Fans flock to EpiCentre to celebrate Bobcats’ name change

07/18/2013 11:09 PM

07/25/2013 11:41 PM

Charlotte’s old colors, symbol, and players surfaced to celebrate the return of the Hornets name to the Queen City Thursday. Some of the old excitement showed up as well. The buzz was back.

At roughly 8:30 p.m., NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the Bobcats would become the Hornets before the 2014-15 season after the 29 other NBA owners unanimously approved the change.

Stern’s announcement was broadcast in two different locations downtown at the EpiCentre to thousands of locals. It was the culmination of an all-day celebration of Charlotte basketball’s history and future. The present was sprinkled in as well.

Bobcats tents dotted the plaza while purple and teal banners hung overheard.

Followed by handlers in “Buzz City” shirts, Rufus, the Bobcats mascot, still excited kids despite his probable retirement next year.

A miniature version of the Bobcats team store was exclusively selling Hornets gear, but the memorabilia still came in bags emblazoned with a now-endangered snarling cat.

Mixed messages didn’t dampen the crowd though. Dozens of families came during the day before a mix of the Alive After Five concert-series regulars and basketball fans poured in during the evening.

The loudest moment of the event came when Muggsy Bogues joined fellow former Hornets Rex Chapman, Dell Curry, Kendall Gill, and Kelly Tripucka on stage.

“The overwhelming excitement is just flabbergasting,” Bogues said. “It’s electrifying out here today. ... It lets you know how much they want the name back in the city.”

Before going on stage, the retired players signed autographs at a meet-and-greet event for season-ticket holders and posed for pictures.

Hilmi Ari of Lincolnton, one of the season-ticket holders at the meet-and-greet, was a season-ticket holder during the first Hornets era, but didn’t buy Bobcats season tickets.

“When the Hornets left, I was (upset),” Ari said.

When he heard that there was a chance the name could return, Ari signed up again.

“The excitement, it’s coming back,” he said. “We are going to give the Hornets an opportunity.”

Ari saw some of that excitement Thursday as fans broke out teal jerseys and waved purple towels in support of their soon-to-be Hornets.

Chapman is glad to see those colors again.

“Today brought back a lot of memories,” Chapman said. “Seeing how crazy fans are about the name change reminds us ... how much that old Hornets team meant to everybody.”

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