October 1, 2017
When the Hornets name returned to Charlotte in 2014, some voiced concern on whether or not the change in mascot would actually make a significant difference on how the Queen City perceived the franchise. The Bobcats felt like an unwanted stepchild, and fans never had high hopes for the team. Even when they would make the Playoffs, they were nothing more than an afterthought in the Charlotte sports scene. And while the Hornets rebranding would surely lead to temporary boost in merchandise sales, what would happen once the nostalgia wore off?
The Hornets Open Practice event on Saturday seemed to put those concerns to rest. The team distributed all 15,000 tickets for the event, a remarkable feat for an open practice, especially considering the team is coming off an underwhelming season in which they failed to make the Playoffs. To add some perspective, just five years ago, the Charlotte Bobcats averaged 15,324 for the actual games. The fans who filed into the Spectrum Center were treated to fun, festive event that featured a half-court shooting contest, a three-point shootout, and an autograph session with the Hornets players.
The Buzz City faithful also welcomed the new additions to the team, namely Dwight Howard and Michael Carter-Williams. Howard showed a genuine enthusiasm throughout the event, and the 13 year veteran stayed much longer than any other player at the autograph session, appearing to relish the love and appreciation from the fans.
Another duo looking to make an impression on Buzz City are rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, who many feel could be the best draft class in recent Hornets history. Bacon looked particularly sharp; he wowed the fans in attendance with some big dunks during the practice drills, and then showed off his offensive versatility by winning the three-point shootout, sinking an impressive 19 three pointers in 60 seconds. A special contestant in the shootout was Hornets legend Dell Curry, who received one of the louder ovations of the day. Curry didn’t win the contest, but he showed everyone that he still possesses some magic from behind the arc, much to the delight of fans.
The three-point shootout was just one of many highlights from an event that seemed successful for everyone involved. The Hornets were able to showcase their new talent, all while selling a lot of new Jordan gear from the team store. Fans were able to get a taste of what it’s like to go to Hornets game for free, with many getting the opportunity to get autographs and take pictures with their favorite players.
The Hornets rebranding three years ago signified more than getting back the name, colors, and jerseys of an old team. It catalysed a change in the perception of the franchise. The fans are proud of their history, optimistic about the future, but most importantly, they care. The strong attendance on Saturday was convincing proof of that. While the Bobcats were always expected to be a bottom-dwelling lottery team, the Hornets are assumed to be a perennial Playoff team, and are met with disappointment and frustration when they don’t live up to their potential. Because more than anything else, the fans just want the success those old Hornets teams were able to boast.
Check out the 2017-18 Charlotte Hornets schedule.