by Steve Jones
Author and Asheville native Thomas Wolfe was right when he said, "You can't go home again."
That's what returning the Hornets name and brand to Charlotte feels like even for me, an original season-ticket holder. We're a different city in a different time, and the Hornets, good as they were for us, shouldn't come back.
The Hornets were our first major league sports team. Owned by George Shinn, they began play in 1988.
Shinn got rich by owning a for-profit college that bilked the government for bad student loans, but no one cared because he bought pro sports to town. Charlotte had made the big leagues!
The Hornets were the darling of the Queen City. At the first home game, QC elite attended dressed in tuxes and gowns. Hornets games became social events where one was to be seen.
Despite losing dozens of games, the team and its players were treated like royalty.
The home games sold out 23,000-plus seats for more than seven years; Mugsy Bogues, Kelly Tripucka and Dell Curry became household names; star player Larry Johnson wore a dress for national TV commercials; and the United States could finally point Charlotte out on a map. In short, the Hornets were a phenomenon.
Yet just as quickly as their popularity soared, it all came crashing down. Despite developing a playoff team, it became clear that Shinn was not going put up the big bucks required to keep star players like Alonzo Mourning. Shinn was then accused by a woman he had met while visiting a relative in rehab of forcing her to perform oral sex on him. The luster was gone and soon the team would be too.
They packed up and moved to New Orleans after the 2002 season, taking the Hornets name with them.
I attended the first and last Hornet games in Charlotte and a couple of hundred in between. In 1988 there was no Lynx train, Bechtler Museum or even NASCAR Hall of Fame. No Epicentre, Ritz Carlton or Emeril's. There was no nightlife in Uptown. Hell, there was no Uptown.
Charlotte has changed too much and come too far to go back to an old name for the current pro basketball team. Let's leave the Charlotte Hornets in the past so as to not mar their glory.
Like the man said, there is no going home again.