dropped as the relationship soured between fans and team owner George Shinn. Shinn couldn’t get a deal on a new arena, and he moved the team to New Orleans in 2002.
Two years later, Charlotte got the Bobcats. But many fans never bought into the team or the brand like they did with the Hornets.
Eric Osterhus said the old name simply has more meaning.
“It goes back to our history, traces its roots back to the Revolutionary War," Osterhus said. "That’s something you take pride in.”
British General Charles Cornwallis called Charlotte a hornets’ nest of rebellion.
But for all the excitement about the name change, Jordan, the owner, acknowledged it won’t make a difference on the court, where the Bobcats have been historically bad the past few years.
“I understand the name is a name,” Jordan said. “But ultimately, what we want to be proud of is what’s happening on the basketball court, as well.”
After all, Jordan said, part of the reason the Hornets are so popular is that they used to be good.