Have the Charlotte Bobcats ever connected with the Queen City, let alone NBA fans? Sure there’s a sizeable group of Bobcats fans who’ve been loyal through the most-recent rebuilding saga. But when the Bobcats clinched the franchise’s first playoff birth, Charlotte remained in the bottom third of NBA attendance. The Bobcats attendance has never ranked higher.
The Bobcats name isn’t a reason for low-attendance numbers, underachieving talent and poor merchandise sales. Unless of course one believes the clothes make the man, rather than vice versa. Since basketball returned to Charlotte, the organization has never built a foundation for fans to get behind, nor have they had the fortune of acquiring a superstar talent. How different would things be if the Bobcats won the Draft Lottery in 2004 and selected Dwight Howard? Would the name still be an issue?
When the Seattle Super Sonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder, the name was not viewed with unanimous approval by NBA fans. However, the rise of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook created a brand in Oklahoma City that made the Thunder name stick like bubble-yum. As of April 2012 the Thunder ranked Top-10 in NBA merchandise sales and are one of the league’s must-see teams year-round.
A return to the Hornets would bring back all sorts of nostalgia. The old Charlotte Coliseum, better known as the Hive, was one of the NBA’s loudest environments. It featured a Hornets team that played an exciting style of basketball and the Hornets were consistently a playoff team during their best years. Since their expansion in 2004, the Bobcats have yet to bask in that ambience. It’s not the fault of Rufus, but it is the reality of what eight losing seasons in nine years of existence can do. There’s a losing culture attached to the Bobcats name, but it’s hardly permanent.
Since purchasing the franchise years ago, there’s always been rumors that Michael Jordan wanted a different name. Understandably so, since the Bobcats were named after ex-owner Robert “Bob” Johnson. The Hornets name always sounded better with Charlotte and the hope would likely be that bringing the Hive back would inspire more fans to support the team. As someone who went to a lot of Hornets game at the Coliseum, it would be fantastic to have a chance to recreate the feeling from the 90’s. Regardless, Charlotte can win as the Bobcats. They can win with any name they choose. The rebuilding effort under Michael Jordan has given hope to fixing the things that went wrong in past years.
If bringing the purple and teal back to Charlotte will represent a much needed new start in the franchise’s history, I’m all for it.