Berry Tramel

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NBA: Playing the name game

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 18, 2013 at 12:45 am •  Published: April 17, 2013

Let’s get this straight. The New Orleans Hornets, who used to be in Charlotte, are changing their name to the New Orleans Pelicans, apparently because Jazz is already taken by Utah, the franchise that started in New Orleans. So now, the Charlotte Bobcats, who came along after the Hornets left town, are considering reclaiming the Hornets name.

The Sacramento Kings, who started off in Rochester, N.Y., and with a rallying cry of Westward Ho! made stops in Cincinnati, Kansas City and Omaha, might be headed to Seattle, where they would be the Seattle SuperSonics, the name of the franchise that moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 .

Of course, this is a league with a franchise called the Los Angeles Lakers, who, as my pal Sonic Sooner likes to say, should be called the Compton Aqueducts. After all, LA is not the land of 20,000 lakes. That would be Minnesota, from where the Lakers moved.

It can be all very confusing. Like in Denver, which had an ABA franchise called the Rockets. But when the Denver Rockets were admitted to the NBA, lo and behold, a Rockets already existed, in Houston, which knows a thing or two about rockets. So Denver became the Nuggets, a solid name considering Colorado has had a gold rush or two.

Name changing is an NBA staple. The Wizards once were the Bullets and once were in Baltimore. But the Baltimore Bullets became the Capital Bullets and then the Washington Bullets and then the Washington Wizards. It became politically incorrect to have your team named for ammunition.

The Nets have been wildly consistent. They started off as the New Jersey Americans in the ABA, moved to Long Island and became the New York Nets, in a play of words to mimic the Jets and the Mets. They kept the Nets name when they moved back to Jersey, which was a good thing, since they’ve now moved to Brooklyn.

The Hawks have been consistent, too. They were the Tri-Cities Blackhawks when they played along the banks of the Mississippi River in the area known by cities Moline, Ill.; Rock Island, Ill.; and Davenport, Iowa. That was so long ago, since then, Bettendorf, Iowa, has grown and the place now is known as the Quad Cities. The Hawks moved to Milwaukee in ’52, dropped the “Black” and remained the Hawks through journeys to St. Louis and now Atlanta.

The Clippers started off as the Buffalo Braves but became the Clippers — in name and in foolishness — when they moved to San Diego and now LA.

The Vancouver Grizzlies kept the name when they moved to Memphis, even though grizzly bears don’t make it east of Sallisaw.

The 76ers started as the Syracuse Nationals but changed names when they moved to Philadelphia. Changed names, but not patriotism.

The Kings are the best name story. They were the Rochester Royals and the Cincinnati Royals, but when they landed in Kansas City in 1976, there already was a Kansas City Royals, a baseball team of some note. Not wishing to mimic cross-state St. Louis, which had the football Cardinals and the baseball Cardinals, the NBA franchise became the Kings. If the Kings move to Seattle, they lose the royalty-type name but keep the general westward migration, which is hard to do when you leave Sacramento.

The Spurs started off as the Dallas Chaparalls, keeping the Texas motif if not the actual name.

All of which makes you appreciate the Celtics and the Knickerbockers, who have remained with their names since the NBA and its forefather was founded in 1947.

 

 

 

 

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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