We here at GoobNet welcome the recent announcement that the NBA team located in Charlotte, NC, USA, currently known as the Bobcats, is to change its name to the Hornets, pending league approval. Should the league vote in favour of the change, likely to occur in July of this year, the 2014-5 season would see the return of the Charlotte Hornets.
Naturally, we felt that this would be a good time to look back at some of the notable moments in the history of the original Charlotte Hornets.
The NBA awarded Charlotte a team in 1987, and the team began play as the Hornets in 1988. The name is taken from a famous quote about the city dating back to the American Revolution, when residents aggressively resisted British occupation. British Gen Charles Cornwallis then described Charlotte as “a veritable nest of hornets”.
The Hornets were innovators before even playing a game. They are commonly credited with popularising the use of teal in sports uniforms with their adventurous away kits. The teal trend certainly went too far, as even the Detroit Pistons temporarily abandoned their traditional colours. But for the Hornets, teal always seemed the appropriate choice.
Attendance in Charlotte was beyond expectations. The team played in the Charlotte Coliseum, a vast arena that seated nearly 24,000. It was the league’s largest arena, but it still filled frequently: the Hornets led the league in attendance in eight of their first nine years. The team also built a streak of 364 consecutive sellouts in the Coliseum, which had become popularly known as the Hive.
The team drafted Larry Johnson in 1991 and Alonzo Mourning in 1992, and the two led the Hornets to their first playoff appearance in 1993, starting a ten year span during which the team finished .500 or better every year and reached the playoffs seven times. Other notable players included Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player in league history, and Glen Rice.
The most famous player that the Hornets drafted, though, never played for the team. Charlotte selected a little known high school player from Pennsylvania, Kobe Bryant, at thirteenth position in the 1996 draft. He was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers within a week, a deal that had been agreed to ahead of time. Many basketball historians are of the opinion that the Lakers got the better of that trade.
Team owner George Shinn was sued for sexual assault in 1999, by which point the city’s love affair with the Hornets had grown cold. Opinions differ as to whether it was Shinn’s character that repelled fans, or simply his willingness to trade stars away rather than extend their contracts. Either way, the Hive was no longer buzzing. The Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002.
The Hornets retired one number whilst in Charlotte, Bobby Phills’s 13. During his third season with the team, Phills was in a fatal automobile accident on WED 12 JAN 2000 after leaving the Hornets’ morning shootaround. Phills had become one of the league’s top players on defense. Current Bobcats owner Michael Jordan included Phills as one of the five toughest defenders he ever played against.
In all, the Hornets played fourteen seasons in Charlotte, with seven playoff appearances and three appearances in the conference semifinals. The team played 1,116 regular season games in that time, with an overall record of 542-574. The team’s 558 regular season home games had a total attendance of 12,019,492, for an overall average of 21,540.
We here at GoobNet are pleased to see the Hornets return to their rightful home and look forward to hearing Charlotteans once again say, “Let’s go to the Hive tonight!”
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