CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Stay with me now: If the New Orleans Hornets change their name to the Pelicans, then the Hornets name would be available, and the Charlotte Bobcats could thusly claim it, becoming the Charlotte Hornets, heretofore reclaiming the Queen City’s NBA birth right.
Those are a lot of dominoes. But they seem, at this point, to be falling in order.
In April, when New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson bought the New Orleans Hornets, he said he wanted to change the name. During the final game of last season, deputy NBA commissioner Adam Silver came to town and told The Charlotte Observer that he expected to have a conversation with the Bobcats about a name change. A week ago, Benson’s wife talked about what the new colors would be for New Orleans' uniforms. And Tuesday night, Yahoo! Sports reported that the team would change its name from the Hornets to Pelicans next season.
Couple that with comments Bobcats owner Michael Jordan made to the Observer about a name change. If the Hornets name were to become available, then MJ would be open to reclaiming it, he said.
Suddenly, something that seemed farfetched at the beginning of the year looked increasingly possible at the end.
So, in that vein, we present to you several random facts about the Hornets, the Bobcats, and how often sports franchises stay in the same town, but change names.
1. Mecklenburg County’s population has more than doubled since the Hornets were created.
· 1987 (NBA awards a franchise to Charlotte): 473,760
· 2002 (Hornets leave Charlotte for New Orleans): 727,134
· 2012 (Hornets name may come back): 966,160
2. In 1996, the Charlotte Hornets drafted Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick, but traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac. Bryant went on to win five titles with the Lakers. Divac went on to have himself name-checked in rapper Wale’s song “Barry Sanders”:
“Interscope feeling like Charlotte when they traded Kobe you know? But I let it go, Rozay finna re-up. He got himself a Kobe and they stuck with Vlade Divac.”
3. The last NBA team to change its nickname without changing cities was the Washington Wizards, which dropped its Bullets name in 1997, and not without controversy, either. Other teams that have done the same: The Houston Astros (formerly the Houston Colt .45s), the Tennessee Titans (which were the Tennessee Oilers after moving from Houston) and the Tampa Bay Rays (formerly the Devil Rays).
4. The NBA owns the rights to the name “Charlotte Hornets,” which, supposedly, would allow Charlotte to reclaim the nickname more quickly. It also allows official Charlotte Hornets merchandise to be sold, even though the team is technically defunct. In 2010, the Charlotte Hornets brand still created about $1 million in “impact value,” according to an April article in the Observer.
5. Charlotte Hornets jerseys never had the word “Hornets” on them. In his book You Gotta Believe!, former owner George Shinn said that was by design:
I’ve made it clear that my objective is to promote my city. No matter where we go around the country, whether we’re playing the Knicks, the Bulls, the Warriors, the Spurs, or the Lakers, when the fans see our players, they see Hornets all right—they’re the monsters on the court jamming the ball down the other team’s throat! But their jerseys say Charlotte.
6. This still exists: