Michael Jordan’s Clutch Move Brings the Hornets Home.
Four years ago Michael Jordan was inducted in to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Of the occasion, Jordan said that it was “simply a continuation of something that I started a long time ago.” During his induction speech Jordan called out a lot of the folks that he didn’t feel were helpful to his ambitions. He even claimed that there was a chance you “might look up and see me playing the game at 50.”
Now at the age of 50, Jordan’s made a huge play off the court for the city of Charlotte. His body might be too old to lace up those eponymous high-tops but Michael’s still the ‘alpha’ and the only one who could make the shot Queen City hoops fans needed someone to make. Say what you will about his past mistakes as an owner, MJ deserves a ton of credit for bringing back the Buzz.
The Long Road Back
In 2002, George Shinn moved his Hornets down to Louisiana. He sold the NBA on the idea that the Big Easy wanted a pro basketball team and that New Orleans was the only place where he could make ends meet. It worked so well the first time that Shinn tried the same story with the league just a few years later with Oklahoma City. Fortunately, Commissioner Stern and the Board of Governors finally wised up to Shinn’s tactics and took the Hornets off of poor Georgie’s plate for good.
Shortly afterward, the league office found a buyer for the club in Tom Benson, majority owner of the New Orleans Saints. As new owner of the neglected franchise, Benson vowed to make Louisiana proud of their NBA team. His first order of business was to begin the process of rebranding the club with regional ties, and steer toward a name (Pelicans) that meant something to the surrounding area. Along with evoking a sense of local pride, the rebrand will go a long way to separate the climate of new ownership from Shinn’s downtrodden and generic Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
For decades Shinn did his best to render the Hornets brand meaningless – trading players in their prime, disregarding the fan base, and keeping that wandering eye toward the next town’s cash. Yet somehow, twenty-five years since his birth and against all odds, Hugo the Hornet finds himself on the precipice of returning home to the city that once loved him and – as the last twelve months have revealed – still very much does.
The total cost of reclaiming the Hornets moniker and washing away the Bobcats experience will be substantial. It also comes with the risk of alienating the few faithful who’ve kept the franchise afloat. It’s a gamble, but MJ’s always been the gambling type. For the doubters who say the Hornets rebrand won’t matter, be ready to be proven wrong because that’s one of MJ’s two great gifts – proving people wrong. The other? Taking and making big time shots.
First off, big props to Rick Bonnell for breaking today’s news. Bonnell takes a lot of grief from “the internets” but when he’s on, he’s on.
BOB JOHNSON IS ATTEMPTING TO SELL THE BOBCATS!
If you are a ‘Cats fan, I can’t think of any better news. Sure, there’s always a chance that this turns into an Atlanta Hawks-sized debacle and (considering the parties involved) the For Sale sign could seriously impede this summer’s personnel moves but c’mon! It’s worth another season or two of mediocrity if only to rid ourselves of the man who single-handily did the impossible:
Seriously, this is really great news and to start off the festivities, let’s put in our wish list for the next owner (or ownership group).
I’ll start it off:
Needs to have money, lots of it. Ideally billions. And a pre-nup.
Needs to be likable, warm, funny and candid.
Needs to be a part of Charlotte, not apart from Charlotte.
Needs to understand the current direction of the NBA, new statistical analysis and hiring outside the box. See Rockets, Houston.
Needs to be serious about reverse engineering the San Antonio small-market franchise model or needs to be wealthy enough (like Paul Allen) to spend his or her way out of mistakes (and when I say her, I mean Oprah).
That’s my 5. Let’s hear it Bobcats fans, “Make Some Noise!”
UPDATE 05/25/09 | Hollinger on Bobcats Sale:
ESPN.com’s John Hollinger had some choice words on the Bobcats For Sale news in his Saturday Insider Gems:
The Bobcats are for sale, and that has to be good news for their fans. The odds for the team to relocate are minuscule, as Charlotte has a new arena and a solid market, not to mention the fairly harsh penalties for departing. But whoever takes over is almost certain to operate the team more competently than Robert Johnson did.
Johnson’s tenure was so bad that on Friday a Charlotte columnist was longing for the George Shinn days. Presumably the new guy won’t let Michael Jordan run the team from the 12th green or shut out the local TV audience, and he might even be encouraged to spend some money on players.
Become an ESPN.com Insider and read the rest of Hollinger’s post here.
After all of the headlines have passed and while the new OKC NBA team is on the verge of creating a new name, the supporters of NBA Basketball in Charlotte should recognize what has happened to Seattle. We’ve been through this. Somewhere in the days following the Charlotte Hornets achievement of credibility, and several seasons after the town hosted the All-Star game, things began to sour for the franchise. The Hornets’ owner was despised and refused to sell his franchise to any locals. It was made clear that our NBA team was only in town to serve as profit for the owners. Nothing more, nothing less. Does that sound familiar Seattle? Continue reading