|Monday, June 9
Updated: June 11, 5:36 PM ET
Charlotte's 'Bobcat orange' unique in NBA
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats might not need Michael Jordan to draw fan support. New owner Bob Johnson seems to be a big enough celebrity.
Thousands flooded the center of the city Wednesday to see Johnson unveil the name and logo of his new NBA team -- even though the "Bobcats" name and color scheme had leaked out days before.
That didn't stop fans from cheering wildly when Johnson, the billionaire founder of BET, removed his suit jacket to reveal a black polo shirt with a menacing orange cat on the left breast.
At the same time, a backdrop was lifted revealing the new logo -- which bears a striking similarity to the NFL's Carolina Panthers logo -- and statues were uncovered to show they had been dressed in orange team T-shirts.
"This is unbelievable, I thought maybe a few hundred people would be here," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "So I am a little surprised to see such a wonderful turnout. But I could tell just from walking down the street with Bob that this community really loves him and is really embracing him."
Johnson paid $300 million for an expansion team to replace the Hornets, who moved last year to New Orleans after fan support dwindled and the relationship between ownership and city leaders had soured.
So it was thought that the new team would need a major star -- a la Jordan -- to create interest in the community. Johnson has had several conversations with Jordan about joining him in Charlotte as a partial owner.
But judging by the reception Johnson received Wednesday -- the mayor's office estimated the crowd at 7,000 -- he's doing just fine on his own.
"This is the proudest day of my life and I'm with the proudest fans right now," Johnson told the crowd.
Fans flocked to Johnson for pictures and autographs, making it nearly impossible for the owner to navigate through the crowd. Police officers had to use their bicycles several times as blockades to keep people back.
Eight-year-old Treverioius Hayes made it past the police with a handmade sign adorned with pictures of Johnson he had cut out of newspapers and facts he said he got off the Internet. He posed for pictures with Johnson and had the owner autograph the sign.
"I like Bob Johnson because I like BET and I like the NBA," he said. "I used to like the Bulls when Michael Jordan played for them, but now I like the Bobcats even if Michael doesn't come here."
Hayes then headed off to the souvenir stands set up along the street, where hundreds of people lined up to buy Bobcats shirts and hats.
There doesn't seem to be any backlash over the selection of Bobcats as the team name. Johnson picked it over "Flight" and "Dragons," saying Wednesday that Bobcats was always his choice.
"The name represents the pride, enthusiasm, courage and commitment of Charlotte," he said. "And the name has to symbolize the team, it is from the cat family so it is strong and a predator and agile. It has to have merchandising capability, and the owner has to like it."
Charlotte's team will be the first in professional sports to use Bobcat as the logo, which has "Bobcat Orange," also unique to the NBA, as its primary color. Blue, silver and black also are used in the logo.
Stern briefly wore a bright orange team hat, but took it off and held it in his hands the rest of the afternoon.
"I guess I am going to have to start liking orange," he said, joking.