COMMENTARY | After an 11 year run as the New Orleans Hornets, the NBA franchise emerged from the 2013 offseason as the New Orleans Pelicans.
Although the 2013-14 season marks the first time in 25 years that no NBA franchise is calling itself the Hornets, that will change next season. In 2014-15, the Charlotte Bobcats will change their name to the Charlotte Hornets. Prior to moving to New Orleans, the Hornets had a great run in Charlotte for 14 years. Although the Hornets initially struggled as an NBA expansion franchise, the team eventually became playoff contenders, drawing big crowds in Charlotte.
The popular myth is that the New Orleans Hornets were a bad NBA team. Nothing could be further from the truth. It would be more accurate to say that the New Orleans Hornets were an average NBA team. The New Orleans Hornets made the NBA Playoffs five times in 11 seasons, advanced to the second round once, and won the ultra-competitive Southwest Division in 2008. Most of the negativity heaped on these Hornets is due to off the court problems.
Even when the Hornets had successful seasons in New Orleans, attendance was usually paltry. Another black eye for the Hornets came when All-Star PG Chris Paul refused to re-sign with New Orleans, thus forcing a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers. However, the biggest embarrassment came when owner George Shinn couldn't find a buyer for his franchise, thus forcing NBA Commissioner David Stern to purchase the team until a buyer could be found.
But regardless of what the facts may say about the New Orleans Hornets, perception is reality in matters of public opinion. Although the Charlotte Hornets are still the Bobcats, there is already a buzz throughout the NBA about Charlotte getting its original name back. In fact, one of the biggest sports stories of the day on December 21 was the unveiling of the Charlotte Hornets new logo. Nothing the Hornets did in New Orleans generated this kind of buzz.
Given the anonymity with which the New Orleans Hornets operated for 11 years, will anyone remember this NBA team in 50 years?
Before you say this question is impossible to answer without a time machine, we can actually run this experiment in reverse to get a good idea of what the answer may be. Instead of traveling 50 years into the future, we can take a virtual trip back in time to examine the NBA of the early 1960s. All we have to do is to see if we know anything about the NBA teams of the early 1960s that have changed their names to get an answer to this hypothetical question.
Interestingly enough, every NBA franchise that was in operation from 1960-64 is still in existence today. However, several of these teams have either relocated, and/or changed their names. The NBA teams that have only relocated are the Minneapolis Lakers, Philadelphia Warriors, and St. Louis Hawks. The NBA teams that have relocated and changed their names are the Syracuse Nationals (Philadelphia 76ers), Cincinnati Royals (Sacramento Kings), Chicago Packers/Zephyrs and Baltimore Bullets (Washington Wizards).
Obviously, diehard fans know all these NBA incarnations of 50 years earlier, especially if they played in a particular fan's hometown. And although the average person walking the streets of the Big Easy in 2013 may not be aware that a very successful ABA team named the New Orleans Buccaneers played here nearly 50 years ago, the dedicated fan base that watched the Hornets play in the New Orleans Arena will remember this team 50 years from now.
However, this really doesn't address the spirit of the question I posed in the title. In 50 years, I believe that most casual NBA fans will not remember or be aware of the New Orleans Hornets. The only shot the New Orleans Hornets have of entering the NBA's collective consciousness of the distant future lies on the shoulders of Chris Paul.
If Paul can win NBA Championships and break several records in his Hall of Fame career, then his early NBA career as a New Orleans Hornet will at least be a distant memory, much as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's early career with the Milwaukee Bucks is remembered vaguely today as well.
Of course, it's too late now for owner Tom Benson, GM Dell Demps, coach Monty Williams, and PF Anthony Davis to do anything to give NBA fans a history lesson on the New Orleans Hornets. All they can do now is work on making sure the New Orleans Pelicans don't fade into NBA obscurity either. The best thing New Orleans can do now to honor the franchise's recent history as the Hornets is to make sure the Pelicans are relevant in the NBA of the future.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Pelicans. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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