ALL BALL NERVE CENTER –One of the first NBA games I remember attending was in Charlotte, N.C., in 1989, during the Charlotte Hornets’ inaugural season. I was an Atlantan and a Hawks fan, but we were on a family vacation, driving somewhere or another on a route that took us through North Carolina. My Dad, a huge NBA fan, planned ahead and ordered Hornets tickets. We rolled into town on March 27, 1989, just in time to see the Hornets host the New York Knicks.
The Hornets weren’t particularly good — they were an expansion team, after all — but the fans there in Charlotte loved basketball and loved the Hornets. I convinced my Dad to buy me a Hornets caricature t-shirt featuring Muggsy Bogues, Robert Reid, Kurt Rambis, and several other players.
I settled in to root for the home team, and all these years later, I remember exactly two things about that game:
1. Every time Hornets center Tim Kempton caught the ball, the man behind me would yell, “STONE HANDS” at the top of his his lungs. I guess he wasn’t a Kempton fan.
2. Patrick Ewing destroyed the Hornets that night, finishing with 45 points.
The Hornets eventually got pretty good, drafting Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. They drafted Kobe Bryant! … but then they then immediately traded Kobe to the Lakers. Eventually, then-owner George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans. The NBA added the Charlotte Bobcats to the league to fill the void. The Hornets were sold, the Bobcats were sold. Last season, the Hornets announced they would change their name to the New Orleans Pelicans. Not missing a beat, new Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan recently announced that his franchise will be changing its name to the Hornets.
This has spurred a torrent of Hornets-related nostalgia. Kobe himself took to Twitter and reminded us all of those few minutes when he was a Hornet…
BuzzFeed went long on the team’s history, reporting that their popular mascot, Hugo the Hornet, was actually designed by Jim Henson‘s daughter, Cheryl.
And then there were the uniforms. The colors and logo were unique enough to make them different, special even. WCNC in Charlotte dug up some old video from the reveal of the Hornets uniforms, featuring designer Alexander Julian and original Hornets star Kelly Tripucka. It’s especially worth noting the shorts, which are not only incredibly short by today’s standards, but also, as I recall, featured pleats.
It’s too early to tell which way the new Charlotte Hornets will go with their logo and uniform — they won’t be changing until 2014 — but as they’ve shown with the buzz they’ve garnered from the name change, it would be hard to go wrong by looking to their past.