A unanimous vote
by the league’s 30 team owners, July 18 made it official. The Hornets name will return to Charlotte.
To fans who are old enough to remember, the heyday of the Hive from 1998 to 2002, (Hornets basketball arena) was like no other. It was like another world in which the old saying, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, rather how you played the game,” rang true.
The Charlotte Hornets in their infancy were statistically a miserable team. In the first three seasons, the team won just 65 games. It did not matter because this was our team. We were a part of the success or failure
on any given night. I know because I was a part of the love affair. Those teams weren’t good, but to Charlotte fans, we were all growing up together.
The Hornets led the NBA in attendance for their first seven years. Bringing the name back to North Carolina feels right. I’ve tried to explain this to my friends and colleagues who aren’t from Charlotte or weren’t familiar with the Hornets’ birth. They all listen and smile while I reminisced, but they all asked the same question. Would the team name matter if the organization were currently well run and on a winning streak?
I’m not naïve enough to believe that changing the name exorcises the demons of poor team performance and bad management.
The Hornet nickname reminds me of glory days. It doesn’t erase the failure to connect with fans.
Former Bobcats owner, Bob Johnson reestablished professional basketball in Charlotte and that is all he did. He had no idea how to connect North Carolinians to the game or to the history of basketball. His vision fell far short of resurrecting the hive-like fever that once ruled professional sports in Charlotte. His dream may have been to be a professional basketball team owner. Johnson can check that off his bucket list, but connecting takes more than that in North Carolina, the Mecca of college basketball. It takes a passion and hunger to be the best, to set the team atop the NBA empire.
When Michael Jordan took over as team owner
in 2006, I had reservations because his tenure as general manager of the Washington Wizards yielded very little. I was hopeful because, well he’s Michael Jordan. He is North Carolina’s favorite son and one of the greatest players to ever play basketball. There’s never been a doubt about Jordan’s competitive edge as a player.
I admit, I’ve been a poor judge of Jordan’s tenure as an owner. It’s hard for me to separate Jordan the player, from Jordan the owner. For too long, I’ve been the wideeyed child on the sideline amazed by what Jordan did on the court. If I’m honest with myself, some of his moves behind the owners desk have been impatient and short sighted.
How does someone who played the game
better than most, now sit and make decisions about players who don’t play the game the same way, don’t have the same passion or will to win that he did?
It’s one thing to do something yourself. It’s another to choose (or get) others to do it.
Even with Jordan’s shortcomings as an owner, I still believe he is the one to turn things around for this franchise. If the first step to returning to glory days is finding connection, then bringing back the Hornets name is just that, a first step.
The original Hornets team didn’t have a winning season until its fifth year. Next year’s team will continue to lose, but each loss will belong to the Charlotte’s Hornets. If you remember the Hive, the sting of losing doesn’t hurt so much.