Now that the Hornets are set to completely reclaim the NBA in Charlotte, it's increasingly difficult to tick off fond Bobcat memories. Everything is all Hornets all the time now. You can't blame fans for blocking out some of the bad times, though.
The Bobcats' existence was not exactly filled with an abundance of fantastic on-court moments. Yes, there were certainly some fun games and memorable wins. Seriously, I swear. But when I look back there's only one game that I'll always remember as an event. My other top-of-the-mind memories for the Bobcats didn't have much to do with actual gameplay. These obviously aren't the only good times, but they stand out as significant.
Enter/Exit Bob Johnson
Bob Johnson, the epitome of the good and the bad of the Charlotte Bobcats. For as ugly as his exit from majority ownership was, (he can't even lay claim to the best worst exit of a Charlotte NBA owner) he was the man at the helm when the NBA returned to Charlotte. Would that have happened without him? Probably. David Stern and the NBA wanted a team back in Charlotte, and it came down to Johnson's group and an ownership group that included Larry Bird.
Bird was probably the public favorite at the time. HE'S LARRY BIRD! But as long as the NBA was returning, I don't think many people were overly concerned with the ownership. Still, Johnson will forever be linked to the NBA in Charlotte and for that he should be remembered somewhat fondly, at least.
However, it was bumpy from the very beginning. There's no need to rehash everything that went wrong...so horribly, horribly wrong...but the front office and public off-court bungles were mirrored on the court, which led to laughing stock status at best. Good times!
The NBA in the New Arena
The first game in what is now Time Warner Cable Arena was a good night. The Bobcats played their first season at the old Charlotte Coliseum away from uptown/downtown Charlotte and crowds. It was a peaceful setting for a pickup run.
That second season kicked off with a game against the Boston Celtics on a Saturday night. And...a...WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!!!!! (Actually their second in a row...well, well.) The Bobcats freaking won behind 25 points from Gerald Wallace. It wasn't the Big Three era Cs but it did feature a young, promising big man by the name of Al Jefferson.
However, the Bobs (a nickname tossed around on early email chains that I always thought was funnier than Cats, but Cats are cats and I can't believe it took so long for the Bobcats to have "CATS" on their jersey) limped their way to just 26 wins that season. A new arena made nights out fun, but it was tough sledding.
The Bobcats didn't break 40 season wins until the 2009-2010 season, Larry Brown's second season as head coach. Brown was considered a basketball genius before he spent two seasons and some change in Charlotte. Turning the Bobcats into a playoff team only added to that legacy. But it wasn't all sunshine. After making the playoffs, Brown and the team skidded to start the next season and he left not even halfway through the year.
As clunky as it was towards the end, Brown brought his pedigree to the sidelines, and a basketball cache that hadn't existed anywhere in the building prior to his arrival. The roster was infused with more talent and players were brought in to make a run at the playoffs. It was the right thing to do. The stink around the Bobcats up until that point was so pungent the team had to do anything to gain any sliver of relevancy. Brown's exit was predictable and the team was not primed to build on the short playoff run. But Brown's time on the sideline that culminated in a post-season birth has to be considered a good memory.
Michael Jordan came on the scene toward the end of Brown's run in Charlotte. Jordan, famous for playing basketball, finally made good on an effort to be part of the NBA in Charlotte that started with the original Hornets (and ALMOST happened! We could have had the Wizard-years Jordan some want to erase from history and I would have gladly taken it!) before the deal fell apart and George Shinn moved the Hornets to New Orleans.
Once Jordan assumed majority ownership, it took him several years to start making visible progress. While I'd argue that him completely torpedoing the roster and massively bottoming out was the exact right thing to do, it was brutal. The worst of the Bobcats branded Charlotte a total NBA joke.
Making fun of the Bobcats as part of the fan base? That was okay in an only-we-can-do-that-to-our-pledges sort of way. Making fun of the Bobcats from outside of the fan base? I mean...still okay. They were horrible and deserved most of the criticism. But Jordan started doing more and more to make the team a real NBA thing. Hiring Rich Cho was perhaps the best step forward.
Cho wasn't from Jordan's inner circle -- a criticism against Jordan in his early days -- and he was part of the new wave of analytics-driven NBA executives. The Hornets still have yet to land that marquee, franchise-defining draft pick, but Cho and the staff have done great work over the last two offseasons by adding Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson, most notably. Of course, finally adding a top-notch coach in Steve Clifford was a massive win as well. Trades and free agents have let them add key additions to the draft pieces they've been able to nurture. What they have now is still quite a young roster with room to grow.
Games come and go, and thankfully for the Hornets the Bobcats' games are all gone now. But we'll always remember the Cats with some fondness, and these moments should find their way onto any list of good memories.
What memories of the Bobcats do you have?