Everyone’s got an opinion on what the team name for Oklahoma City’s NBA franchise should be. We’ve heard suggestions ranging from Aviators to Zingers and everything in between. An A to Z listing will run in Thursday’s editions of The Oklahoman. On our weekly NBA podcast, sports editor Mike Sherman and I spend a good amount of time discussing the nicknames and what marketing experts are saying. I’ll also have a story in Thursday’s paper examining whether all the good names are taken. Mike Baldwin had a story in today’s paper detailing the process of how the league selects nicknames. And columnist Jenni Carlson explains why the hysteria is sweeping the state.
I’ve got to admit, I’m looking forward to the release of the league-wide schedule next month more than I am the announcement of the team name. I want to know whether the OKC No-Names are opening the season at home or on the road, which team they’ll play in the home opener and what the rest of the schedule looks like. But that’s just me.
That’s not to say I’m not interested in what the name will be. Like many, I’ve rolled my eyes at suggestions I didn’t like and perked my ears at the sound of the ones I did. For my Thursday story, I interviewed several marketing experts about what makes a good name. The top factors were: short, easy to say, easy to spell, can’t be misspelled, region specific, positive and signals strength and power.
A lot of people don’t like nicknames that don’t end in the letter ”S.” I can’t understand that. People who don’t like names that don’t end in ’S' have told me they sound like youth league girls soccer teams. But no one’s complaining about the Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Miami Heat. So that “youth league” excuse doesn’t have any merit in my book. The best rebuttal I’ve heard came from a marketing expert. He said, “I think there’s more of a sense of community when you are a fan of the Blazers and not the Storm. There’s a feeling that you are a part of that.” I can buy that.
Having said that, here are my top five team name possibilities thus far and, lo and behold, three of them don’t end in the letter “S.” Unfortunately, I’ve got a strong feeling that the nickname will have an “S’” on the end of it.
1) Thunder — There is one reason and one reason only this name is at the top of my list – AC/DC. I’m no AC/DC fan and am not familiar with much of their work. But can you imagine this song being played each night before the Oklahoma City Thunder starting lineup is introduced? The Ford Center faithful would go nuts. You can make a weather-related argument for Thunder and OKC’s reputation for storms. I’m not. Legalities aside, I think people are trying too hard to pick names that make sense on all fronts. Thunder is No. 1 in my book just because of that song. When I’ve mentioned that AC/DC song to people, they’ve said Yukon’s own Garth Brooks’ “Thunder Rolls” would be better. I wasn’t familiar with the song until I looked it up on YouTube while posting this entry. After hearing it, I’m not quite sure a slow song about infidelity is going to get many people fired up to watch basketball. Sorry, Garth.
2) Pride — This is actually a nickname I heard a caller of sports talk radio say Wednesday morning. I fell in love with it immediately and, honestly, it should be No. 1 on my list. Instead, it’s a very close second. Unlike Thunder, I’m all for Pride because of its connotation. Nothing is more positive than pride. Good pride of course. Imagine the team referred to as the Pride of OKC. In a lot of ways it is. This city has craved a big-league team for what, 15, 20 years? Although some couldn’t care less about the NBA coming here, there is a good amount of people who realize the significance of this achievement and its impact on this city even if they aren’t NBA fans. I think Pride also fits because it could double as the term used for a family pack of lions. When you think of a lion you think of one of the fiercest felines around. When you think of a pack of lions you think of unity, togetherness, all for one and one for all. OK, that last one was a little lame, but you get the idea, a team.
3) Energy — Energy once sat at the top of my list of names. It ranked second on Tuesday before I heard Pride. It’s slowly becoming a distant third. I also like this one because of its meaning in this city and state. Simply put, what is the engine that drives this state’s economy, and more than anything what do you want your team to play with? The answer to both is energy. Also, remember how at the end of the every Hornets game they had the “Devon Energy Power Play of the Game?” That little promotion certainly could return.
4) Barons — Honestly, I think I just fell head over heals in love with the uniform design more than the name itself. Obviously because of the oil industry around here, Barons would be a good fit. Unfortunately, Barons also could be construed as Robber Barons, and I would think the powers that be wouldn’t want that punch line following their franchise after the whole Seattle saga. But hey, it ends in the letter “S.”
5) Vipers — In my book Vipers is like the runner who got lapped twice by everyone in the race and finished 10 minutes after everyone else. That’s how far back this fifth-place finisher is from my top four. But it fits the mold of what the marketing experts say are good names. It’s short. Easy to spell. Easy to pronounce. Represents strength, power, speed and a lot of people are scared of snakes. You could do a lot of cool things with the logo, too. The one negative is the Dodge Viper. The Oklahoma City No-Names will play in the Ford Center and that might not fly in the big business of sports.