It’s been said before that “there are no second chances in life,” but that expression simply isn’t true when it comes to the Charlotte Hornets. After a run in Queen City that ended unceremoniously in 2002, pro basketball returned just two years later, and in 2013, it was announced that team’s original nickname and color scheme would be returning as well. One can only hope that means Starter jackets will be next.
While the state of North Carolina has always been hoops-mad, it wasn’t until 1988 that an NBA team arrived. During the expansion draft that year, the club selected a pair of players who would become cornerstones for the young franchise: guards Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues (who at 5’3” was the shortest player in league history) and Dell Curry. At the ‘91 NBA Draft, the Hornets acquired Larry Johnson, and the following summer, they picked up Alonzo Mourning. Johnson quickly became a household name, thanks to his turn as “Grandmama” in a series of shoe commercials. The foundation for success had been laid, and in ‘93, the squad booked its first trip to the postseason.
The Hornets would return to the playoffs in ‘94-95, but were quickly vanquished. In the offseason, Mourning was traded to Miami, and the next year, Johnson would be dealt to the New York Knicks as the Charlotte core was dismantled. One bright spot from this time was the play of Glen Rice, who was named to three All-Star teams while with the club. Along with fellow All-NBA forward Anthony Mason, Rice and the Hornets qualified for the postseason in ‘97 and ‘98. Subsequent playoff appearances would occur in 2000, ‘01 and ‘02, but it wasn’t enough to keep the team in town. A move to New Orleans was announced, and in the blink of an eye, the classic era was over.
In 2003, the NBA awarded Charlotte an expansion franchise, and the next year, the Bobcats would take the court for the first time. Sporting colors of orange and blue, there was no mistaking the ‘Cats for the Hornets of old, and their record reflected as much. In 2013, fans found a reason for optimism when it was reported that New Orleans was changing its moniker. The Hornets name and colors were available, and after filing some paperwork, it became official. The teal and purple would be returning once again.
These days, Buzz City is a hub for hoops excitement, as Time Warner Cable Arena delights fans both young and old. Historical murals greet visitors at each entrance, while 21-and-over spectators look forward to visiting the craft beer garden, which features offerings from ten different local breweries. Most essentially, the return of the Hornets signaled the re-emergence of Hugo, the high-flying supporter who was twice named NBA Mascot of the Year during the golden age.
It hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride so far, but Charlotte diehards are looking ahead. In their minds, the modern era of Hornets basketball has yet to be written, and they’re thrilled about the potential of what’s to come.