What in an NBA
Name? Part I
are all kinds of team names and nicknames in the world of the National
Basketball Association, and even more interesting explanations of how
these came to be. And although some clubs have moved from city to city,
they kept the original nicknames they began with which makes for some odd
Knicks and the Celtics are the only teams still playing in the NBA in
their original cities. The name Knickerbockers dates back to when New York
was New Amsterdam, and the city's Dutch settlers wore trousers bunched up
at the knee known as "knickers." The name Celtics was given to
Boston in 1946 by Walter Brown, the founder of the franchise.
call them the Boston Celtics," he said. "The name has a great
basketball tradition, especially when you think of the original 'Celtics'
team. Boston is full of Irishmen; so we'll put the players in green
uniforms and call them the Boston Celtics after their Celtic
Atlanta Hawks were once the St. Louis Hawks, and before that they were the
Milwaukee Hawks. Even before that in 1948, they were the Tri-Cities
Blackhawks. The three cities referred to Moline, Illinois; Rock Island,
Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa. Way back in 1831, the Blackhawk War was
fought in that tri-cities area, and that's how the original Blackhawk's
nickname, later shortened to Hawks, came to be.
Rochester Royals played in the NBA for nine seasons and then transferred
to Cincinnati. The name Royals was kept. In 1972, the franchise moved to
Kansas City, Missouri, and the name was dropped to avoid confusion in the
Kansas City area as the Kansas City and the Omaha baseball teams both used
the name Royals. The new name for the NBA basketball franchise became the
Kansas City-Omaha Kings and, in 1975, simply the Kansas City Kings. A
decade later, when the team moved to California, they became the
many people realize that the Denver Nuggets were charter members of the
NBA. But that team only lasted one season. When the Denver Rockets of the
American Basketball Association came into the NBA, they had to change
their name because the Houston Rockets already existed. So the Denver
franchise took the "Nuggets" name of the original franchise,
which was appropriate for an area with a history of gold and silver mining
Miami, Minnesota and Orlando are among the newer teams in the NBA. All
have interesting "name" stories. Originally, the Charlotte team
was named the Spirit, but that didn't go over too well. It was soon
dropped, and a contest was launched among fans to come up with a new name.
Runner-up names included: the Charlotte Gold, the Charlotte Knights, and
incredibly the original name - the Charlotte Spirit.
every NBA fan knows; the winner was the Charlotte Hornets. Miami also held
a name-the-team contest and received more than 5,000 entries. Some of the
names that didn't make it included such choices as Palm Trees, Beaches,
Suntan, and Shade.
beat them all out. As one clever official explained, "When you think
of Miami, heat is what comes to mind."
6,000 entries were submitted for the Minnesota team name. The choice came
down to Timberwolves vs. Polars. Timberwolves easily won. That animal is
native to Minnesota, and no other professional sports team ever thought to
use the name.
The "Orlando Sentinel" sponsored a name-the-team contest in
that Florida city. As with Minnesota, the competition came down to two
names: Magic and Juice. Orlando general manager Pat Williams explained why
Magic won out: "Magic is synonymous with the Orlando area. We have
the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld, and the tourism slogan here is 'Come to
# # #
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Harvey Frommer at:
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.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
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