Michael Jordan wants to "bring the buzz back" to Charlotte.
The Bobcats owner said at a press conference Tuesday evening he's changing his team's name to the Charlotte Hornets beginning in 2014-15.
Jordan said he submitted an application to the NBA board of governors earlier Tuesday informing them of his decision and is optimistic the board will approve the name change when they convene in July.
"Let's bring the buzz back, and bring that energy back on the basketball court and make this city proud again," Jordan said.
Charlotte will remain the Bobcats next season, but if all goes as planned Jordan anticipates his team will become the Hornets the following season.
Jordan said his organization is giving the fans what they want.
"We spoke to our season ticket holders and fans, and overwhelmingly you guys wanted the Hornets name back," Jordan said. "And we went out and brought the name back."
NBA deputy commissioner and COO Adam Silver previously said it would take about 18 months for the Bobcats to change their name, but pointed out the fact that the league owns the rights to the name Hornets could help speed up the transition process.
Silver said in the April interview the name change would be "an enormously complex process and a very expensive process for the team. From everything to the uniforms, to the building, to the letterhead to the signs on the offices -- "all of that has to be taken into account."
$4M US name change
Pete Guelli, Charlotte's executive vice-president and chief sales marketing officer, estimated the cost of changing the name to the Hornets at about $4 million US. He added, however, that the decision wasn't based on money and that "nothing was going to keep us from going down this road because this is what the fans wanted."
Jordan knows that it will take more than just changing the name of the front of the jersey to turn his struggling franchise around — it will take talent. The Bobcats are 28-120 over the past two seasons, the worst record in the league.
"Ultimately we still have to play the game at a high level, which is what the Hornets did for a long period of time," Jordan said. "Changing the name does not guarantee that we're going to be a playoff-contending team. We still have a lot of work to do to build that. I'm not walking away from that. It is what it is."
He said it's too early in the process to know if the team will keep the Hornets' teal and purple colours.
The NBA's Hornets resided in Charlotte from 1988-2002 before then-owner George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans following a financial dispute with city officials over replacing the Charlotte Coliseum. Shinn wanted a new arena with additional luxury suites.
The New Orleans Hornets, now owned by Tom Benson, recently changed their name to the Pelicans.
Charlotte was awarded an expansion team in 2003 and then-owner Bob Johnson named the team the Bobcats. The venture was a financial disaster for Johnson, who lost millions before selling majority ownership to Jordan in 2010.
Even with Jordan at the helm, the Bobcats have never come close to matching the popularity of the Hornets, a team which sold out 364 straight home games, a streak that stretched nearly nine full seasons.
Grass roots movement
Since 2010 three Charlotte area residents have been leading a grass roots movement to persuade Jordan to bring back the popular Hornets nickname.
John Morgan, an elementary art teacher in Monroe, N.C., started a campaign on Facebook three years ago called "We Beelieve" after watching the Bobcats lose to the Orlando Magic in the franchise's only post-season appearance. Disappointed over the lack of energy in the arena, Morgan began longing for the days of Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning and Muggsy Bogues.
He wanted the Hornets name back and began gathering signatures to support his cause.
Shortly thereafter, brothers Scotty and Evan Kent took the effort a step further and created a website called "Bring Back the Buzz."
Eventually the three men pooled their resources for one common goal.
"It's amazing," Morgan said earlier Tuesday after reading reports of the pending name change. "It feels like I'm walking on a cloud."
While the Hornets name had no meaning for the city of New Orleans, it does have significance to native Charlotteans.
According to the Mecklenburg Historical Association, British general Lord Charles Cornwallis called Charlotte "a hornet's nest of rebellion" after city residents drove the British out of the area in 1780.
The tenacious moniker has become a source of pride for the city for more than two centuries. Charlotte Mecklenburg County police officers still wear a patch with a beehive stitched on their uniforms.