Over the weekend, the Charlotte Hornets joined the New York Knicks as laughingstock of the NBA when they misplayed their hand and lost Kemba Walker, the best player in franchise history, in a sign-and-trade that will reportedly land us Terry Rozier as his replacement for an inexplicable $58 million over three years. We received this open letter from distraught Hornets fan and Charlotte-native Cory Howard in response to the weekend’s news, and while we have very different ideas about what is needed to make the Charlotte Hornets relevant again, we enjoy hearing from passionate folks and giving them a platform to express their wishes for all things Charlotte. We’d like to hear your ideas, too. But until then, we’ll let Cory take it from here.
Dear City of Charlotte and the Charlotte Hornets,
Here we are, it happened. You lost the best player in the history of the franchise due to years of mismanagement, as documented by Konata Edwards in this post, so where do you go from here?
Let’s not dwell. This moment has been a long time coming. At their roots, the Charlotte Hornets are a special team, but what may be difficult to see is how that special feeling has very little to do with how actually good at basketball they have been throughout the years. While you were never the most talented guest at the party, you were often the most interesting and the one I was most grateful had showed up. I am constantly in awe of your sheer existence. However, I’ve watched you slowly lose your identity and drift into generic irrelevance.
I am writing you this letter not to scold, but to help, from the heart of my heart. Because after losing Kemba, my immediate fear is that you are a few bad years removed from being packed up and shipped across the country to Seattle, and well, having barely survived the first long divorce just to see us end up here again, I can’t sit back and let that happen. So I present to you, unsolicited, several helpful pieces of advice that will galvanize the fans and make this team the ode to joy it once was.
The Look: This is a no brainer. Kill these Ed Hardy/No Fear/Dick’s Sporting Goods clearance rack jerseys, logos and merch. The Hornets were born sporting the the flyest jerseys, logo and mascot of all time. Go back to that. It doesn’t have to be throwback per se, but build off of that old look. No more serious Hornet logo, no more pointy stinger fonts, no more sharp edges and designs made by the guy who wraps cars for radio station giveaways.
Same goes for the court layout. And for God sakes design the main icon to be less busy. Do not include the word “Hornets” in it. It’s a mess and it’s apologetic, like you are telling the world you know you aren’t iconic enough to recognize without the words. Own it y’all. Think about how it will look all tiny in one of those NBA merch commercials, or on ESPN. You want it to be classic, simple, clean and fresh. Think Bulls, Heat, Lakers. Let’s act like we’ve been here before. Alexander Julian said he would design the new Hornets jerseys when the name got brought back; that’s a great place to start, put the man to work.
Buzz City: It’s not a thing. Nobody calls Charlotte Buzz City, and it’s not catching on. It’s not cool like Rip City or funky like Lob City or meaningful like Motor City, ok? Its forced and sad and feels like Brad from marketing came up with it after he forgot he had to finish one last project before leaving for the Bahamas. Just let it go. Charlotte is not a cool place. The original team captured the world’s hearts because we were so earnestly uncool; people dig that, it actually plays cooler than acting cool. Charlotte’s nickname is the Queen City, there’s already a terrific logo with a historically significant mint green color … limited edition Queen City jerseys with that sweet crown, that works. Also acceptable, a play on the whole “Hornet’s Nest” theme, which is where the Goddam name came from in the first place!
F-U-N: Have some. Remember Muggsy? Grandmama? You are at your best when you’re having fun. The last time you were exciting, there was Jeremy Lin with the silly mohawk and later matching double ponytails with Spencer Hawes, and there was at least an attempt at nicknames (Big Al). Players used to like playing for the Hornets. The locker room was good, there was laughter and we liked watching you — yeah sure, the purple shirt guy was a world class asshole, and I don’t think we want that vibe, but at least it was a thing.
Winning is fun, yes, and losing is abysmal, but you don’t have to win a championship. If you’re having fun and being competitive, we will get behind you! Speaking of fun, get Hugo more involved. Remember when he was one of the most popular mascots? Wheel out Super Hugo some more. Let’s get into some storylines here — pro-wrestling style. Pour some money into your video team, make more of those Llama Llama Red Pajama and MKG Security movement. Also, how about more local weirdos like this awesome dancing guy? Remember the overweight business man that did all the flips? These people should be given star treatment. We’re a small city in the South with no clout, we have to embrace our inner country, that magical swirl that mixes ridiculousness with swagger and announces we’re crashing the party.
Get a Boban: Draft or recruit an inexpensive novelty player. So what? We like that.
Your Airness: MJ. I love you. I am grateful to you. You are the greatest. But you can do better. Show up, take yourself less seriously. Get involved, take some initiative. Appear on some podcasts, respond to some people on Twitter, get chippy, let the fans know you see them. This might be controversial, but while many people may not agree with you smacking Malik Monk upside the head last year, I actually thought that was a rare moment of you enjoying yourself, putting your guard down and losing yourself into the team. More of this. And where in the actual hell are some official Hornets Jordan 1 through 3s?? This is what I’m talking about man, throw us a bone!
Fans: We have work to do y’all. It’s not always going to be fun, it’s going to be a long road but we begged for the Hornets to come back to Charlotte and we have to hold up our end of the bargain. We will have to consistently show up and stick with them. Things might get ugly, so let’s get weird! More camping out on billboards until they win x amount of games, more strange contests, more being proud of our motley crew of misfits and losers, more stickers, more flags, let’s get some craft beer with Hornets references. We’re lucky to have a team and we’re even luckier to have such a bizarre and perfectly suited team to this city (and we’re even luckier that team isn’t called the Bobcats), and having a basketball team is so much more fun when its fun.
It sucks being miserable and making fun of ourselves on Twitter. The self-deprecation is funny and very Charlotte, but it can be better! *Shoutout to everyone who has explicitly not burned your Kemba jerseys. The best Charlotte people are fun and ridiculous with tons of personality and guilelessness; if we project this onto our basketball team they will mirror us. There are facts we have to face. Free agents aren’t going to want to come here, George Shinn legitimately cursed us and we might never win a championship, so let’s embrace the team we have and passionately, overzealously appreciate the players who are nesting here while welcoming the ones who are stopping by for a season or two.
North Carolina is the best basketball land in the world, the best players are from here or go to college here or both and the best fans support them like a religion. For some reason, that has petered off at the professional level. This makes no sense. We have it in our blood, so let’s stop this navel gazing, wipe the ranch dressing off our shirts, embrace our destiny and become who were always meant to be!
Love & Basketball,
Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan and President of Basketball Operations Mitch Kupchak released statements today regarding Kemba Walker leaving the team. You can read them here.