Hello, everyone. I wish we could have gathered here on better terms but, unfortunately, we are where we are. For anyone who doesn’t know me, I am Jordan Wolf, a writer here at the Bureau. My connection to the deceased is likely similar to yours – one of distant association, brief admiration, and consistent mockery.
The Charlotte Bobcats left this world on April 28, 2014. While the franchise will be reborn in purple and teal, the navy and orange will forever be tainted with failure. Questionable moves, poor draft choices, and the worst win percentage of all time will remain only in our memories.
Let’s start at the beginning. The Bobcats franchise was born in 2002, following the Hornets’ departure to New Orleans after a nasty divorce with owner George Shinn that involved rape allegations, an arena crisis and a lot of politics. The city was blessed to have another team as part of it’s family, especially since it had watched with tears as it’s previous tenant left years before.
The team was originally going to be called the “Charlotte Flight” following a fan vote, which would have topped the list of coolest NBA team names, before it was shot down by the team’s father, Robert Johnson. I can sympathize, as I was almost named Michael Jordan Wolf, until it was shot down my mother. Instead, they were dubbed the “Bobcats”, continuing the trend of North Carolina teams with cat names (Panthers).
The team had promise from the beginning, with several solid, young players like Gerald Wallace and 2004-2005 rookie of the year Emeka Okafor. They followed with an okay 2005 class, picking up Raymond Felton and Sean May. Then, they were blessed with the #3 overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft…
…Adam Morrison. That train wreck set the tone for the Bobcats over the next decade, as the team would grow to be a great example of an “ugly duckling.” However, their period of beauty was short-lived, and they really only looked decent, not flawless.
Over the next four seasons, the team employed two head coaches, who drew a combined record of 109-219. In 2007, they made headlines by acquiring high-flyer Jason Richardson, but still failed to make the playoffs, and continued to live a gloom existence.
But then, on April 29, 2008, hope came to the Bobcats as they hired Basketball Hall of Fame member Larry Brown to coach the team. Certainly he would bring a winning culture to Charlotte, and help the team reach the playoffs for the first time in years.
Things kept landing face up for the team, as in early 2010 it was announced that NBA legend Michael Jordan would take over for Johnson, the father of the team, and hopefully do a much better job. Jordan paid a cool $175 million for the team, pocket change for a guy who charges more than $300 for a pair of new Concords.Even before Jordan’s arrival, the team had been gaining momentum. They drafted Gerald Henderson from Duke, and acquired star center Tyson Chandler from New Orleans, and forward Stephen Jackson from the Golden State Warriors. Hype rose to atmospheric levels in Charlotte. Henderson was a proven winner in college after playing 4 years under Coach K in Durham. Jackson was a solid defender and added a strong veteran presence to the team. Chandler was a top-notch defensive anchor in the league and brought previously unseen star power to the Bobcats.
These men, along with Wallace, would be the core of the 2010 squad that achieved the first playoff birth in franchise history. Even though they were a low seed, the team was riding higher than Lindsay Lohan at a Malibu house party.
But, as observing Lohan today will tell you, the “mighty” fall, and they fall fast.
The team was swept by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs
. and, in the following offseason, Chandler and Felton left for greener pastures. Wallace, the face of the franchise, was traded to the Trail Blazers for two first round picks and a case of Portland microbrews in a move that was more about cutting costs. Nazr Mohammed, the team’s defensive, bruising enforcer was traded for scraps as well. Jordan’s first offseason as head of the team was definitely a dark time in it’s history.
But the worst was yet to come. The team missed the playoffs, and fired its general manager. They traded Jackson and Shaun Livingston, two of their best players, to move up in the draft, where they drafted Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo. This would be a brief period of positivity, as the Bobcats would soon house the single worst season in NBA history in Walker and Biyombo’s lockout-shortened rookie season, compiling a record of 7-59, or a .106 winning percentage.Thankfully, our beloved Bobcats knew it was time for a change. Coach Paul Silas, who had reportedly butted heads with players, was canned and Mike Dunlap was hired. While Dunlap is seen today as another negative influence on the team’s life, it was certainly a step-up from the abusive Silas.
They continued to positively build, as they drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor, and added strong veterans like Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions. The team had a down year, but had it’s eyes set on the future, and solidified that vision by drafting Cody Zeller and signing star big man Al Jefferson this summer. Steps were clearly being taken towards betterment of the franchise.
The Bobcats’ exodus began on May 21, 2013, when Jordan announced that Charlotte would seek to reclaim it’s beloved Hornets name. Finally, after many disastrous years filled with turmoil and wrong-turns, our dearest Bobcats had finally re-evolved, and returned to the Hornets that we know and love.
Back the Buzz. Buzz City. The Return to the Nest. Charlotteans can hear the chants echo from miles away.
Things are already great, even though they have yet to come face to face with us. The Hornets are a beautiful, prosperous creation, with a very bright future laid out for them. Dope logos, young players, and a seemingly competent coach in Steve Clifford spell great things for the team, and the city as a whole.So, today should not be a day of sorrow. Instead, we should be happy, as the Bobcats have moved on to a better place in basketball heaven, alongside the Seattle Supersonics and New Jersey Nets. We must not cry tears of sadness, we should cry tears of admiration, joy, and hope. We should let go off the old, and embrace the new, and welcome back the Charlotte Hornets.
I’d like to thank you all for this time to speak, and I believe I can speak for all Charlotte fans when I say, The Buzz is Back.
Jordan Wolf is a future student at the University of Kansas, where he will pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, and writes for the Bureau on topics ranging from sports to entertainment.