State of the Hornets after MJ’s Arrival

The game of basketball has a rich history in the state of North Carolina, with the sport being deeply embedded in the roots of its peoples’ culture. The love of the sport can be seen on all levels of the basketball pyramid—from high school, to college ball, and on up to the NBA. It is said that North Carolinians bleed their teams’ colors and pledge their allegiance to them from the day they are born, forming a life lasting bond.

The team hasn’t been that hot lately.  They have struggled the last few seasons.  This year Vegas doesn’t think much of them again either.  The Hornets are 150/1 to win it all.  That’s one of the worst odds in the entire NBA.

The embodiment of this basketball-crazed fervor is none other than the game’s GOAT (Greatest of All Time): Michael Jordan. Jordan played high school basketball in Wilmington, North Carolina, and he played during his college years at the esteemed University of North Carolina. However, he really made his mark on the sport once he got to the NBA, having many great seasons, incredible games, and powerful dunks.

Jordan eventually took the torch that was handed to him by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (whose heated rivalry in the 80’s put the sport on the map) and assumed his role as the face of the NBA. During Jordan’s reign, his name and brand raised the popularity of the NBA around the world. By the time he was done, Jordan’s list of accomplishments and records could fill up an entire book.

Despite the success of its prodigal son, North Carolina has not had much in the way of success at the professional level since the inception of its local team—The Charlotte Hornets—
in 1988. Unfortunately, the team was resigned to early exits from the NBA playoffs, or missing the postseason altogether. Eventually, due to a falling out between the owner and the city of Charlotte, the team was relocated to New Orleans in 2002, breaking the hearts of North Carolinians.

Soon after, realizing that Charlotte was still a hotbed for the sport, the NBA sought to make amends with the city and brought professional basketball back to North Carolina. This time around, the team was under different ownership and had a new name: The Charlotte Bobcats.

Beginning play in 2004, this iteration of the team sadly did not give their fan base much to cheer for at first, finishing at the bottom of the league’s standings after the first 2 years.

However, a glimmer of hope came to the good people of Charlotte in 2006. This beacon of light was none other than North Carolina’s golden child: Michael Jordan. He returned to North Carolina basketball during its darkest time, buying a minority stake in the team and being named head of basketball operations.

Relying on his basketball acumen, as head of basketball operations Michael Jordan immediately sought out to reverse the misfortune plaguing the team for decades. He implemented an organizational restructure of the team, focused mostly on hiring new personnel in the front office and competent coaches. His first major moves were firing coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff and hiring Rod Higgins and Sam Vincent to replace him, respectively.

Jordan’s first season as head of basketball operations didn’t go as well as planned and the Bobcats finished with a dismal 22-50 win/loss record. Rumors were going around about players clashing with the coach, so Vincent was fired.

The man brought in to replace him was legendary coach Larry Brown. Brown ended his first season as head coach with a marked improvement and the Bobcats narrowly missed out on a playoff berth.

Next season, due to acquisitions of key players and the stability offered by coach Larry Brown, the Bobcats further improved as a team and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. It was also during this season that Jordan bought a majority stake in the team and became the first former NBA player to become a majority owner of a franchise.

Thereafter, the Bobcats sputtered to 9-19 start and Jordan announced the Larry Brown had resigned as head coach, with Paul Silas hired to replace him the same day. However, this was not enough to reignite the fire from the previous season and the Bobcats failed to make the playoffs yet again.

In the offseason, Jordan removed himself from his position as head of basketball operations and promoted general manager Rod Higgins to replace him. The next couple of years the Bobcats failed to make the playoffs but were set on acquiring promising young talent.

This strategy finally came to fruition during the 2013 season, as the Bobcats qualified for the playoffs for the second time in their history. Coincidentally, this was also the final year the team used the Bobcats as their name. In the offseason, Jordan announced that the team applied for a name change, reverting to the original name of the franchise: The Hornets.

Trying to build off the previous year and the reinvigoration of the fan base due the name change, the Hornets aimed to qualify for the playoffs for the second year in a row, ultimately falling short.