Bobcats-to-Hornets swap won't help Jordan

May, 21, 2013
5/21/13
10:21
AM ET
HornetsAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesCharlotte may get the Hornets name back, but not its beloved Hornets stars.
Michael Jordan is in a bind. His team has lost seven out of every 10 games since he became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats in March 2010.

On an average night, reported attendance reveals an arena that is 20 percent empty, while actual attendance is worse.

The sad part is that dressing the team up in the Charlotte Hornets teal of old, as Jordan is expected to announce Tuesday, won't help much.

Lipstick, meet pig.

It likely won't bring a significant number of people to the arena. It won't even bring in much-needed revenue.

If it's money Jordan is seeking, he'll make much more by winning. That, or by continuing to lose and getting revenue-sharing money that will scale up to unprecedented heights next season as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

Charlotte, which led the league in attendance in eight of its first 10 seasons, has seen its attendance plummet. The decline can be blamed mostly on the city's falling-out with then-owner George Shinn, who was tied to a sexual assault scandal and extramarital affairs, and the subsequent departure of the team to New Orleans.

But like many cities that are not afforded a huge tradition, it turns out Charlotte, which got its NBA team in 1988, just doesn't support a losing team.

The most popular line of thinking is that there's money to be made in Charlotte Hornets gear. As far as defunct team names go, the Hornets logo and colors might now be the most popular thanks to the snapback craze, where kids have embraced the retro look.

The problem of cashing in starts with the cost -- which will fall on the team -- of changing the signage and removal of the Bobcats logos everywhere. Then there's the league system, which won't allow Jordan to capitalize fully. Revenues from team merchandise sold outside arenas and team stores are shared among all teams.

Even the fact that the name is in use again could be a negative. There is a certain cachet in retro flair, the novelty of something that hasn't been seen in a while. It evokes nostalgia of the Hornets teams in Larry Johnson's "Grandmama" years, alongside fan favorites such as Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning. This inevitably leads to conversation about the good times.

Jordan is making the announcement on the day of the NBA draft lottery. Some will believe that the name change is a huge step for the team. But getting the No. 1 pick -- and eventually picking the best player -- is much more important than one of the most popular bugs in sports making its return.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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