There has been a lot of talk for many years about rebranding the Charlotte Bobcats. I’m sure you’ve heard it. In fact, you’ve addressed this subject at least twice that I have read. The first time was in an interview with the Charlotte Business Journal shortly after you were introduced as owner.
Michael Jordan On the Bobcats nickname:
“I’m open for anything. It’s a commitment — we have to go through the league. It’s a process. It’s a financial commitment. Am I willing to look at that and say, “Can we go down that road?” Yeah. If I get the understanding from the public that we need that — and it signifies change, yeah, I would do that. But once again, it’s a process. It’s a $3 million to $10 million investment to do that. I’m not afraid of that as long as, at the backside of that, I think the public is going to be happy about it, I think it’s going to be great for the organization, I think it’s going to be a new beginning. I would consider that.”
Next in your January, 2012 Chairman’s Corner Q & A on Bobcats.com
Carson in Gastonia said that he heard that if enough support was raised we would ask the league about trying to get the Hornets nickname. “That would be a very complicated and expensive process, and judging by what we’ve heard from fans it does not appear that there is the groundswell of support that many people believe there is.”
After reading the first article, I was really excited and hopeful that we could rid ourselves of the Bobcats nickname that has never resonated with very many Charlotte area fans. My hopes took a bit of a hit when I read your Chairman’s Corner letter but, I understood that the “Hornets” belonged to another team and getting it back would be next to impossible. I still held out hope that you would make a change but, realized that a name change to anything other than Hornets most likely wasn’t worth your investment. I reluctantly began to realize that we were stuck with the “Bobcats” name.
Who would have ever imagined that the owner of the most hated NFL team to most Carolina Panthers fans, could also be the man to breathe life back into our NBA dreams? “We want to change the name from Hornets to something that means New Orleans and Louisiana,” Tom Benson said. Just typing that makes me smile. Just typing that stirs emotions from deep within. Emotions that I thought died when my team was taken from me.
The great thing about having those emotions stirred was realizing that I wasn’t alone. No, there were many, many other fans that were invigorated by the chance that our first love could really be coming home. Suddenly, the local newscasts, newspaper articles, radio shows, fan message boards, twitter, and facebook were flooded with the excitement that Hugo could be coming home. A grassroots effort coined “Bring Back The Buzz” has organized support rallies, there is even a documentary being filmed to capture the excitement. A recent online poll conducted by the Charlotte Observer had over 10,000 respondents of which, 84% favored the Hornets nickname. Not only did the “Hornets” win in a landslide, those that favored the “Bobcats” came in at only 3%, trailing behind “Cougars” and “I Don’t Care.”
The groundswell that you didn’t believe existed has suddenly and furiously grown into a great Tsunami.
The fans speaking up and pleading for change isn’t a new phenomenon in Charlotte’s NBA history. You see, the Hornets were originally going to be called the Spirit. When George Shinn and his ownership group announced that Spirit would be the nickname of Charlotte’s expansion franchise in 1987, the fans voiced their displeasure. Shinn decided to sponsor another name-the-team contest and had fans vote on six finalists. More than 9,000 ballots were cast and Hornets won by a landslide, beating out Knights, Cougars, Spirit, Crowns, and Stars.
When the “Bobcats” name was chosen, again there was disappointment but, this time the owner didn’t offer the fans an alternative. This was Bob’s Team, this was Bob’s Cats. I think your old teammate summed up what many of us Charlotteans felt. “It sounds like a girls’ softball team to me,” Steve Kerr told reporters. “I guess it shows there aren’t many good nicknames left to be had.”
“There’s a pride that comes with being here, and a respect for tradition that makes this a special place.”… “I want to build a connection between this team and this community”… “I’ll be bringing plenty of ideas and resources to the table but, I’m also here to listen. Your feedback is important to me because at the end of the day, this is your team too.”
Those are your words, from your letter to fans on March 21, 2010. I was excited by those words because I believed them. I believed that you would do anything you could to ignite this fan base, I believed that if the fans wanted something and it was within your control- that you would make it happen. If this is really our team too, please listen to us, please bring Hugo home, please “Bring Back The Buzz”, please bring the Hornets home to Charlotte.
(Please see post script below)
Dateline: Nov 15th 1996
This date most likely doesn’t stick out in your mind but, I remember it like it was yesterday. I mean who doesn’t remember the day that they got to meet the person they idolized? There I was sitting at the baseline for the Chicago Bulls vs. Charlotte Hornets game; I was watching the team that I had loved for so long playing against the greatest player to ever play the game. I must admit that although I was a diehard Hornets fan, I was pulling for you to score 100 points but, I wanted the Hornets to score 101. You see no matter how much I wanted you to personally succeed; I wanted my Hornets to win even more. Despite a sold-out Hive of 24,042 fans, your Bulls were too much to overcome. As soon as the final buzzer sounded, I was able to sneak past security and to catch up with you right before you made your way into the tunnel… “Excuse me, Mr. Jordan. Can I please have your autograph” I excitedly said. Your reply, “Not right now, maybe next time”. I walked away dejected, when would I ever get a chance to have Michael Jordan sign something again?
Michael, I’m ready to cash in my “maybe next time”. Only this time I don’t want your autograph on something of mine, I want your autograph on the contract that officially makes the Charlotte Hornets a reality again.
Tom Benson has offered up the greatest assist in the history of Charlotte basketball… Can you still finish?