Poverty Franchise: The History Of The Charlotte Bobcats

Image via Bleacher Report

Image via Bleacher Report

Stanley Shivley

In 2004, the NBA expanded for the first time in nine years, when the league welcomed its 30th franchise, The Charlotte Bobcats. This would end Charlotte’s two-year-long thirst for a professional basketball franchise after their beloved Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans. In their ten years of existence, the team only made the playoffs twice, fumbled several lottery selections, and recorded the worst regular season record in NBA history.

Brief Background (1988-2003)

In 1988, The NBA expanded to 25 teams, with the Charlotte Hornets, and Miami Heat. While they weren’t necessarily contenders, in the early 90s, the Hornets were one of the most exciting teams in the league. Led by young big men Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, the Hornets made it to the playoffs twice within their first seven years, and even made it as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1993. Things started to change in 1995 when Mourning was traded to the Miami Heat for Glen Rice, and Johnson was traded to the Knicks the next year. This new-look Hornets team, fronted by Rice, Vlade Divac, and later Jamal Mashburn, and Baron Davis, was consistently successful, and almost made the eastern conference finals in 2001, before losing to the Bucks in seven games. Around this time, owner George Shinn began to feel discontent with the Charlotte Coliseum and wanted a new area, paid for entirely by the city of Charlotte. When the city refused, he began to apply for relocation. The city later agreed to his demands, only on the terms that Shinn sell the team. Shinn would then announce he was moving the Hornets to New Orleans in 2002. In December 2002, the NBA announced that the city of Charlotte would be awarded another franchise in the 2004-05 Season, and in 2003, the team was officially given the name, The Charlotte Bobcats


Rocky Beginnings (2004-2008)

The Bobcats had slim pickings in their expansion draft. The best players selected were Gerald Wallace and Jason Kapono, however, only Wallace stayed on the roster after the team’s inaugural season. Seven of the nineteen selected players were on the team’s inaugural roster, while the others were traded or impending free agents. The Bobcats had acquired the second overall pick in the 2004 Entry Draft via a trade with the LA Clippers, and selected Emeka Okafor. Okafor was a star center coming out of UCONN and was seen as the second-best player in the class. The Bobcats finished with the third worst record in the league in their first season, however, Emeka Okafor would go on to win Rookie of the Year over Orlando’s number one pick, Dwight Howard, who Okafor statistically outperformed, even though Howard’s Magic was a significantly better team. In 2005, The Bobcats selected UNC teammates Raymond Felton and Sean May fifth and thirteenth overall, respectively. In December, May was injured in a matchup against the Bulls, ending his rookie season. This injury would eventually derail his NBA career, as well. Injuries to Emeka Okafor would also cause him to play 25 total games i in n 2006. The Bobcats subtly improved from the previous year, winning 26 games. Gerald Wallace also led the NBA in steals that season. Prior to the 2006 Draft, NBA Legend and Carolina native, Michael Jordan became the team’s president. Jordan’s first draft selection was Adam Morrison, third overall, notably passing on Bradon Roy and Rudy Gay. The Bobcats once again missed the playoffs in 2007, however, they were still improving, winning 33 games. Michael Jordan shook the team up a bit following the offseason, trading the rights to the Bobcats’ number eight pick Brandan Wright to the Warriors for veteran guard Jason Richardson, and hiring Sam Vincent as head coach. The Bobcats lost both Sean May and Adam Morrison for the season due to injuries. Despite acquiring a star in Jason Richardson, the Bobcats lost one more game than their previous season. After this season, Richardson would be traded to the Suns for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. Sam Vincent was also fired, and replaced by future hall of fame coach, Larry Brown. The Bobcats once again missed the playoffs. Around the deadline, Adam Morrison was traded to the LA Lakers.


Michael Jordan and Gerald Wallace Save The Day(?) (2009-2011)

2010 was a monumental year for the Charlotte Bobcats. In the 2009 Offseason, the team traded their former franchise piece Emeka Okafor to the Hornets for Tyson Chandler, acquired veterans Stephen Jackson and Larry Hughes, and drafted Gerald Henderson Jr. thirteenth overall. In February 2010, Michael Jordan purchased the franchise from Bob Johnson. Gerald Wallace became the Charlotte Bobcats’ first-ever representative at the All-Star Game, becoming Charlotte’s first real NBA star since Baron Davis. The Bobcats finished the 2010 regular season with their first-ever winning season, finishing 7th in the eastern conference with a 44-38 record. However, this newfound glory wouldn’t last long for the Bobcats, as they would get swept by the Orlando Magic in the first round. 2011 was an ultimate turnaround from the previous year. By the end of the 2011 season, the Bobcats had lost Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and Gerald Wallace, all of which they received slim to nothing compensation. The Bobcats won ten less games than the previous year. On Draft Day 2011, the Bobcats lost Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and the draft rights to Tobias Harris in a three-team deal where they received Corey Magette and the draft rights to Bismack Biyombo. One of, if not, the only genuinely great draft pick made in Charlotte Bobcats’ history, Kemba Walker, was selected ninth overall in 2011.


A Professional Basketball Team Only Won 7 Games (2011-2012)

On July 1, 2011, the NBA and NBPA entered a lockout, following the expiration of the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement. To summarize, players and owners weren’t able to agree on the percentage of basketball-related revenue shared. The Bobcats’ owner Michael Jordan was a leader on the owners’ side, as he fronted a group of small market owners who wanted to shrink players’ income from 57% to 47%. Many players and fans called Jordan a hypocrite and a sellout, as Jordan advocated for players’ rights during his playing days. The Lockout would end in December, with players’ salaries reduced to 51%. The League would shorten the season from 82 to 66 games. The Bobcats started the season with an abhorrent 3-17 record in the first month of the season. They would go on to four more games before the wheels completely fell off. The 2012 Charlotte Bobcats won seven total games and achieved a .106 winning percentage, the worst ever in league history. The second-worst team in the league, the Washington Wizards, had won 13 more games. The 2012 Bobcats weren’t a team trying to tank, they were just trying to float around the tenth seed, as they had been doing since their inception. Probably the harshest thing about this team was that they didn’t even win the lottery. Lucking out on Anthony Davis, the Bobcats selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, second overall, A player who amounted to very little and last played in the league in 2020.


The End of Bobcat Basketball (2013-2014)

The 2013 Bobcats improved from their historically awful season, however, only to a 21-63 record. This was another unnotable Bobcats season, minus a sophomore Kemba Walker leading the team in scoring. In Late 2012, The New Orleans Hornets announced that they would be rebranding to the New Orleans Pelicans, starting the 2013-14 Season. Following this, Michael Jordan announced that the Bobcats would be reclaiming the Hornets name in the 2014-15 season. In the Draft, the Bobcats selected Cody Zeller fourth overall, passing up on C.J. McCollum, Steven Adams, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That offseason, the Bobcats signed Al Jeffersons, who would make the All-NBA third team, and help Kemba Walker lead the Bobcats to their second and final ever playoff appearance, where the Miami Heat would sweep them in the first round. The Bobcats name was retired on May 20, 2014. An Agreement was made where the Pelicans would keep team records starting in 2002, and the Hornets would retain the original Charlotte Hornets and Bobcats records and history. The Charlotte Bobcats go down as one of the worst franchises in NBA history, with their most memorable moment being their awful 2012 season. As of 2023, Bismack Biyombo and Garrett Temple are the only former Bobcats on an NBA roster.