The buzz is back in Charlotte after NBA owners unanimously approved changing the Charlotte Bobcats to the Charlotte Hornets for the 2014-15 season.
Fans in Charlotte had been campaigning since the arrival of the Bobcats to the NBA in 2004. NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged at Thursday’s owners meetings in Las Vegas that something he long thought was a joke was very serious.
“True-blue fans of the old Hornets said, ‘Give us our name back,’” Stern said at a news conference Thursday, per the Charlotte Observer. “There is something to it: The team will receive (positive attention) from fans who said, ‘This is what we were asking for.’”
The name became available when the New Orleans franchise changed its name from the Hornets to the Pelicans for the upcoming season. The New Orleans franchise had taken the Hornets name with it when it moved from Charlotte after the 2001-02 season.
The Hornets name has a long history in Charlotte, dating back to the first time it was used to identify a sports team in the city in 1892, when the Charlotte Hornets played in baseball’s South Atlantic League. The name returned for an entry in the Virginia-North Carolina League in 1901 and continued when the league dropped “Virginia” from its name in 1902. The V-NC League was brought back in 1905 and the Charlotte Hornets were again a part of it.
Finally, in 1908, the Charlotte Hornets were part of the new Carolina Association in baseball and a Charlotte Hornets team played continuously in minor-league baseball until 1972, save for 1918, when the North Carolina State League closed down for World War I, and 1943-45, when the Piedmont League did the same for World War II.
The name made a short-lived return in the old World Football League of the 1970s when the New York Stars moved to Charlotte during the league’s inaugural season in 1974. For the league’s final campaign in 1975, the franchise remained in Charlotte and was renamed the Hornets.
If that were the entirety of the history of the Hornets name in Charlotte, it would be a long, rich one. But the origin of the moniker goes back much further.
According to an article by Emily Lassiter on the University of North Carolina library website, the hornet has been associated with Charlotte since the Revolutionary War, when British Gen. Charles Cornwallis complained Charlotte was a “veritable hornet’s nest of rebellion” during his 1780 southern campaign.
Charlotte’s citizens were so proud of the impression they had made on the British general, they nicknamed the city “The Hornet’s Nest.”
Per the Charlotte Observer, the news was a huge hit in Charlotte—the announcement by Stern was broadcast at two different locations at the downtown EpiCentre as the culmination of an all-day celebration of the Hornets. Former Hornets players Muggsy Bogues, Rex Chapman, Dell Curry, Kendall Gill and Kelly Tripucka took the stage as part of the celebration after signing autographs at a meet-and-greet with season-ticket holders.
The announcement was greeted with great enthusiasm:
There has been no announcement yet whether or not the team will bring back the purple-and-teal color scheme, but it was worth pointing out that Stern said that the team’s former mascot—Hugo the Hornet—is “a mascot the community has fallen in love with.”
It’s also a name the community can, and has, fallen in love with. Bobcats officials conducted surveys over the winter to gauge interest in a potential name change—80 percent favored the move.
So the Bobcat is now an endangered species … at least in one North Carolina city.