Editor’s note: This page contains all five parts of our “Inside the Name” series. Initially, these posts were spaced one or two weeks apart.
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
Part 1: Animals
While the most desirable type of nickname for a basketball team, selecting which ferocious animal can be challenging.
Some sort of wildcat is an obvious choice, but team owners must be careful, as they tread the fine line of ferocious killing machine and cuter, smaller cats that are more likely to lightly scratch a person than maul them to death. A team selecting the latter type of mascot is likely to be mocked and banished to the WNBA.
In 1998, Minneapolis was due to become the second city with two NBA teams, but as soon as they declared themselves the “Lynx,” NBA owners voted to banish them to the WNBA 29-0.
Currently, only the Charlotte Bobcats fall into this category, but their performance in the Association has not correlated to their name, posting a record of 144-266 (.351 winning percentage) in their 5 years as a team.
Another option for teams to take is the “creatures I would not like to meet in a back alley of a Chili’s” category. This is not to say that I wouldn’t like to meet any of these animals in other, much more controlled areas, such as a zoo, but I would not like to meet them while rummaging through dumpsters for some appe-teasers that weren’t put in a doggie bag. These nicknames convey a fierceness that tells you to drop those baby back ribs before your face is ripped to shreds: the Raptors, the Bulls, the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies, and the Hornets.
The last portion of the “animal” category of team names is the “generally harmless, but can cause major damage to your car.” While not particularly ferocious, this bottom-feeder of the category can become a major annoyance, especially after colliding with it in your rush to elude the police after a bank heist. The dreadful Milwaukee Bucks fall into this category. While not a threat in the Association (their only NBA Finals victory occurred in 1971), when they collide with teams destined for success, they find ways to stop them dead in their tracks. Most recently, they got in the way of the Charlotte Hornets in 2001, who had just swept the #3 Miami Heat.