Hubbard: New Orleans Should Embrace “Pelicans”

We come to you today to praise the memory of the Swamp Dragons, who are part of NBA lore but not part of NBA history. They were so close to being real – at least as real as a nickname and mascot could be.

But they were extinguished at the last minute, and the only part of them that lives is a logo.

Swamp Dragons was the idea of marketing zealot Jon Spoelstra (yes, he’s Erik’s dad), who was one of many creative people who tried to make the Nets pertinent in New Jersey during their 36-year history in the Garden State. Like everyone else, he found more frustration than success.

In the mid-90s, there was a trend towards comic book-type logos, best represented by the Toronto Raptors’ logo. Spoelstra, the Nets’ president at the time, had the idea that changing logos would help boost the Net’s image. The preferred name was Dragons, but there were apparently some copyright problems and so Spoelstra – noting that the Nets’ home court at the Meadowlands was built on a swamp – decided on the name Swamp Dragons.

The talented people at NBA creative services created a sensational logo and it likely would have tremendously boosted t-shirt sales, especially in grades 1-6 (but aren’t those future ticket buyers?).

The details were written in a report by Andy Vasquez in the Bergen Record in April when Spoelstra told the story of the name change being rejected because one of the Nets owners had second thoughts at the last minute. So all other NBA teams approved the change and the Nets voted against themselves.

That symbolizes Nets’ history perfectly. They were always their own worst enemy.

That story came to mind when it was reported last week that the Hornets had decided to change their name to Pelicans.

The Hornets tried to slow the story, saying nothing was official yet, but there has not been one time in the history of sports teams leaking nicknames that such a story hasn’t been accurate – so it’s a done deal.

The name apparently has met with mixed reviews, which is kind of strange because Hornets is not exactly classic New Orleans.

I think Pelicans is a great name. I happened to know the pelican was the state bird of Louisiana not because I’m a dork who has all state birds memorized, but because I read John Grisham books and the “Pelican Brief” was a great one. (Plus the movie starred Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. What’s not to like?)

Some of the negative reaction I saw and heard involved a minor league baseball team once named the Pelicans, which beings out the inner Derrick Coleman in me – whoop-de-damn-do. And someone incorrectly pointed out that pelicans aren’t exactly intimidating. From what I’ve read, they can get pretty nasty when diving after fish, even irritating commercial fisherman.


  1. Ugh says

    You should totally rename the team the Cougars. And then they can grant free entry to all single women over forty.

    No, wait, that’s a really stupid idea.

  2. says

    How come my previous post that (thoroughly, systematically) picks apart the author’s assertion that the B**Cats should be rebranded as the Cougars instead of the HORNETS (somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of the Charlotte fanbase supports the HORNETS rebrand, but you know, whatever) is yet to be posted, while 2 other comments have in the time since I wrote it?

    I’d love to share the article, but I can’t, in good faith, let my pals know about a piece of journalism if the author doesn’t entertain good-natured dissent.

  3. says

    My favorite Hornets memory was Game 4 of the ’93 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals when Rolando Blackman came off the bench for the Knicks to hit the game-winning shot. It put the Knicks up 3-1 in the series.

    Charles Oakley took a “we bee-lieve” sign and torn it in two for the NBC camera abd the despondent fans leaving the arena.

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  4. jerry25 says

    Nickname for the Pelicans would be the “cans”. Not very appealing. The name is a favorite of the owners wife, and no one else.

    The ideal name is still The Jazz. Doesn’t have to be intimidating. Decades of use makes any name acceptable.
    NO should pay Utah to abandon The Jazz. Go back to The Utah Stars (surprised Stars not used by any other team) or else, the Utah Energy.

    If the owner’s wife insists on a flying creature, Pterodactyl would more menacing (The Dacs).

  5. PDXKass says

    do you seriously get paid to write this worthless dribble? who cares if you like the New Orleans Pelicans or the Charlotte Hornets. is this not up others? i happen to know that Bobcats (btw, that’s an actual animal and name which has been used by other teams) is popular in North Carolina … I also know that many would not be unhappy should they re-adopt the Hornets nickname. so, whatever. you want to criticize a team for a non-name change, look at Stern’s beloved Lakers. when they moved from Minneapolis, the name should have been changed .. perhaps to the “Refs” since it’s common knowledge the NBA officials already “play” for them.

    • Hugo the Hornet says

      This is terrible from a Charlotte perspective. There is a huge movement to bring the Hornets name home. Please check out, also look at the poll ran in the Charlotte Observer this week where 87% want the Hornets name to return, only 6% want the name Bobcats.

      MJ isn’t looking at doing this for any other reason than the majority of fans are demanding it.

      Last night while the Spurs were beating the Bobcats, the fans were chanting
      “let’s go Hornets”

      This is fan driven and we want our name to come home to Charlotte.


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