When it comes to naming a team in the National Basketball Association, in my opinion, the name can fall in any one of five categories. Unbeknownst to many so-called “fans” of basketball, there is an unspoken hierarchy among the various team names. Well, unspoken until now. In a “Paints in the Point” exclusive, we go…
INSIDE THE NAME
In Part One of “Inside the Name,” we looked at animal team mascots in the Association.
In Part Two of “Inside the Name,” we looked at the assorted alliterative team names found within the Association.
In Part Three of “Inside the Name,” we looked at team names in the Association that actually make sense, given their geographic location.
Another week has passed, and now we move on to…
Part 4: Laziness
Relocation has been a part of the Association since its founding: in the first fifteen years as a league, five teams of the eight that were left in the Association’s smallest configuration relocated to larger cities and one franchise relocated twice.
Upon relocation, some teams opt for new names, but most owners decide to keep the old team name. Perhaps they do so in a foolhardy effort to retain some fans from the place they just wrenched a team from, but I call it by its true name – “laziness.”*
There are two types of laziness when relocating a team: “creative laziness,” and what I like to call “unemployed-uncle-who-can’t-be-bothered-to-even-pry-his-fat-butt-off-of-his-couch-to-defecate laziness.”
The first type is relatively harmless and perhaps not the fault of the owner. Maybe all the good ferocious animals have been taken. Maybe the dictionary required to find a classic alliteration is hard-to-find or too heavy for the feeble hands of an elderly owner to lift. Maybe the new city is not noted for anything that is a suitable basketball team name. These owners merely take the team name and try to make it work in the new city, replete with a new logo.
The second type is the epitome of laziness. It looks something like this:
I’m really sorry for doing that to you. But you had to see how ugly it was. The owners that take the exact same logo and slightly modify it to fit the new location are like your unemployed uncle who craps on his sofa, though not in a new location.
We’ll get back to the “unemployed uncle laziness” in a little bit, so let’s examine the “creative laziness” within the Association.
The earliest creative laziness was executed when the Fort Wayne Pistons moved to the larger market of Detroit. Owned by Fred Zollner, who also owned a piston foundry in Fort Wayne, the team was initially called the “Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons.” Upon the move, the name was kept, despite the fact that the Zollner Piston factory remained in Fort Wayne.
The tie to Fort Wayne’s booming piston industry had been broken; Detroit started anew with a rather uninspired logo:
The generic basketball and creative laziness was in and the storied history of the Zollner Pistons logo and team was out. The relocation caused the team to slip down one rung in a series of articles that would be written over a half of a century later.
Five years later, it was the Warriors franchise that would exhibit creative laziness in their move to San Francisco.
The original franchise was the Philadelphia Warriors, a name that drew its inspiration from nothing but a common 1940s-era Native American caricature, as demonstrated by their original logo:
The same general Native American theme was kept for a few years, but at least the insensitive representation of the Native American was gone, as it was replaced with just the headdress:
A second relocation across the Bay to Oakland signaled another logo change. The “Oakland Warriors” was too easy of a change, so they decided to go with a much more complicated name, the “Golden State Warriors.” For those that were confused by the name change, the designer of the new logo cleared everything up by indicating where the team was located:
The Atlanta Hawks’ franchise has managed to achieve both types of laziness in their history. They can trace back their history to the Tri-City Blackhawks, named as such due to the area’s connection with the 1832 Black Hawk War, but after their 1951 move to Milwaukee, the “black” was dropped from the name.**
Creative laziness took over when the team moved to St. Louis in 1955, as the name kept the Hawks moniker:
When the team left St. Louis for Atlanta in 1968, “unemployed uncle laziness” took over, as they kept the same logo from the St. Louis days:
While I won’t make you endure another picture of your unemployed uncle, it is now time to review some of the laziest team moves in history.
One of the most epic “unemployed uncle laziness” stories involves the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. The franchise began with the “classic” alliterative “Buffalo Braves,” but then moved to San Diego. There they became the San Diego Clippers, which made sense because of San Diego’s large harbor, as indicated by this logo:
A redesign of the logo in 1982 reminded everyone what the heck the San Diego Clippers actually was:
An in a remarkable demonstration of laziness, the team moved up the coast a little and became the Los Angeles Clippers:
Probably the weirdest name kept by a relocated franchise is the Utah Jazz. Originally from New Orleans (which makes sense, considering it’s widely considered to be the birthplace of jazz), they had this festive logo in traditional Mardi Gras colors:
Strangely, the franchise kept the name and logo:
A cursory search of the Internet to try and explain why they kept the name yielded this result:
The last franchise that falls into the “unemployed uncle laziness” category is the Sacramento Kings. A franchise that has been in five separate cities (yes, five!), it has seen its fair share of better team names. Originally, they were the Rochester Royals, a classic alliterative nickname. They moved to Cincinnati, and then on to Kansas City and Omaha, where they changed their name so as not to compete with the baseball franchise known as the Kansas City Royals, changing it to the “Kings:”
When the team was moved to Sacramento, the clever logo traveled with it:
But these six teams were not the only teams who relocated but kept the name. In short, four teams previously profiled on “Inside the Name” have been lazy: the Los Angeles Lakers (previously the “Minneapolis Lakers,” representing Minnesota’s “Land of 10,000 Lakes”), the Houston Rockets (formerly the “San Diego Rockets,” due to the city being a “city of motion”), the New Orleans Hornets (used to be the “Charlotte Hornets,” which has something to do with the Revolutionary War), and the Memphis Grizzlies (changed from the “Vancouver Grizzlies,” which are native to that portion of Canada). The Lakers and Rockets designed new logos for their teams, whereas the New Orleans and Memphis stole the old logos.
Were these teams lazy? Yes, they were. But, why change a good thing? The Grizzlies and Hornets are two beasts I wouldn’t want to meet in the back alley of a Chili’s, the Lakers have a wannabe alliteration, the Rockets name makes sense in Houston. I’m not opposed to this laziness. What I do dislike is when teams steal names that really don’t belong in their new city.
[Historic logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s sportslogos.net]
*I was half-tempted to end the article here.
**Some of our most savvy readers might ask why this logo did not fall under the “ferocious animals” category of team names in an earlier post of this series. Since the original team name was the “Blackhawks,” it fit better within this category.
Come back soon for Part 5, the conclusion of “INSIDE THE NAME!”
- Wildcat: Bobcats
- “Creature I don’t want to meet in the back alley of a Chili’s:” Raptors, Bulls, Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Hornets
- “Generally harmless, can cause major damage to car:” Bucks
- “Classic” Alliteration: Cavaliers, Wizards
- “Wannabe” Alliteration: Lakers, Nets, Spurs, Knicks
- Names That Make Sense: Celtics, 76ers, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Rockets, Mavericks
- “Creative Laziness:” Pistons, Warriors, Hawks, (Lakers, Rockets)
- “Unemployed-uncle-who-can’t-be-bothered-to-even-pry-his-fat-butt-off-of-his-couch-to-defecate Laziness:” Clippers, Jazz, Kings, (Hornets, Grizzlies)
- Unacceptable: Suns, Heat, Magic, Thunder