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A Tale of Two Expansion Teams: Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets

The last ten years in the NBA have been incredibly explosive. First, the nature of basketball has changed, with more emphasis on shooting accuracy and three-pointers. Second, there’s been a proliferation of European stars who have entered the NBA and shaken things up. Third, there’s also been a surge of homegrown talent -- and highly entertaining talent, too -- including KD and James Harden, to name a few.

Throw in the growing interest in sports betting, and it’s a heyday for the NBA. Back in 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting. Today, bettors and fans can find deals like a free bet offer from FanDuel to apply toward their favorite markets. Betting options have even expanded north into Canada, with Ontario launching its online market earlier this year.

One of the most exciting teams to wager on is the Miami Heat. Though an expansion team in 1988, the team has quickly become one of the league’s most prestigious sides. But the same can’t be said for the 1988 expansion team based in Charlotte, as The Hornets, by contrast, have accomplished little in the NBA. But why is that?

What’s Wrong with the Hornets?

For decades, analysts have been asking, “What’s wrong with the Hornets?” Though the NC team has had more than a few stellar lineups to work with, they haven’t been able to turn that into a single Finals appearance, or even a division title.

The Charlotte Hornets have not been able to find success since they were founded in 1988. They have only made the playoffs twice in their history and have never won a playoff series. The Hornets have been through some tough times, including a move from Charlotte to New Orleans and back again. But, the team seems to be on the upswing, thanks in part to All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.

Some have pointed to a curse surrounding injuries and bad draft picks. Others have said that the team’s problems can be boiled down to bad management, coaching, and roster structure. But Forbes recently released an article that outlined the team’s lack of culture and how that can affect its chances on the court. 

Less team culture leads to less meshing on the court, less engagement with and from fans, and a sense of doom that can be hard to turn around when the odds fall out of favor.

Heat Culture

The Hornets lack a team culture—but the Miami Heat have crafted an identity so marketable that they officially use the moniker ‘Heat Culture’. The idea is that the team is a dynasty and a legacy. The players who appear on the roster aren’t just athletes, but a part of a living cultural entity: the Miami Heat team.

Sure, it helps that Miami has had stars like Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron, Shaq, and Bam Adebayo. But the Hornets are owned by Michael Jordan and have had names like Glen Rice, Kemba Walker, and Jeremy Lin on the team. There isn’t a lack of star power for the Hornets -- just a lack of something worth fighting for.

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