August 25, 2014

NBA Team Name Rank, Part 3

So here it is: Part 3 of my three part series of posts about how awesome or terrible or somewhere in between each NBA franchise's nickname is. Hopefully by now you have pored over the first two parts and are eagerly awaiting the listing of the top ten, culminating in the naming of a winner of sorts. Let's get right to it.

Category Nine: Good Stuff
So at this point, all the team nicknames are pretty good, meaning relevant and a little inventive and centered around things which are mostly readily identifiable. There are no more weather nicknames, no more non sequiturs and no more silliness (you know who I mean, Toronto Raptors). This late in the countdown, every team has some sort of legitimate credibility.

10. Boston Celtics / 9. New York Knicks
Their are many many similarities between the Boston and New York NBA franchises. They are the only two original NBA franchises who remain in their original cities; they both have winning traditions (stop laughing, Celtics fans); and they both named their teams after a portion of their own city's population.

The Celtics of course are named after the Irish immigrants that settled in Boston after the Great Irish Famine of the early to mid-1800s. Irish settlers were typically poor and had neither work nor food in their own country and so traveled across the Atlantic to the nearest possible port which is how a lot of them ended up in Boston. Once in Boston they formed a close knit community of lower class or blue collar workers. No nickname for a team in the late 1940s has a good chance of being all inclusive when it comes to describing a city's population. The Celtics name does a pretty good job though.

The Knicks are named after Father Knickerbocker, a city mascot of sorts that dates back to the days when the city was named New Amsterdam. The character was popularized in the early 1800s by Washington Irving and ultimately was adopted as a term to describe the city's aristocracy. Not as cool as working class Irish; I get it. But no opinion poll that I write where New York and Boston are tied will give the tiebreaker to Boston. The New York New Yorkers finish in ninth; the Boston Bostonians finish tenth.

8. Indiana Pacers
The American Basketball Association had some pretty good team names. Of the four franchises absorbed into the NBA as part of the NBA/ABA merger, three are in my top eight. The other one, the Nets, are not. The Indiana Pacers are the first of three consecutive former ABA franchises. I love the Pacers name because there is a dual meaning (just like the less impressive Thunder nickname).

There are two kinds of famous sporting races held in Indiana. The first and most famous is the Indianapolis 500 held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Every one of those races has a pace car, which leads the field to the starting line. The second is a little known (at least to me outside of Indiana) horse racing tradition featuring harness racing pacers. Could the name be better? Sure, it could and it definitely causes mascot issues for the team. But it's better than most.

7. San Antonio Spurs
How scary is a spur? Well I think the answer is not very, unless you are a horse or in a fight with a dude using a spur as a weapon and you are (a) unarmed and (b) unable or unwilling to outrun him. But the Spurs name is perfect for a Texas team and it blows away the other two Texas franchises, the Mavericks and Rockets. There's an outlaw imagery about Texas more than any other state so I think the name works perfectly for a Lone Star State franchise, even if it is a clothing accessory of sorts.

6. Denver Nuggets
The first recorded gold find in what is now the state of Colorado was reported in 1850, when Lewis Ralston, a settler bound for California, dipped his pan into a river and discovered gold. I think if I had found some gold in a river on my way somewhere, I would have stuck around to see what else I could find but for whatever reason, Ralston did not. Instead he returned eight years later sparking the first of several gold rushes to Colorado. Denver had a small one that same year which ended quickly when prospectors determined there just wasn't a whole lot of gold around Denver.

There have been several Denver Nuggets teams over the years. The first was an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team founded in 1932. They were followed by an NBL franchise 80 years after the Pike's Peak Gold Rush. The present Nuggets came into existence in 1974 when the ABA's Denver Rockets switched nicknames in anticipation of an NBA/ABA merger (can't have two teams with the same name after all). I like the Nuggets nickname. It's not exactly fearsome but it's uniquely Denver. Good enough for sixth place anyway.

5. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans have played exactly one season in the NBA under their current name. Before the 2013-2014 season they were inappropriately named the Hornets (stay tuned for why it was inappropriate). When the franchise announced the decision to change the team name to the Pelicans, state bird of Louisiana by the way, they drew some fire from some folks. I mean who's going to be afraid of a Pelican?

At the time of the initial name change announcement, I wrote about how impressed I was with the team's decision to change it's name without a relocation effort. I remain as impressed, if not more so, today. Last January, I actually had the Knicks and Nuggets as better location specific nicknames; I may have re-considered since then. I just think it takes balls to do something that had only happened twice before in NBA history. And for those folks who think pelicans are not fearsome, ask the woman in the picture above. I love the Pelicans name!

4. Chicago Bulls
This past summer, I took a trip to Madrid and went to see a bullfight (however one-sided that turned out to be). Until then I didn't really understand how powerful and scary a bull can be, even one with a clear disadvantage to armed men who outnumber the creature. After that experience, one of the last things I want to be chased by is a bull. I can't imagine why anyone would consider running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain each year. I assume some of the folks in the photograph above might have regretted their decision to do so.

If there's a city with an NBA franchise that deserves the Bulls nickname, it's Chicago, so it's appropriate that their team carries that name. From the end of the Civil War to the early 1920's, more meat (mostly pigs and cattle) was processed in the city of Chicago than any other city in the world. No other American city is more identified with cattle slaughter (is that a good thing?) than the windy city. The Bulls name both reflects the history of the city and it ends up being way more than the city name with some arbitrary animal. Take that, Stuart Pritchard.

So I guess these guys are the original 76ers, right?
3. Philadelphia 76ers
The original Phildelphia NBA franchise was called the Warriors, who now reside in Oakland, California under the Golden State name. The folks that moved the Syracuse Nationals to the City of Brotherly Love in 1963 and renamed the team had a better idea.

No city except maybe Boston (and then only a maybe) was more important to the original 13 colonies' declaration of independence from Britain and the subsequent Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence document was signed there, Benjamin Franklin called the city home and the first Continental Congress was established there. Heck, if it hadn't been for slave owners in the south, Philadelphia might have become the capital of our nation. This was a tight call with the Bulls for the three spot but I'm giving the nod to Philly, despite the fact that a bull is way scarier than an 18th century American aristocrat with a pen.

2. Portland Trailblazers
One of the stories I love the most about American history is the expansion of the country west to the Pacific. From Lewis and Clark's search for the northwest passage to the annexation of parts of Mexico to the discovery of gold in California and Colorado to the settlement of vast tracts of available land in places like Oklahoma. I can't imagine how scary and wonderful expanding our nation west was for the people who did it in search of a better life for their families.

One of the most famous journeys west by regular people was the settlement of Oregon by the people who traveled to that territory via the Oregon Trail. The Trail connects Missouri to Oregon and is 2,200 miles long. I find it amazing that 400,000 people made the journey by foot and horse and wagon over an unpaved trail through sometimes hostile wilderness in a forty year span from about 1830 to about 1870. The Portland NBA franchise was another of the many named by public contest. The original winner of that contest was Pioneers, which works just great, but is shared by the nearby Lewis and Clark College. Trail Blazers finished second but won by disqualification of sorts. I like Trail Blazers better; I like it so much that I think it's second to only one other name.

1. Charlotte Hornets
I can't believe that any ranking system I created has the Charlotte Hornets at the number one spot but that's just what's happened here. Let me say it here so it's clear: I LOVE the Hornets name. I think it represents the very best of what a sports franchise name should be. It's ferocious, you can make a cute mascot out of it for the kids and it's location specific in a very obscure but very measureable and relevant way. This is a legit first place finish; I'm not just giving the Hornets a bump for ditching the Bobcats name a couple of months ago. Although honestly, they might have finished 30th with the old name.

As of this past spring, there have been two Charlotte Hornets franchises. The first was established as an expansion franchise in 1988 but split town for New Orleans in 2002 under a cloud of shadiness by the then owner, George Shinn. When the team headed south to the Crescent City, they kept the name for a bit until they decided that the Hornets name wasn't for them (see 5 above) and gave it up. Major props to Michael Jordan (did I really just write that?) for picking it up instantly and moving quickly to get the name back in the Queen City.

The original Hornets nickname (surprise, surprise!) was the result of a contest to name the team. I know, right? It's so surprising! Contests have yielded some crappy team names over the years (see 19 in Part 2). But this one is truly brilliant, plus if there were no contest here, we'd be rooting against the Charlotte Spirit. During the Revolutionary War, the British commander Lord Cornwallis referred to the city as a "veritable hornets' nest of rebellion" which inspired the name of a minor league baseball team in the city which was established in 1901. The name was later used for a World Football League team. Despite the borrowed or stolen name, this nickname wins my NBA team name rank.

So that's it. I'm still in disbelief that the Charlotte Hornets won anything I put my name to but that's the way it is. And since it's August 25 today, I think I can declare my project to rank all 30 NBA team nicknames a success. Now I have to think of something to do next August.

August 18, 2014

NBA Team Name Rank, Part 2

Two weeks ago, I posted Part 1 of a promised three part series about NBA team names. Gotta do something to keep my mind on the NBA in August. Here's Part 2.

Category Five: Not Relevant But Alliterative
I can just hear the cries of woe coming from Cleveland now. Yes, the next two nicknames are not relevant and are also incredibly boring, just like the Cavaliers. And yes, the Cavaliers name is alliterative and the Kings name is not. And why am I even separating boring non-alliterative names from boring alliterative names? All good points and questions, but it's my blog and the Cavs ain't going in the same category as the Wizards. No way, no how. And let's face it, nobody from Cleveland is likely to read this anyway.

20. Sacramento Kings
The NBA traces its history back to the 1946-1947 season when the league began life as the Basketball Association of America or BAA. By the start of the 1949-1950 season, the league had been re-named as the National Basketball Association and the Kings, or Rochester Royals, as they were named at that time, were aboard as part of the partial merger with the National Basketball League in 1948. Since they joined the now-NBA, the Kings have had more names than any other franchise except one, mostly due to their continual movement west. Their evolution starts with the Rochester Royals and continues as follows: Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, Kansas City Kings and finally the Sacramento Kings.

As a nickname, the Kings is OK, sort of middle of the road but not relevant at all, especially since the Kings have never been Kings of the NBA (the Royals were once, in 1951). The Kings come in at number 20 only because their name used to be alliterative in Kansas City and to tweak folks in Cleveland. I'm not sure their original name, the Rochester Seagrams, named after the company they played for, would rank any higher on this list, although it's certainly less generic. Shaquille O'Neal famously referred to the franchise as the Sacramento Queens but we won't go there here.

19. Washington Wizards
I see the Wizards placing 19th on this list (as opposed to first on last year's mascot rank) as proof that my rankings on totally subjective NBA issues don't always favor my beloved D.C. hoops team, although placing them this high is probably a little bit of a homer pick. I just finished writing about how the Kings are the second most named franchise; the Wizards finish first in this category and they blow the Kings away in terms of nicknames. Not sure that's a good thing; I'm just saying.

The Wizards joined the NBA for the 1961-1962 season as the Chicago Packers. A year later, they changed their nickname to the Zephyrs. One year after that, they moved to Baltimore and re-named themselves the Baltimore Bullets (they were the second Baltimore Bullets franchise to exist). The year 1963 often appears on Wizards merchandise as the team's founding year, especially when Abe Pollin ran the team. From there, a little nickname stability kicked in, although the team moved. The team was re-named the Capital Bullets for the 1973-1974 season after a move to Landover, Maryland and a year later they became the Washington Bullets which stuck until 1997 when they became the Washington Wizards. Phew! Glad all that's over.

As a name, Wizards honestly is not very good. The name was chosen in one of those oh-so-brilliant public contests (see Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavalier in Part 1 of this ranking) that NBA franchises sometimes participate in and so something like Wizards was really to be expected. The name beat out Dragons, Express, Stallions and Sea Dogs. Honestly, I sort of feel lucky we ended up as the Wizards. At least it's alliterative. Let's move on.

Category Six: Relevant But Blah
So finally we are into franchise names that are relevant in their current locations (other than the Milwaukee Bucks which were covered in the first part of this series). From here on out, there's some good stuff and it gets better with each team. Unfortunately, the first two relevant team names are a little uninspired. The worst of the best, if you will.

18. Dallas Mavericks
So Texas has cowboys, right? And cowboys ride horses, right? And everyone loves cowboys, right? Well, maybe not everyone but enough to base a team name on, right? All that is true, but horses is sort of a weak name so Dallas decided to use the name Mavericks, which is really in the truest sense of the word a name for a stray cow. I'll give the Mavs the benefit of the doubt and say their name is relevant. But it's bottom of the barrel relevant.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Just like the Mavericks name is OK because there are horses in Texas, the Minnesota Timberwolves name is OK because there are wolves in Minnesota, although wolves are actually pretty darned fierce so the name qualifies on the intimidation / I'm afraid of the actual thing that you are named after scale. The team name (again) was the result of a public contest and Timberwolves beat out Polars (thank God!). Kudos for the Timberwolves for not adopting either of the city's two ABA franchise names, the Muskies or Pipers. Timberwolves is much better.

Category Seven: Singular Plurals / Weather Related
I hate singular team names; just don't like them at all. It's a personal preference but I've known other people who have felt the same way. Oddly enough, two of the NBA's singular team names are weather related. I'm not sure why, but since there's another sort of weather related team name out there, I've put all four of these into a single category. I just feel the need to categorize, I guess.

16. Orlando Magic
Take one guess how the Magic got their name? That's right, it was a contest, this one sponsored by the Orlando Sentinel. The name beat out Heat, Tropics and Juice. You have no idea how much I long for the Orlando Juice. Can you imagine how ridiculous a Juice home game would be against the Washington Sea Dogs or the Minnesota Polars. The juice would have to have orange uniforms, right?Anyway, as a nickname for Orlando, I guess the Magic name ain't bad. There is allegedly no connection to Disney World (aka the Magic Kingdom) but, come on...really? Who's kidding whom here?

Honestly, I got nothing here. How do you show a picture of thunder?
15. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder popped up on the NBA nicknames list in 2008, when the team bolted Seattle and left the Supersonics name behind. Good move, here. The Supersonics, named after Seattle's proximity to Boeing's headquarters, doesn't work in Oklahoma. The name was chosen because of the vicious storms the state experiences yearly but also because the United States Army's 45th infantry division, also known as the Thunderbirds, resided in Oklahoma City from their founding in 1920 to their deactivation in 1968. That last part is really awesome, actually.

14. Miami Heat
I get it...Miami is hot. Hot = Heat. Cool!

I still think the Suns should change their mascot to the Jimmy Dean Sun. Just saying...
13. Phoenix Suns
The Suns finish at the top of this category, if only because they do not have a singular nickname, which I've already expressed some disdain for. Oh...and it's hot in Phoenix, just like it's hot in Miami. I guess the Sun is hotter than heat (although that could honestly be debated) and Phoenix is hotter than Miami so that works too.

Category Eight: Accidentally Relevant
Sometimes franchises move from one city to another, refuse to change their nickname and end up with a moniker that makes no sense for their current location (see Category Two in Part 1). Other teams get luckier. With no intent in mind, these franchises moved and somehow the names worked better than in their original cities.

12. Detroit Pistons
So the Pistons are named for the automotive industry that has been the calling card of Detroit for decades, right? Detroit is the "motor city" after all. Well, that's true but the Pistons name has nothing to do with Detroit. The Pistons were named after Fred Zollner's company, a Fort Wayne based outfit which happened to manufacture pistons for automobiles and trains. The team began play in the NBL way back in 1941, initially as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, although by 1948 the Zollner part of the name was gone, shortened simply to the Fort Wayne Pistons. Zollner moved the team to Detroit in 1957 and impressively, gave the team name some thought. Ultimately, he decided the team name worked in Detroit, which it most certainly does.

11. Houston Rockets
OK, so we were wrong about intuitive thoughts on the Pistons name, but the Rockets have to be named  after Houston's prominent role in NASA's space flight programs going all the way back to the Mercury program, the program that featured the first American manned space flights, right? Ummm…no! Like the Pistons, the Rockets are transplants (this time from San Diego) who retained their original name because it just worked. The original name selection was based on the local (San Diego) development of the Atlas rocket; obviously the name worked even better in Houston. The Rockets beat out the Pistons for 11th in my ranking because they are just way more impressive. I'm not really confident I could draw a piston; I know I can draw a rocket.

So that's it. 11 through 20 done. Only the top ten remain. You'll have to wait a week for that.

August 13, 2014

The 2014-15 NBA Schedule

Pretty much any day that features news about the Washington Wizards is a good one for me. So imagine the anticipation I felt yesterday when I heard the 2014-2015 NBA schedule was finally going to be released at 6 p.m. today. This announcement is a bit later than last year and I've barely been able to contain my excitement at work all day. This is the most thrilling news I've had since the end of Summer League. OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's not far from the truth.

Last year's Wizards campaign was arguably the best in my 14 years as a season ticket holder. We made the second round of the playoffs and managed to win a couple of games when we got there. For the record, that was only the second time in those 14 years that the team actually made the second round of the postseason; the 2004-2005 team won their first round series but promptly got swept 4-0 after that. So despite one fewer regular season win than the 45 win 2004-2005 team, I think last year has to be considered the best so far because of the two extra postseason Ws. The lack of success is sad, I know, but it's what I have. Last year I wrote about the schedule's release with a five year playoff drought at my back. This year, I have more hope.

So just like last year, today I tore into the schedule with as much enthusiasm as Trevor Booker pursuing a close rebound (or maybe Kris Humphries?). And also just like last year, here's once again a lucky seven things I see as exciting about this year's schedule.

1. National TV
I guess making the Eastern Conference semifinals affects your marketability. Last year's NBA schedule featured the Wizards in exactly one nationally televised game (NBA TV games don't count here). That game, vs. the Cleveland  Cavaliers on February 7 of this year, was ultimately bumped for a Portland-Indiana matchup meaning the Wizards ended up on zero nationally televised games last year. Coincidentally, that's the same number they played during the 2011-2012 season and the 2012-2013 season.

This year is totally different. The national broadcast slate has nine Wizards games on ESPN and an additional one on TNT. That's over 10% of our schedule on national TV. That means my dad will finally get to watch a few games this year; he's been without the Wizards since his local cable company dropped Comcast SportsNet Washington a few years ago and the NBA League Pass rules still black out our games in his area. That also probably means we'll start to develop a bandwagoning fan base just like all the popular teams in the NBA do. I'm still watching Buck and Phil on Comcast but it's exciting to get some national recognition.

2. Hot Start?
Over the past 14 seasons, the Wizards have gotten off to some historically bad starts. I mean like really bad. Last year, I highlighted the first dozen games as especially tough (they were!) and thought if the team managed to get out of those first 12 games with six wins, that we'd be alright the rest of the season. The team managed just four wins in the first 12 but ended up in the playoffs anyway but these poor starts have got to stop at some point. Digging yourself out of a hole every year just isn't helping and I genuinely thought we looked unprepared in some of our early season games last year.

This year looks a little easier, although with this team, you never know. Our first 12 games this year get us Milwaukee and Orlando twice and Detroit once. We also play the suddenly vulnerable Indiana Pacers twice in that span. The toughest games are probably Dallas, Toronto and Cleveland. It is absolutely imperative we come out prepared to win most of our first 12. I'd say eight is the minimum and nine or ten is preferred. We brought pretty much everyone back. We have to start strong this year.

3. The Rivalry Is Back
I know, I know...the folks in Cleveland are going to claim that there never was a rivalry. Just like their beloved turned traitor turned returning home hoped for hero LeBron "Crybaby" James claimed. Let's get one thing straight: Wizards fans like nothing better than beating a LeBron team, but there's something special about beating a Cleveland LeBron team. Crab dribbles. Soulja Boy. Taunting. Whining and crying to the officials in disbelief over every non-call. Let's get it on!

Anderson Varejao is the only Cavalier left from those teams that beat the Wiz back to back to back in the mid-aughts, but sprinkle in a little Mike Miller (who DeShawn Stevenson once chided for wearing LeBron sneakers while they both played in DC, although play is a dubious term for Miller's conduct while here) and we have something juicy to look forward to. I'm hoping the Miami fan from Cleveland I met last year in Section 415 is sitting in front of me at Verizon Center again this year but I'm guessing he's not going to be wearing red and black. Bring on the fair weather Cavs fans; bring on the "King"! The first home game vs. Cleveland is November 21. Friday night, national TV. Can't wait!

Oh…and one more thing. I just feel bad for Brendan Haywood. This guy has to get some kind of buyout or release or something, right? I can't see B Wood playing for a LeBron Cavs team.

4. Happy Holidays
Many casual fans of the NBA consider Christmas Day to be the unofficial start of the NBA season. College football is over (well except for the 865 bowl games to be played each year) and the NFL season is winding down so non-committed sports fans everywhere are casting about for some sort of pro ball to watch and for a lot of people, the NBA is just what they need. Of course, those casual NBA fans are misguided in my opinion but arguing about it is like getting upset with fans showing up to VC in Cavs 23 jerseys. It's just not worth it.

Regardless of the opinion of casual fans, Christmas Day is huge for the NBA. They are the only gig in town that day, usually featuring five games blanketing the whole holiday so there's complete wall to wall NBA coverage from noon to midnight. Playing on Christmas Day is huge. And this year, the Wizards are back on the holiday slate for the first time since 2008 when they played the hated Cleveland "Don't Call It a Rivalry" Cavaliers. It's good to be important enough in the court of public opinion I guess that the Wizards made it this year. I'm just glad it's a road game, because there's no way my mom's letting me leave on Christmas morning to go watch hoops. I'm going to have to ask for a half hour delay in Christmas dinner time as it is.

5. MLK Day!
Simply put, this is one of the best days of the year when it's not a presidential inauguration year. The Wizards have a 2 p.m. game that day against the Philadelphia 76ers, who we seem to play a lot on this day. Good times with a great friend while the rest of the non-government employees are hard at work. Almost enough said. The importance of this day is never lost on me when I am at an NBA game. They make you think hard about real issues that still need a lot of work on this day.

6. Division Games
Every year the Wizards play each of their four division opponents four times and this year is no different. But what is different this year is that the Wizards actually have a shot to win the division, something that hasn't happened since 1979. But if they are going to be serious about doing that, they are going to have to improve performance against the four other teams looking to either take the title for themselves or play spoiler. There's no question in my mind that we can't afford a letdown against any division opponent. Four of the five teams in the Southeast Division made the playoffs last year and I could see any one of those four taking the title this year.

We start playing our division in game one of the year, on the road in Miami and play an additional seven division games by the end of the calendar year: two against the Heat, three against the Magic and one against the Hawks. I can't necessarily believe I'm writing this but these three teams have to be considered the third through fifth teams in our division. The biggest challenge is likely to be with the suddenly very good Charlotte Hornets, who we don't play at all until February. If there's a couple of months that will determine if we have the right stuff to get a banner hung in Verizon Center for the first time since the Carter administration, it's February and March, when we play the Hornets four times. We have to do better than a 1-3 record against that club this year. We might be looking at a second place (or worse) division finish if we don't.

My friend Bryan in Milwaukee with the statue of the Fonz last March. It's cold in Milwaukee in March!
7. Road Trips
The best thing about NBA schedule release day is that I get to plan my fall and winter. I've made a habit the last few years of traveling to Wizards road games or going on mini NBDL road trips to discover some places in the U.S. that I just don't get to go to that often (or ever). I love traveling whether it's to watch basketball or just to get away but I won't travel when the Wizards are at home. Last year I managed to squeeze in a mid-December trip to Iceland as well as hoops trips to Philadelphia, Milwaukee and New England.

This year, it looks like there are a couple of good traveling opportunities. As I knock places off my NBA list, the options get fewer and fewer each year but it looks like there is a good possibility of squeezing in a mid-December trip to Miami to see how many fans are left in that area now LeBron has bolted for home. There also may be tempting games against the Clippers in Los Angeles and maybe Memphis in early April. Better than March in Milwaukee and Maine, but the NBDL schedule may change my plans. Either way, it looks like I'll be able to add to my portfolio of cities.

So that's it. That's all I have to say about the schedule within the first four hours of its release. Now all I have to do is get through the next 77 days. Getting the shakes already!

August 4, 2014

NBA Team Name Rank, Part 1

For the NBA fan, August and September are pretty much interminable: two months that just drag and drag and drag because absolutely nothing is happening. For these two months, the NBA just seemingly shuts down. Sure, there's a minor free agent signing or two and they throw us a bone by releasing the next season's schedule this month (can't wait, by the way!) but it's still super slow. So once again, I'm casting about for filler for my blog to make myself feel like I'm a credible blogger. Last year, I devoted five posts to ranking the NBA teams' mascots from 30 to 1. This year, I'm ranking team names, but in three parts, not five.

When I first moved to this country at the age of 11 in 1979, I was absolutely fascinated by American sports names. In England, where football is the one major sport (not that football; real football), team names are pretty dull. There are a lot of "United"s, "City"s and just some town or cities with no name other than the place name. Every so often you'd find a Rovers or a Rangers or an Albion. Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers were really really cool just because they were different but that's about as exotic as it got.

Naturally, when I knew we were moving to the United States, I started checking out the football situation across the pond to see which team I might become a fan of. We were moving to Connecticut so naturally I picked the Hartford Bicentennials and started thinking about my dad and I being able to go to some games (I didn't realize the Bicentennials had moved to Oakland in 1978; current information was only so available back then). But in looking into teams over in this country, I found no "United"s or "City"s. We knew about the New York Cosmos in England because they were pretty much world famous at that point. The rest of the names were just amazing: Chicago Sting, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders and on and on.

Why were teams named these things? Stephen Merchant's character Stuart Pritchard summed it up pretty well in the Long Beach episode of the absolutely hilarious HBO series Hello Ladies.
"Every fucking American sports team's just a bloody city and some arbitrary animal stuck together. Ooh, look at me, I'm a fan of the Chicago Squids. What does it even mean?"
Good question, Pritch! As I grew older and became an American sports fan (baseball and football first, then hockey, then basketball, then not so much baseball and hockey), I started to understand that some team names were indeed just a city name and an arbitrary animal (or whatever else) stuck together. Others however, have some real meaning and some are actually really really cool. And yes, some of these are actually animals.

So anyway, without further preamble, here are my bottom ten team names in the NBA. You'll have to wait a few days on the next ten, then a few more after that for the top ten. Here goes!

Category One: Stupidest Team Name Ever
Some names just don't work at all because they are just stupid.

30. Toronto Raptors
The genesis of the Raptors' name, which is hands down the worst in the NBA and possibly the worst name in the history of sports names, is as plain and as simple as the folks in Toronto swiping it from the Jurassic Park movie, which was the biggest box office hit the year prior to the franchise's name being announced. There are two primary reasons why the Raptors name is so bad. First, there is absolutely no relevance to the city of Toronto whatsoever. I mean not even millions of years ago; velociraptors have only been found in Mongolia to date. Secondly, as a general rule, don't name your team after a hit action movie. I realize the special effects in that movie were absolutely the bomb in 1993, but they do the same things and better in commercials these days. What if the team had been founded after the transformers movie was released? Think about it. The city of Toronto had a team called the Huskies in the old BAA. Go back to that one, please!

Category Two: Once Relevant But Now Just Misguided
I love relevant nicknames. But sometimes, franchises relocate and they just need to go ahead and bite the bullet and change their names. Otherwise there's a chance of looking pretty dumb in the future.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans, September 2012
29. Utah Jazz
I love the Jazz uniforms, logo and name. Absolutely love them all! I think the analogy of five players improvising on the basketball court around a series of set plays is the perfect reflection of Jazz musicians improvising around a rhythm structure and I love it as a basketball team name. I think it's inventive and original. In fact, I love almost everything about the Jazz concept as a basketball team except one thing: the team is in Utah! The name was perfect in New Orleans where the team started. It just ain't in Utah and there's no two ways about it. Change the name, folks, and feel lucky that the Raptors exist.

28. Los Angeles Lakers
When I look at a map of the city of Los Angeles, I see a few lakes. And I mean a few: four or five maybe. The biggest lake to me seems to be Silver Lake. Zooming out on Google Maps doesn't help; I still don't see a ton of lakes. What gives? Well, the Lakers started life in Minneapolis. When I switch to a map of Minneapolis, I see a lot of lakes and they are big relative to the total city area. When I zoom out (again, on Google Maps), I see a ton more. The Lakers of course were named after Minnesota's state nickname "Land of 1,000 Lakes". That name works in Minnesota, like really well. Not so much in L.A. So I know nobody really wants to hear this, but the Lakers need to change their name. Despite all the history and championships, the name sucks. Do the right thing!

27. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers started life in the NBA in 1970 as the Buffalo Braves. In 1978, they moved to San Diego and (smartly) changed their nickname to the Clippers, after the clipper ships common in San Diego's harbor. Great choice. Location specific and unique. Six years later they moved to Los Angeles to become (until recently) the red-headed stepchild to the Lakers. Los Angeles is still on the coast of California, right? So we can just keep the name, right? Well maybe not. Although they did. The port of Los Angeles is not famous for clipper ships. More like cargo ships. Oh well, at least their bad name will always be better than the Lakers' bad name.

26. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies franchise was founded in Vancouver in 1995 and remained there until 2001 when they moved to Memphis. In 2008, the United States Geology Survey published the results of a six year study  called the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear project which studied the historic and current range of the grizzly bear. Their published study includes the above map. Vancouver is located in the Canadian Province of British Columbia (the area above the upper left of the United States for those of you challenged when it comes to Canadian geography); notice the current grizzly bear territory almost completely covers British Columbia. Now look at Tennessee, which is entirely white. The Grizzlies missed an opportunity to change their names when they moved, although it's not too late. Just don't go back to the Tams. The Grizzlies are the best of the four no longer relevant team names because I'd be afraid meeting a grizzly bear. I'm not afraid of lakes, jazz or clipper ships.

Category Three: Prey
Animal based team names are supposed to instill a certain amount of fear in opponents. In other sports, team names such as the Bears, Tigers, Lions and Sharks do the trick for me. This one doesn't.

25. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks name (like some other NBA team nicknames) was selected based on an open entry contest when the team joined the NBA in 1968. The Bucks name, suggested by R.D. Trebilcox of Whitefish Bay won the hearts of the folks deciding which name would be adopted by the team because it represented the fish and game indigenous to the state of Wisconsin. Here's my problem. While I don't want to be staring down a full grown male deer (on my way to work one day I saw one running through Washington Circle en route to who knows where down K Street), bucks are not ferocious hunters. In fact, they are pretty much hunted by everything that might be appropriate as an NBA team nickname. Not ferocious; not good.

Category Four: Just Sort of Boring
There are a lot of NBA franchises with team names which are completely irrelevant to their city. Some of these work and some don't. Some are just boring and generic and could just as well be any team name in any state or city. Despite their mediocrity, these teams finish ahead of really bad names and once relevant names because they just don't suck as much as those other names.

24. Brooklyn Nets
So the name of this franchise refers to the string that hangs below the rim that the basketball goes through when a team scores a bucket. It's a piece of sports equipment and is almost that exciting. The team may as well be names the rims, the backboards, the balls or the courts. None of those is substantially worse than Nets. According to Julius Erving's autobiography (some very light post new year reading for me this year), the name was chosen as much because it rhymed with the Mets and Jets as any other reason. Picking names because they rhyme with other local teams doesn't cut it as a strategy for me. It's boring!

Ummm…yeah. Fearsome!
23. Cleveland Cavaliers
Just like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers let the public have a hand in picking their team name. This is always a risky proposition, and by no means the last time we will see this strategy for naming a franchise in this three part analysis. In Cleveland's case, the local newspaper, the Plain-Dealer, held a contest to name the newly awarded basketball franchise. Obviously Cavaliers won. Contest winner Jerry Tomko summed his suggestion for the nickname up as "(Cavaliers) represent a group of daring, fearless men, whose life's pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds." Much like the group in the photo above, I imagine. Cavaliers isn't a bad name I guess. It's just non-specific and a little blah. Therefore it finishes in the bottom half of the boring group because well, I just don't like the Cavs and never will.

22. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors started out in Philadelphia in 1946 (the first year the NBA operated) and moved to San Francisco in 1962 but based on their name, they could have come from anywhere it's just so non-specific. Originally, the Warriors nickname was accompanied by a logo featuring a native American attired in shorts only with a feather in his hair dribbling a basketball. The Warriors have mercifully moved away from this imagery, although the San Francisco Warriors logo did feature a headdress. The latest warrior depiction from the franchise was some sort of muscled futuristic blue guy but the team killed that a couple of years ago and adopted imagery that reflects their city, not their nickname. I guess Warriors is a little fearsome so they finish in the top half of the boring category.

21. Atlanta Hawks
Like the Warriors, the Hawks started out life as a native American moniker. The team started their NBA life in the league's inaugural season as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. The Tri-Cities in this case were Moline and Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa. The Blackhawks were named (as were the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks) after the Sac native American tribe leader Black Hawk (1767-1838). The Sac moved around before being constrained to any one spot by the United States government but they always stayed around the Great Lakes area. In 1951 the franchise shortened their name when they moved to Milwaukee to just simply Hawks. As a team name, it's not bad. Hawks are predators and the team deserves some props for renaming the team, although the Blackhawk name would have still worked in Milwaukee. Nonetheless, there's a boring factor and Atlanta finishes out my bottom ten.