With the basketball season upon us, with all kinds of news being made, with the college and pro game making news 24/7, it’s enjoyable to re-visit how some hoop names came to be.
Some people think that the Chicago Bulls got their name because of the stockyards that exist in that windy city. The Bulls received their moniker in 1966 by their first owner, Richard Klein, who admired “Bulls” because of their toughness and looked forward to having a team that had that quality.
The Pistons came into being early on in NBA history – back in 1948. They were known then as the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons. It was a case of an owner naming a team for himself and the business that he ran. Fred Zollner owned a huge piston-manufacturing company. In 1957, the team moved to Detroit, and Pistons moved right along with it.
Way back in 1925, there was a Philadelphia Warriors team in the American Basketball League. In 1946, when Philadelphia joined the NBA, it took its nickname from that old team. Many years and many miles later, the Golden State Warriors are a descendant of the old Philadelphia Warriors. They’ve gone through a couple of geographical shifts. Philly became the San Francisco Warriors, San Francisco became the Oakland Warriors and Oakland became the Golden State Warriors.
Some years back a newspaper guy came up with the idea of teams trading names. The suggestion had some merit, but it was no dice. What the guys thought was that the Utah Jazz become the Utah Lakers and the Los Angeles Lakers become the Los Angeles Jazz.
Actually, both Utah and Los Angeles have names from cities both franchises vacated. Utah came into being in 1979, when the New Orleans Jazz moved there. That New Orleans basketball team is only a memory, but the Utah Jazz kept their name and team colors. The Minneapolis Lakers made the move to L.A. before the 1960 season and took with it its nickname that comes from the state of Minnesota’s motto: “the land of 10,000 lakes”. There aren’t many lakes in L.A. or that much jazz in Salt Lake City – so maybe that newspaper guy had a good idea after all.
Here’s how the three Texas NBA teams got their names. The Houston Rockets were once the San Diego Rockets. The name has worked well for both franchises—linked to space programs and industries. The San Antonio Spurs got their short name in a public naming contest—a name that makes you think of Texas, and the same is true of the Dallas Mavericks which came into being in 1980. A Dallas radio station sorted out many suggested names in a “name-the-team” contest and picked Mavericks thinking it had Texas flavor.
In 1963, the old Syracuse Nats were sold and became the Philadelphia 76ers. Anybody who knows anything about American history, knows how Philly got its nickname.
In 1968, the new Phoenix franchise offered a cash prize and a couple of season tickets to the winner of a “name-the-team” contest. “Suns” was the winning name, but runner-ups included Scorpions, Rattlers, and Dust Devils.
Two years later, in another “name-the-team” contest in Portland, nearly 200 people contributed for a new franchise name—Trail Blazers.
The New Jersey Nets began life in the American Basketball Association and were known as the New Jersey Americans. In 1968, the team left New Jersey and moved to Commack, Long Island and were re-named the New York Nets. The reasoning was that since the New York metropolitan area had the football Jets and the baseball Mets, why not the basketball Nets? Just before the 1977-78 season, the franchise moved back across the Hudson River to New Jersey. There were some who thought the original name—New Jersey Americans—should be brought back, but the name Nets moved right along with the team.
And now the Nets in another name change–in the borough where the Brooklyn Dodgers once made a lot of news—are making news of their own after a fashion as the Brooklyn Nets.