Bobcats’ return to Hornets nickname ‘win-win’ in Charlotte

It’ll be at least 18 months before the Hornets name and original pinstripe uniforms will be back where it belongs . . . in Charlotte, according to a report Friday that stated the team’s looking to reclaim the name vacated after New Orleans announced their decision to change their name to the Pelicans.

The Pelicans changed their name to get back to their Louisiana roots.

It appears Charlotte will do the same.

This is a win for New Orleans, a win for Charlotte and a win for Michael Jordan. Charlotte gets back the name and logo that New Orleans shouldn’t have ever had in the first place. New Orleans gets the same cleansing of George Shinn that Charlotte got a decade ago.

There’s always been something awkward about Charlotte’s NBA team playing a team named the Hornets. The Hornets were one of the rare teams to keep their name and logo when they moved, likely because of the popularity the jerseys and logo engendered in Charlotte from 1988 to 2002. But names belong to cities, not to teams. Just like the Thunder couldn’t be the Sonics after their nasty departure with Seattle, the Hornets name should have stayed in Charlotte.

Based on the fan attire at games, it’s always been difficult to tell which team this truly is — an unusual fusion of Hornets’ teal throwback jerseys and hats and Bobcats’ navy, light blue and orange.

Bobcats President Fred Whitfield told the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell in December that the name and logo change could cost the team up to $3 million, but that’s a small price to pay for an NBA team to appease a fanbase and give Charlotte residents what they wanted all along: The Hornets without George Shinn.

When Shinn, the former owner, moved the Hornets in 2002, the NBA did so knowing they left behind one of their best basketball cities. In nine years, Shinn went from hero to goat in the city that had supported the NBA like few in expansion history. The sexual assault trial in 1997 started the tidal wave turn. His 2001 ultimatum for a publicly funded stadium without his financial backing only 12 years after the city had provided a state of the art one made it all come crashing down.

The city would eventually adhere to his request for a new stadium but wanted Shinn out of the picture. They got the stadium but Shinn took his Hornets to New Orleans, hoping to find a city that actually liked him. He didn’t. Even his return to New Orleans in 2007, two years after Katrina, seemed a contrived effort for a public relations gain.

It was only fitting that Shinn’s ending in the NBA came in a forced sell-off.

Charlotte eventually did get its NBA team back, but the NBA’s seemingly never recovered in Charlotte. The city that had been one of the league’s most ardent fan bases, averaging 23,000 plus for the first 10 years in Charlotte, finished 24th in attendance this season at 15,324 fans a game. It’s taken a decade to vanquish the tarnish left by Shinn, but the return of the Hornets moniker could be a restart for the Bobcats and Jordan.

The Bobcats clearly have to rebuild, and getting the Hornets back seems like the perfect way to start.