CHARLOTTE – What’s in a name?
For fans of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, the team’s moniker doesn’t have much behind it other than negative connotations.
The team has made the playoffs only once in nine seasons, and routinely ranks in the bottom third in attendance.
There’s hope, however, of a fresh start for the fan base and an increase in revenue.
Team owner Michael Jordan announced on May 21 his application to change the franchise’s name to the Charlotte Hornets, the first and more popular NBA team in the area from 1988-2002.
The name change – which costs Jordan roughly $4 million – won’t go into effect until a July vote from the NBA’s Board of Governors, and even then won’t start until the 2014-15 season.
But local fans are already excited about the Hornets’ return.
Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice routinely attends games. He said the switch should give the team some much-needed positive attention.
“I am very happy the Hornets name is returning,” Brice said. “I also hope and believe returning the name will build fan support.”
The original Hornets relocated to New Orleans in 2002 and changed their name to “Pelicans” in April, enabling Jordan to drop “Bobcats.”
Jordan said he hopes the name change can impact the entire region. About 80 percent of season ticket holders supported the name change in a Harris Interactive poll.
The original Hornets led the NBA in attendance eight times in their first nine seasons. The Bobcats’ highest rank in attendance was 21st out of 30 teams in the 2010-11 season.
“When I first used to come (to Charlotte as a player), the fan base and the energy from the fans (was) unbelievable,” Jordan said.
“Based on our due diligence, we gathered that energy to be something positive by getting the name back. We never want to regionalize the Hornets (in Charlotte). We definitely want to expand as much as we can in North and South Carolina. We hope this is going to energize our fan base.”
The notoriety can only benefit the team according to John Morgan, a Charlotte schoolteacher who in 2010 started We Beelieve, a grassroots effort to have the team rebrand itself as the Hornets.
“People have been clamoring for this for so long,” said Morgan, who joined a throng of fans at Time Warner Cable Arena on May 21 to celebrate the name change.
“I think you're going to see an explosion of sales the moment the (team makes its) initial (Hornets) apparel available. People never stopped buying Charlotte Hornets gear in the first place.”
The name change has professional athletes excited as well.
NASCAR driver Regan Smith, who moved to Mooresville when he was 12, attended Hornets games growing up. He said he looks forward to the Hornets’ return.
“I’m excited for it,” Smith said. “I enjoyed going to games as a kid. I’ll probably end up buying myself a Hornets hat, too.”
Jordan can only hope the rebrand generates positive cash flow from area fans.
“Now we have to continue the process and move closer as we put the name on our uniforms,” he said. “The energy from the fan base has been overwhelming.”