The Bobcat experiment has come to an appropriate end. The Charlotte franchise will once again become the Hornets when the 2014-15 season rolls around and hopefully the new/old name will breathe some life back into the team. There aren’t many positive takeaways from the Bobcats era and in a couple years from now the team mascot will be a distant memory, as well as an answer to an NBA trivia question. But the Bobcats will forever be cemented in NBA history, so we can’t just wash our hands with the team name and move onto the Hornets without a little bit of remembrance. If you want a year by year breakdown, then go to their Wikipedia page – although it’s not recommended unless you enjoy depression. Instead of giving a complete team history, let’s go through the components that will forever be known as the Bobcats legacy that are both good and bad.
The first thought that came to mind when originally hearing about the name change was whether or not the Bobcats will have the same nostalgia as the Seattle SuperSonics and Charlotte Hornets currently have. Will wearing a Bobcats shirt or jersey in 10 years be considered cool? It’s generally accepted that almost all Sonics and Hornets gear is considered fashionable to wear these days. Wearing old NBA apparel is retro and lets people remember how cool those old teams were. The Sonics had Kemp and Payton and the Hornets had Grandmama and Muggsy; all four are fondly remembered by fans everywhere. But the Bobcats? I’m not sure wearing an Emeka Okafor jersey to the bar is going to result in any free drinks from strangers. The team colors have always been ugly, while the logo isn’t exactly appealing to the eye. The Cats also tried out racing-themed jerseys that had checkered flags down the sides. The checkered jerseys were an attempt to play off of the NASCAR loving fans of the south – valiant effort by the marketing department! Time will tell if the Bobcats will have a retro comeback. But it’s not a bad idea to browse the clearance section this summer, just in case.
The lack of star power and success are what may ultimately remain as the team’s lasting memory. The first three players that come to mind when thinking about Bobcat history are Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, and Emeka Okafor. Not exactly three top tier players at any point in time. It also didn’t help that they continually missed on first round selections. Here is the quick list of their first round selections in the team’s first five years of existence: Okafor (’04), Raymond Felton and Sean May (’05), Adam Morrison (’06), Brandan Wright and Jared Dudley (’07), D.J. Augustin and Alex Ajinca (’08). Yikes. Three of those players aren’t even in the league anymore. Small market teams must build through the draft, which is an area that wasn’t a strongpoint for the numerous GM’s and coaches that came along during the team’s history.
It is also damn near impossible to convince free agents to come to your team when you consistently lose, are in a small market, and aren’t totally willing to spend big time money. Al Jefferson is the exception to the spending money part of the equation and that move worked brilliantly this past season. But let’s overlook Jefferson for a second and take a gander at the team’s best free agent signings since the team’s inception in 2004: Shannon Brown, Kwame Brown, Brevin Knight, Ramon Sessions, and that is where the list ends unless you’re a fan of the Larry Hughes pickup. It is just a hard sell to try and convince a big name player to come and play in Charlotte.
If Michael Jordan didn’t attach himself to the franchise, then there is a decent chance that Charlotte would’ve went 0 for 2 on NBA franchises within a 25 year span. It is also pretty ironic that he will now own the Hornets, considering the fact that he owned them on the court throughout his entire playing career. If there was another person running the team, then that executive would likely be out of a job and crucified by the media. Jordan sometimes gets a free pass, because well he’s the greatest player of all-time. But there was no hiding behind Air Jordan during the lockout shortened 2012 season. The Bcats took losing to a whole new level by setting the record for worst win percentage during a season as they finished with just 7 wins to go along with 56 losses.
The 2012 team will likely be what is associated with the Bobcat legacy – it’s hard to shed the humiliation of a seven win season, lockout or not. But after that season, the New Orleans Hornets announced that they would be changing their team name to the Pelicans. The next move by Charlotte seemed like a no brainer. It was time to go back to the old team name that has history behind it. It was time to rid the negative stigma that is associated with the Bobcats name. The mascot change also couldn’t come at a better time as there is some real potential for the franchise moving forward.
Charlotte made it into the Playoffs as the seven seed this year after a very respectable season. The acquisition of Al Jefferson has so far turned out to be the best move in the franchise’s short history. He was consistent on an every night basis and will be getting a lot of consideration to be named to one of the All-NBA teams. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is slowly turning into a top perimeter defender and still has a lot of room to grow at just 20 years old. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson are morphing into a solid backcourt on both ends of the floor. First year Coach Steve Clifford has built the philosophy of defense first and he currently has all of the right pieces to do so. Clifford elevated his team to fifth in Defensive Rating (points per 100 possessions) after being ranked dead last in the league last season. The future looks like it is bright in Charlotte for the first time in a very long time.
The Bobcats current roster is the perfect set of guys to bring back the Hornets. The team is full of likable guys who have enormous potential. The timing of this whole situation couldn’t be more perfect. But let us always remember that for a ten year stretch, there was a professional basketball team named the Bobcats. The transition will undoubtedly be confusing to some casual fans who wonder how the Hornets became the Pelicans while the Bobcats became the Hornets just one year later, which also may have some record books looking a little bit off. The league is now a better place since the Hornets are back and it is time for a franchise to get back on its feet. The time has come to say good bye to the Bobcats; as they will forever be revered as a league-wide laughing stock, Michael Jordan’s second crack as an executive, and drafting Adam Morrison with a top three pick.
Rest in Peace Bobcats. You are gone and likely soon forgotten.