NBA Team Monikers Refreshed

30 teams make up the National Basketball Association (NBA). Each team has a different origin and was formed at a different point over the years. Many of the teams also have another thing in common; the current geographic location and its current moniker make no sense together. A re-branding could energize fans and help teams get back to their geographic or historical roots. What if each team had a chance to start over? What teams would make changes and which would keep everything the same?

Atlanta Hawks  [Silver Comets]
The Atlanta Hawks started as the Buffalo Bison of Buffalo, NY but quickly moved to Moline, IL in 1946. They were renamed the Tri-Cities Blackhawks referring to the Black Hawk War which was primarily fought in Illinois. They briefly relocated to Milwaukee before landing in its present location of Atlanta. Since there are no historical ties between “Atlanta” and “Hawks” the team has no need to keep the moniker. The Silver Comet Trail runs across Georgia and is 61 miles long.

Charlotte Bobcats  [Hornets]
The newest NBA franchise played its first season in 2004-2005. Its primary owner Robert Johnson used a fan vote to narrow down the choices to “Flight”, “Dragons” and “Bobcats”. The bobcat is an indigenous predator to the Carolinas and Charlotte already is the home of the Carolina Panthers making both team names cat-related. In 2002 Charlotte lost the Hornets franchise to New Orleans. Though “Bobcat” fits as a Carolina nickname, ideally the new team could take back “Hornets” while New Orleans reclaims its own original team name (see New Orleans below).

LA Clippers  [Wave]
The Clippers started as the Buffalo Braves in 1970. Several years later they moved to San Diego and became known as the “Clippers” after the ships that would dock in the harbors. In 1984 they moved to Los Angles but kept the original nickname. Though obviously LA is still on the Pacific coast and the moniker could stay the same, the city is well known for much more than boating. “Wave” still keeps a general reference to the Pacific Ocean but refreshes the team brand.

LA Lakers  [Flash or Stars]
The LA Laker origins began in 1946 as the Detriot Gems. The team was disbanded, sold and moved to Minnesota. They became known as the Minnesota Lakers inspired by the state nickname, “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. In 1960 they moved to LA but the nickname wasn’t changed. Though it is important to preserve the origins of a team there is nothing in common between Los Angeles and the “Laker” nickname. “Flash” and “Stars” both tie LA back to its famed historical film industry.

Memphis Grizzlies  [Beat or Blues]
The Vancouver Grizzles were formed in 1995 and were meant to be called the “Mounties”. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police objected to the name so they were renamed the “Grizzlies”. Due to poor attendance the team was relocated to Memphis in 2001. FedEx, a Memphis-based shipping company, hoped the team would be renamed “Express” but the NBA blocked the idea ruling it wouldn’t allow corporate team names. The original “Grizzlies” nickname remains but doesn’t fit its current location. “Beat” and “Blues” pay homage to Memphis’s musical history.

New Orleans Hornets  [Jazz]
The “Hornets” were a Charlotte expansion team in 1985. The team was a solid franchise with good fan support for many years but attendance began to fall in the late 1990s. The owner, George Shinn relocated the team to New Orleans in the early 2000s but left the name unchanged. Similar to the suggestion of Charlotte reclaiming the “Hornets”, New Orleans should look to reclaim its original team name from the current Utah Jazz.

Utah Jazz  [Range]
The “Jazz” moved from New Orleans to Salt Lake City in 1979 after it lost $5 million dollars in its first 5 years of existence. It kept its original nickname even though the city had no historical jazz culture. As I’ve suggested, the “Jazz” name should be given back to the current New Orleans team. The Utah NBA franchise should find a name more applicable to its own origins like “Range” which represents the mountains which run through the state.

There are several teams that don’t need a name change but have interesting history.

New York Knicks
“Knickerbocker” was a character in a Washington Irving book called A History of New York. It was a name applied to the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of what eventually became New York.

Sacramento Kings
Going back to the 1945-46 season the team now known as the Sacramento Kings had been the “Royals”. It began in Rochester, NY and moved to Cincinnati in 1957. It was renamed to “Kings” in 1972 when it moved to Kansas City because the city already had the “Royals” baseball team. Its final move to Sacramento was for the 1985-86 season. The name is still fitting because it stays close enough to the team’s original namesake.

Toronto Raptors
In 1993 a Toronto- based ownership group was awarded an NBA team. Along with the Vancouver Grizzlies (now of Memphis) the Toronto Raptors were the first NBA team in Canada since the 1946-47 Toronto Huskies. Ownership wanted to revive the “Huskies” moniker but felt any logo created would be too close to the existing one for the Minnesota Timberwolves. A nationwide contest resulted in the final choice of “Raptors” inspired by the 1990 movie Jurassic Park.

After reviewing team history of the teams below no renaming is needed. Either the team’s city fits the current nickname, there was a community vote for team name or the city location hasn’t changed since the team was established.

Boston Celtics
Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers
Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets
Detroit Pistons
Golden State Warriors
Houston Rockets
Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat
Milwaukee Bucks
Minnesota Timberwolves
New Jersey Nets
Oklahoma City Thunder
Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers
Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs
Washington Wizards

** primary information gathered from


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