As we head toward All Star Weekend, Rooktopia asks one of the world’s most pressing questions: which teams in the NBA have the best team names? This edition looks at the Eastern Conference (i.e., Boston, Detroit, and a whole mess of losers.)
Boston Celtics — It’s a classic name, to be sure. However, do people remember the rumors prior to this years that African American players didn’t want to sign up with the Celtics because they’re something about Boston that they don’t like? The Sports Guy was talking about it constantly, and as we know Bill Simmons can do no wrong. Maybe they just don’t like the Celtics because it’s the Whitest team name in any American professional sport next to the Vikings and the White Sox? Anyway, until this matter can be resolved, I’m going to have to be pretty cautious about this team name. Rating: 4/5
Toronto Raptors — Ugh. I’m guessing that the team chose a velociraptor as a mascot because Jurassic Park was hot at the time. Many minuses here: 1.) being called a “dinosaur” has so many bad connotations, 2.) raptors can also refer to the much cooler birds of prey, so it’s baffling that they didn’t go with that theme, and 3.) the current paleontological discoveries theorize that raptors were covered in feathers and were quite cuddly. Also, being named after a movie animal is superlame. When Seattle moves to OKC, are they gonna call them the Cloverfields? Rating: 1/5
The new, feathery depiction of a “raptor.” It is a friend to all children! An it’s filled with turtle meat!
New Jersey Nets — Easily the most boring name in the league, only redeemed by the fact that it’s what they were called in the ABA. And as Will Ferrell can tell you, that league was full of totally lethargic team names. Flint Tropics… ha ha ha! Oh, Will Ferrell, thank you for making me laugh and love again. Rating: 3/5
Philadelphia 76ers — I’m a sucker for teams with numbers for names, and the 76ers are no exception to the rule. It’s just so simple, and it’s got strong ties to to the city. And for you public school kids out there — NO, the team is not named after the gas station. My astonishing research indicates that it is named after the year 1876 in honor of Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn. So nyeh. Rating: 5/5
New York Knicks — It’s a great nonsense name, only made even better when refered to by their full title, the Knickatnites. No, sorry, the Knickerbockers. But seriously, folks, that name just reeks of old-timey basketball, with the sweatbands and the prim little moustaches and the sensible trousers. It makes me want to go ride one of those bikes with the big front wheel, it does. Rating: 5/5
You see this? This is a real MAN.
Detroit Pistons — Good Lord, this is the only instance in basketball where retaining the nickname after moving from one city to the other made absolute sense. The team started out as the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Pistons, but the owner wanted to pursue a bigger market so he relocated the team to Detroit. How perfect is that? A team from the Motor City called the “Pistons”? When you consider that the St. Louis Jazz and the Minnesota Lakers relocated to cities that had absolutely nothing to do with the team name, this happy coincidence just seems seredipitous. Rating: 5/5
Cleveland Cavaliers — It’s great that the new team logo is boasting the fully name, because the whole “Cavs” wordmark was nonsensical … and frankly either reminded me of my lower leg or infant cattle. It’s a solid if slightly bland name … unless you realize that the Cavaliers of history were defeated by a band of Protestants calling themselves the “Roundheads.” And with that sort of background, you kinda understand why, last year, the San Antonio Spurs went all Oliver Cromwell on their asses. (Also, negative points for sharing a name with a 1990’s econocar.) Rating: 3/5
Chicago Bulls — Although I am a sworn enemy of their city, I have to hand it to Chicago: their team have simple names, and they compliment each other and the city. During the early 19th century, Chicago was known as the “Butcher of the World” because of its meat-packing industry. Additionally, Chicago is also a financial center, and one of the most famous financial lines is “Bears and Bulls.” (Which miraculously works in tandem with the local football team.) So “Bulls” is a total winner just by merit of the fun name associations you could make. Rating: 5/5
Indiana Pacers — My guess is that there’s an Indy 500 connotation here, but I can’t be bothered to look it up. The name itself just screams, “Leisurely walk, no need to stress yourself out, pace yourself.” Not exactly the most exciting name for a basketball team. Suggested improvement: the Indiana Pacemakers. Not threatening either, but you can incorporate those heartbeep lines into the uniforms, plus run CGI beating heart footage during the times the announcer is trying to get the fans riled. (Also, negative points for sharing a name with a 1970’s econocar.) Rating: 3/5
This… pretty much says it all.
Milwaukee Bucks — Yet another boring name, only this time it’s got a distinctly Midwestern flavor. Bagging a buck is a rite of passage in the Great Lakes area. Do you really want your team to be named after something whose existence, to the middle class, is a thing that should be shot and stripped for venison jerky? By the way, before you think this is crazy, look at the team logo some time. Is that a classic deer-in-headlights pose or what? Rating: 2/5
Orlando Magic — Everytime I hear this name, I imagine LeVar Burton saying it on Reading Rainbow. “It’s Maaaagic!” OK, so it’s named after the Magic Kingdom, which is about the only thing that Orlando is known for since the Solar Bears folded. I suppose there’s nothing terribly wrong about the name … other than borders on the Trapper Keeper version of magic, signified by all the stars and sparkles on the team logo, like a pre-teen girl had fun with stickers. Rating: 3/5
Washington Wizards — You know, people hate how this team had to change its name from the more macho “Washington Bullets” because of all the violence in DC. Me, I don’t really mind the new name. It rolls off the tongue and sounds vaguely 1970’s, which most people remember as the crazy heyday of basketball. And Gandalf was pretty cool in the recent “Lord of the Rings” movies, rehabilitating wizard reputation everywhere. Best of all, there’s that new Alltel commercial where the geeks summon a van painting with a mighty “Wizzzarrrdddd!” spell. Sweet-o! That guy needs to be the new Wizards logo, amirite? Rating: 4/5
Atlanta Hawks — Atlanta continues its love affair with birds (Falcons, Thrashers) with the “Hawks.” Atlanta’s always struck me as a pretty cool, soulful city, so I have no idea why they stuck their basketball team with a name that’s utterly generic. I wish Atlanta would play up with how the city’s name is similar to the mythical city of “Atlantis.” The Atlanta Mer-Men, maybe. The Atlanta Aquamen? OK, maybe not. Rating: 3/5
Charlotte Bobcats — The replacement team since the Hornets left town. Seriously, why are they still trying? I understand North Carolina is a college basketball hotbed, but I like to think the fans are 100% satisfied with cheering for the Tarheels and the Blue Devils. Anyway, there are rumors that the Bobcats are named after one of the higher-ups (named “Bob”). Which is kinda interesting. I think the team would gain much more personality if they dropped all pretenses and just called themselves the “Charlotte Bobs.” Then the fans could cheer, “Go Bob!” and hold some Bobbin’ for Apples events during commercial intermission. Rating: 3/5
Miami Heat — Just in case you forgot, it gets pretty hot in Miami. I think it’s a terrible name; I’m not a fan of names that are intangible states of being (Wild, Shock). It sounds bush league. Oh, sure, the flaming basketball is a kickass logo, but this is a rating of team names, so bully on that. Rating: 2/5