Hoop Names and How They Got That Way (II)
With the basketball season upon us, with all kinds
of news being made, with the college and pro game making news 24/7, it’s
enjoyable to re-visit how some hoop names came to be.
Some people think that the Chicago Bulls got their name
because of the stockyards that exist in that windy city. The Bulls
received their moniker in 1966 by their first owner, Richard Klein, who
admired “Bulls” because of their toughness and looked forward to having
a team that had that quality.
The Pistons came into being early on in NBA history -
back in 1948. They were known then as the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons. It
was a case of an owner naming a team for himself and the business that
he ran. Fred Zollner owned a huge piston-manufacturing company. In 1957,
the team moved to Detroit, and Pistons moved right along with it.
Way back in 1925, there was a Philadelphia Warriors team
in the American Basketball League. In 1946, when Philadelphia joined the
NBA, it took its nickname from that old team. Many years and many miles
later, the Golden State Warriors are a descendant of the old
Philadelphia Warriors. They've gone through a couple of geographical
shifts. Philly became the San Francisco Warriors, San Francisco became
the Oakland Warriors and Oakland became the Golden State Warriors.
Some years back a newspaper guy came up with the idea of
teams trading names. The suggestion had some merit, but it was no dice.
What the guys thought was that the Utah Jazz become the Utah Lakers and
the Los Angeles Lakers become the Los Angeles Jazz.
Actually, both Utah and Los Angeles have names from
cities both franchises vacated. Utah came into being in 1979, when the
New Orleans Jazz moved there. That New Orleans basketball team is only a
memory, but the Utah Jazz kept their name and team colors. The
Minneapolis Lakers made the move to L.A. before the 1960 season and took
with it its nickname that comes from the state of Minnesota's motto:
"the land of 10,000 lakes". There aren't many lakes in L.A. or that much
jazz in Salt Lake City - so maybe that newspaper guy had a good idea
Here's how the three Texas NBA teams got their names. The
Houston Rockets were once the San Diego Rockets. The name has worked
well for both franchises - linked to space programs and industries. The
San Antonio Spurs got their short name in a public naming contest - a
name that makes you think of Texas, and the same is true of the Dallas
Mavericks who came into being in 1980. A Dallas radio station sorted out
many suggested names in a "name-the-team" contest and picked Mavericks
thinking it had Texas flavor.
In 1963, the old Syracuse Nats were sold and became the
Philadelphia 76ers. Anybody who knows anything about American history,
knows how Philly got its name.
In 1968, the new Phoenix franchise offered a cash prize
and a couple of season tickets to the winner of a "name-the-team"
contest. “Suns” was the winning name, but runner-ups included Scorpions,
Rattlers, and Dust Devils.
Two years later, in another "name-the-team" contest in
Portland, nearly 200 people contributed for a new franchise name - Trail
The New Jersey Nets began life in the American Basketball
Association and were known as the New Jersey Americans. In 1968, the
team left New Jersey and moved to Commack, Long Island and were re-named
the New York Nets. The reasoning was that since the New York
metropolitan area had the football Jets and the baseball Mets, why not
the basketball Nets? Just before the 1977-78 season, the franchise moved
back across the Hudson River to New Jersey. There were some who thought
the original name -New Jersey Americans - should be brought back, but
the name Nets moved right along with the team.
And now the Nets in another name change – in the borough
where the Brooklyn Dodgers once made a lot of news - -are making news of
their own after a fashion as the Brooklyn Nets.
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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