Yesterday Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote a great two part piece ranking the NBA team names from last to first. He brings up some great points and I agree with his rankings for the most part. I promise I’d say that even if he didn’t rank the 76ers second. After reading the article two things have happened. One I realized the NBA sneakily has the worst collection of nicknames of the 4 major sports leagues, and second since reading the piece I’ve been deep in thought trying to come up with alternative names for the teams that desperately need a change.
Before getting to my suggestions though lets eliminate the teams that have no need to think about re-branding. These would be the teams that either have a name that works perfectly with the city, just a cool name, or the team and nickname duo are so iconic despite having no connection it’d be impossible to change. They are the Celtics, Knicks, Sixers, Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Pacers, Pistons, Bulls, Jazz, Pelicans, Heat, Warriors, Hawks, Clippers, Bucks, and Nuggets. Now that that is out of the way on to the new names.
I think we can all agree that unless Middle Earth or Hogwarts receives an NBA expansion team we can just do away with all witchcraft and wizardry references. I can understand why the team moved away from the Bullets name, but selecting a Wizard as a mascot is inexcusable. Washington DC is the capital of our great country yet upper management couldn’t come up with anything better? And we still wonder how Andray Blatche gets a 3 year contract extension. Anyway Rebels is a much better nickname because it works on multiple levels. First, a rebel strikes a lot more fear into someone than a wizard. Second of all we are a nation built on rebels, so what better team to use the rebel nickname than the team in our capital city.
Other Potential Names: Militia, Senators, Americans, Patriots.
Sacramento Express Under New Mangement
Originally I had the idea of changing the Sacramento name to the Express since Sacramento was the last stop on the Pony Express. The impetus for the change being the Sacramento basketball team needs to wipe the slate clean entirely. For starters this isn’t the most storied franchise considering the team’s highest note was getting jobbed by Tim Donaghy during the 2002 Western Conference Finals. More importantly though, a reboot is needed because the team’s former owners, the Maloof brothers, are a shining example of the type of business savvy that almost brought this country to its knees in 2007. These jack wagons are arguably the worst owners this league has seen (if you aren’t familiar start here), especially since Donald Sterling sacked up in recent years and allowed others to point the Clippers in the right direction. What the Maloofs did could very well effect the karma of this team for decades so I think we should just get rid of the Kings name and put it to better use elsewhere. Maybe down the line if people like Express we make a switch but for now I think we just put the NBA logo in place of a nickname and give the players plain white and plain black jerseys that have their name on the back. Or how about they just put a red “Foreclosure” sign across the chest. If people really want a name in the interim we can go with the Boogie Men.
Other Potential Names: Credit Limit, Crash, Overextended, or just Thank God The Maloofs Sold Us
I know what you are thinking, but stay with me for a minute. We rename the Grizzlies the Kings as a nod to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Civil Rights Museum is located in Memphis and the NBA has started to play regular season games during the daytime on the national holiday, the way the NFL has on Thanksgiving. To take it a step further Memphis should always play at home and should take a page out of Boston’s book and mirror what Boston does on Patriot’s Day. I’m pretty sure we could get everyone on board with this including the city of Sacramento.
Other Potential Names: Smokers, Mesquite, and Blues
BC Brooklyn or Brooklyn United
Brooklyn residents thrive on being trendsetters so why not go with a format that no other team in the league is using. Besides not a single Brooklyn resident will ever think any mascot/nickname used will be as cool as the borough itself so lets just scrap the nickname altogether for them. The owner is even European. Their mascot can just be a group of fans ironically wearing Knicks jerseys or something.
Other Potential Names: Bulldogs, Flea Markets, Bloggers, Bad Attitude
It’s time to do away with the Raptors and I’m sure even Dr. Grant would agree. It’s been said a million times already, but the team was named after a CGI dinosaur from Jurassic Park. This is never a good idea. The name is so outdated and terrible at this point that my one friend says it’s such an absurd name he wouldn’t want to see it changed. So lets scrap the dinosaur and go with Caribou which you are much more likely to find in Canada. You can even find Caribou on Canadian currency. This works on multiple fronts. It doesn’t sound as fierce but the animal itself is fierce looking.
Other Potential Names: Loggers Lumberjacks
Oklahoma City Bandits
I can’t get on board with Thunder. This might be more to do with the team’s colors, but I don’t think any of it is working and the team is young enough that the name can be changed without much resistance. I don’t think ownership or management like the Thunder name considering the logo and all promos use lighting in them. This also probably has something to do with the fact that thunder is just a noise. So if that’s the case it’s no different than calling them the Wham! Thwack! or Boom!
Other Potential Names: Pioneers, Herd, Steer, Outlaws
The Grizzlies name has served Memphis well, maybe it can do the same for Minnesota. Lord knows the franchise could use any bit of help possible. The team’s career winning percentage is .397. It’s time for a change in Minnesota.
Other Potential Names: Ice, Trout, Seattle Sonics
I actually kind of like the Suns, but I can see why people would say it is bland. There are any number of desert related animals that could probably work for a new mascot. But Sidewinder sticks with the snake theme they have going on with the baseball club. Maybe they could go with Rehab since the Suns doctors have magically been able to revive the careers of multiple NBA players.
Other Potential Names: Mirage, Cottonmouths, Vipers, Canyons, Devils, Retirees
As I said before when discussing the Wizards we can put any and all fantasy references back in the basement with Zelda and Final Fantasy. Besides Magic also is dangerously close to Magic Kingdom and nobody fears a princess’ castle. Man-o-war sounds cool, but the issue here is the opposite of the caribou, it sounds more intimidating than it actually is. It’s a jellyfish, but maybe the mascot can be a warrior type instead. This still needs some work I admit.
Other Potential Names: Sunshine State Pirates (Ripping off the Warriors), Parrots
I couldn’t agree more with Zach Lowe, Cavaliers needs to go. There are no ties to Cleveland and a cavalier, it isn’t THAT cool sounding, and every logo the team has gone with in the past has sucked, especially the most recent ones. While greyhounds isn’t a Cleveland thing by any means it sounds cooler. They are known to be fast and compete so at least it has some sports relevance. The people around the city can call the team the Hounds, and that actually sound cool. Plus the Browns already have the Dog Pound so it can just be transferred over to the basketball arena too. The issue with Greyhounds though as my friend Kevin pointed out, is that it can remind you of a crowded, dirty, late bus.
Other Potential Names: Steel, Lakes-On-Fire, Fighting Lebrons
I know a lot of people are excited that Charlotte is getting the Hornet name back, but after really thinking about it is there really any reason why that is their best nickname other than it is light years better than Bobcats. The Hornets have only been a team since the 1988-89 season so how many people are really married to the Hornets name. So here is my pitch for changing the name to the Flight. We constantly hear announces referring to players flying through the air. North Carolina is known as the birthplace of flight and the team’s president is called “His Airness.” Flight checks all the boxes. Win win win win.
Other Potential Names: Racers, Hornets, Bobkittens