Should the New Orleans Hornets discard their history?
First time poster from Australia here, so bear with me..
I’ve been a Hornets fan for 20 years, since I was 12 years old- that is, I followed the team from Charlotte to New Orleans. Why the Hornets? Two reasons.. ‘Zo was the first. Loved his attitude, his defensive prowess, and the fact he was the ‘anti-Shaq’.
The second reason was simple- the colours. Red, blue, black and whites abounded in the NBA, but there was no confusing the team in teal. Unlike some other relatively new teams (Orlando (ugh!) and Minnesota), the Hornets NAILED their colours. They were distinctive, different, cool.
Maybe this is just personal opinion, but for a short period in the 90s the Hornets were the ‘buzz’ (no pun intended) team in the NBA. Part of this was due to the fact that they were young, talented and winning. The other factor, in my humble opinion, was the colours. They were eye-catching to the casual observer.
Through everything, I stuck with my team. Through the ‘Zo trade, through the re-location to New Orleans, they were still my team. I loved the fact that New Orleans was a unique, distinctive city within the US. The team and its colours somehow seemed a good fit.
Why do I bring all this up? I’m really concerned that the ‘re-branding‘ of the Hornets seems to be a fait accompli. I’ll mention right here that I understand the desire of New Orleans fans to claim full ownership of their team. New Orleans and its entire people deserve the Hornets. They’ve fought so hard to keep the team when things looked bad. Like all Hornets fans, I’m stoked with the new ownership, the No. 1 Draft pick, and the future of basketball in New Orleans.
However, while I understand the desire to make a ‘new start’ and re-name the team, given everything that’s happened in the past few years, I feel that a lot of people are overlooking some things. What things? History, authenticity.. not to mention the bad track records of gimmicky re-branding exercises in the sports world.
Have a look around the NBA. We all know the most storied teams- the Celtics, the Lakers, the Bulls, the Knicks. What do all these teams have in common? They DON’T change their colours and style every few years (and yes I know they do a little, but they always return to the authentic, old-school style). The colours are fixed, these teams have an identity. Don’t ever underestimate the value of an authentic (as opposed to a contrived) historical and cultural identity.
Apologies to those who have mentioned they liked 90s style jerseys, but.. I think most people would agree that that phase of NBA ‘fashion’ was horrendous. Terrible colour combinations, gimmicky-cartoonish jerseys and logos- for examples, see the Pistons, Sixers, Raptors, Grizzlies, etc. It was amateur marketing and corporate ignorance run rampant.
Recently, Philly has received a lot of kudos for attempting to re-connect with their fans. How have they done this? They’ve placed an emphasis on history and continuity. Note that in recent seasons that they’ve gone back to their old-school colours and jerseys. This was a very smart move.
Ditto the Pistons- they’ve gone back to the Thomas-Dumars era Detroit colours and style. While the Pistons still have a lot of problems, it’s not an accident that teams like Philly and Detroit have reverted to their old school colours. After the anarchy of the 90s, a lot of smarter NBA execs have woken up to the fact that cultural and historical continuity is important. Identity matters. Fans need to know they’re supporting THEIR team, and not just a gimmicky ‘franchise’.
Now, I’m aware that this is, in some part, the reason WHY the name change discussion has come up for New Orleans and the Hornets. The ‘Hornets’ moniker doesn’t have anything to do with New Orleans, and the fans are wary about becoming attached to a team that has the stigma of an up-rooted franchise. The people of New Orleans want to OWN their team, they want their team to represent the culture of New Orleans.
Furthermore, I can understand that it is exciting to dream up new nicknames, new colour schemes and new jersey styles. It’s a blank canvas, the possibilities are endless. I get that.
HOWEVER, I’m really alarmed by the willingness of fans to forsake the historical identity of Hornets though. Yes, it has been a troubled, fractured, well-travelled identity. But it IS just that- an identity. It’s real, and it’s authentic. It is something that no amount of creative marketing can ever accomplish.
Yes, the Hornets originated in Charlotte, but they’ve been in New Orleans for 10 years. Now, seemingly, they’re here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). They have a history too. Chris Paul and David West are a part of that history, sure. But the biggest part of that history lies in the team’s identity and colours. Look at the Hornets website, or the ‘I’m In’ campaigns over the last year. Can anyone think about these things without associating the iconic teal and gold colour combination?
Some of the nicknames I’ve seen proposed scare me. Some fall into the category of ‘Appealing to Eight-Year-Old-Boys-Imaginations’. These include Pirates, Gators etc.. they’re not bad, but they sound childish the more you think about it. A FAR worse group is the ‘Natural Force’ group- anything along the lines of ‘The Spirit’, or ‘The Force’, etc. Without wanting to offend anyone, these are SO lame. So very, very lame. They sound like a nickname for a WNBA franchise.
The only nickname I’ve seen that sounded and felt appropriate and authentic (and not contrived) is ‘The Blues’. It has an obvious cultural attachment, without sounding convoluted. It also has that old-school feel to it. Best of all- by adopting it, you can think about RETAINING THE CURRENT NEW ORLEANS COLOURS.
The colours matter. Why? Because they represent an established identity, a link to the past that is meaningful. They look good, they’re unique and distinctive within the league, and most importantly, they’re appropriate for New Orleans. It’s an accident of fate that New Orleans inherited a basketball teams with colours (teal, gold and purple) that were perfect for it. Distinctive, colourful.. they could belong only to New Orleans.
I implore all New Orleans fans with any influence to think about this. The Hornets are at a crucial juncture in their history- once you disown your history and your heritage, it’s extremely difficult to ever get it back. A new start is enticing, this is an exciting time for New Orleans basketball. But please, please take a moment to think about what you may lose if you opt to re-christen everything..
When I think Celtics, I think green. When I think Lakers, I think purple and gold. When I think Bulls, I think red. When I think Knicks, I think navy blue and orange.
When I think New Orleans (whether it be the Hornets or something else.. if the name is to change, by far the best suggestion I’ve seen is Blues).. I think teal, gold and purple, the colour (and colours) that could only be New Orleans. If you had to mix in a little navy blue (instead of purple) to justify being the New Orleans Blues, so be it.
New Orleans has a team with a distinctive history, and distinctive colours. Unique within the NBA. Please, please think carefully about all this if and when you get the chance to have your say on the future of your colourful team from NOLA..
To those who bothered to read through all this- I both apologise for the length and thank you for your time. I welcome all feedback