Let’s Go…Pelicans?

The New Orleans Pelicans played the better part of the 20th century, winning ten league championships.

The New Orleans Pelicans played the better part of the 20th century, winning ten league championships.

It’s not exactly the most exciting or intimidating name in team sports, but according to recent reports, it will be the newest. The New Orleans Hornets announced that they will change their name and become the New Orleans Pelicans starting in 2013. New Hornets owner Tom Benson (who also owns the New Orleans Saints) announced that the name Pelicans was chosen over potential names Krewe and Brass.

The proposed name change is just the newest chapter of a complicated franchise in New Orleans. Founded in 1988, the Hornets began play in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they played fourteen seasons. In 2002, the franchise moved to New Orleans because of declining popularity and poor attendance. Basketball in Charlotte returned when the Bobcats became the NBA’s 30th team in 2004.

The Hornets then lost two consecutive playoff series in 2003 and 2004, before finishing last in their division in 2005. The Hornets began a new era that year by selecting Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft. Paul would become the face of the franchise until 2011, when Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Complicating matters even more was Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and forced the franchise to move to a temporary home in Oklahoma City from 2005-07. The Hornets eventually returned to New Orleans and won their 2008 division title, but have never reached the NBA Finals. Now in a new era, the Hornets have great young superstars such as 2012 #1 overall selection Anthony Davis and former Duke guard Austin Rivers.

The possibility of a name change has interested Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, who has expressed interest in changing the Bobcats’ name back to the Hornets should the change happen as planned. Merchandise sales for old Hornets apparel in Charlotte remains high, and many fans have expressed a desire to bring the old name back to the franchise.

This would not be the first New Orleans team to bear the name Pelicans, however. From 1887-88, 1892-96, 1901-59, and in 1977, a minor league baseball team called the New Orleans Pelicans played in the city. Hornets and Saints owner Tom Benson also owns the rights to the Pelicans name, so the decision ultimately lies with him. Now the question remains whether fans will line up to see the Pelicans in action. Only time will tell.

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