The Hornets nickname in Charlotte dates back to the Revolutionary War, when British General Charles Cornwallis compared the resistance in Charlotte to a hornet’s nest. It has been used in sports by a minor league baseball team (1901-73), an upstart football league team (1974-75) and the city’s first NBA franchise.
The NBA Hornets played in Charlotte from 1988 to 2002 before an arena dispute caused them to move to New Orleans. The NBA replaced the Hornets with an expansion team, the Bobcats, in 2004.
But the Bobcats have struggled to win, making the NBA playoffs once in their first eight seasons. Attendance at 19,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena has lagged.
The team has never captured Charlotte’s attention the way the Hornets did at the Charlotte Coliseum, the since-demolished arena which was located off Tyvola Road. The “Hive,” as that 24,000-seat arena was known, once hosted 364 consecutive NBA sellouts for the Hornets.
The Hornets brand was hot, and not only in Charlotte. The teal and purple colors were unique, and Hornets gear was among the most popular NBA merchandise.
“This was one of the first teams to go with a designer – Alexander Julian. It was a departure from the standard look of NBA uniforms,” said Favorito, who formerly worked in media relations with the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers. “They introduced something that really caught on, both in Charlotte and around the country.”
It’s still hot too. The NBA still sells Charlotte Hornets gear, which has become something of a fashion statement among teenagers and young adults for its distinctive look.
“What was cutting edge then is retro now,” Favorito said. “The Hornets playing in the Hive was probably as good a time as there’s been for (NBA) basketball in the Carolinas.
“With our economy being what it is today, people tend to look back for things they remember as good times.”