October 23, 2017

The history behind each NBA mascot and NBA team name

2016/12/28 12:33 pm 12:33 pm12:33 pm0 0 comments

How did NBA teams come up with their names? The Los Angeles Clippers?

The Lakers? What?!

And how did those NBA franchises decide on the mascots that they did?

As you correctly assume, most teams get their names from the city’s historical past or some cultural aspect, others get their name based on the city the team first started out playing while some team names and mascots are pretty random. For many of the older franchises you’ll find that after having moved from city to city to city (to city), there’s a long, winding and often colorful past behind their team name and to a lesser extent, their mascots.

No matter whether it’s a bear, a bull, a dinosaur, an insect, a mythical creature, a guy in a skintight costume or a something or other, there’s a common job description when it comes to being an NBA mascot. You must be athletic so you can jump off trampolines and dunk at halftime. You must know how to shoot a gun, a t-shirt gun. You have to have a shooting touch so you can throw half court shots, backwards. And the most important skill you must have is the time-honored make a fool of yourself at every game stoppage. As a mascot, you have one job and that’s to make memorable moments.


NBA Mascot Names

Not all NBA team mascots make it. Whether it’s because they don’t resonate or there’s conflicts or the team decides to go in a different direction (or city!). Whatever the case, here’s the stories behind all 30 NBA team names and mascots.

Atlanta Hawks Harry the Hawk The Atlanta Hawks have a long history with a long list of cities and team names. They started out as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks based on the tribes (Kickapoo, Fox, and Saux) that inhabited the Tri-Cities area of Molina and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. Once the team moved to Milwaukee, the nickname was shorted to just the Hawks. They then spent approximately 12 years in St. Louis from 1955-56 to 1967/68 before ultimately settling in Atlanta in the 1968-69 season.
Boston Celtics Lucky the Leprechaun The Celtics nickname refers to the predominantly Boston Irish American population. The team logo and mascot reflect the Irish connections of the residents with the homeland of Ireland and the imp of Irish folklore — the Leprechaun.
Brooklyn Nets The Brooklyn Knight Previously the New Jersey Nets and a former ABA team, the franchise moved into Brooklyn a few years ago. The team name is a generic basketball term referring to the basketball net that hangs from the hoop. The team's mascot is the Brooklyn Knight.
Charlotte Hornets Huge the Hornet The Charlotte Hornets find their mascot history dating to the American Revolutionary War during one of the invasions by the British being equated to running into a “Hornets nest” and was selected to be the name of the original team that played in Charlotte in 1987. Once a new team was started in Charlotte after the original moved to New Orleans, the name was returned to the team who uses Hugo the Hornet as their mascot.
Chicago Bulls Benny the Bull The Chicago Bulls mascot name dates back to the city being the hub of the meat packing industry in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th century. For a significant period of time, the city had one of the largest stockyards in the word. Benny the Bull is the team’s mascot.

NBA Mascot and Team Names

Cleveland Cavaliers The Cavaliers nickname refers to a person who supported the Royalists during the English Civil War. The name also refers to the French term, Chivalier, which means cavalryman. General Custer was born in Ohio and is unfortunately famous for leading the massacre at the Little Bighorn of his army. Moon Dog and Sir CC are the team mascots.
Dallas Mavericks Champ/Mavs Man The Mavericks nickname is actually based on the lone cowboy on the prairie with the history of cattle drives around Dallas…not after a horse. Champ and Mavs Man are the team mascots.
Denver Nuggets Rocky the Mountain Lion There was an original NBA team that used the Nuggets mascot and name that got its name from the Colorado Gold Rush. Rocky the Mountain Lion serves as the team mascot.
Detroit Pistons Hooper Although many fans think the team’s nickname and mascot are based on the auto industry hub located in the city, the original Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons came from the team owner, Fran Zollners piston manufacturing company. Hooper is a horse (for horsepower) and serves as the Piston's mascot.
Golden State Warriors The original name of the team is a historical connection to the Delaware Indians who first inhabited the area before being driven out by British Colonists. The Warriors's most recent mascot was 'Thunder' but was retired in 2008 because it was problematic with the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. While having no official mascot the Warriors do have 'The Dancing Warriors Mom'"

Clutch the Bear

Houston Rockets Clutch the Bear While the team’s name seems fitting for being located in the home of NASA’s Mission Control, the original team was based in San Diego where the name assignment seemed fairly arbitrary. Clutch the Bear is the team’s mascot.
Indiana Pacers Boomer The Pacers get their team name from the auto that sets the pace during a red flag event during the Indy 500. Boomer is their mascot today.
Los Angeles Clippers Chuck the Condor The Clippers get their team name from a sailing ship from the 19th Century. When the original team moved from Buffalo to San Diego the name is based off of the numerous Clipper ships that docked in San Diego and other SoCal cities during the 1849 Gold Rush. Chuck the Condor serves as the team mascot today.
Los Angeles Lakers The Lakers originally got their team name from when the team was based out of Minneapolis before moving to LA. No matter what anyone says, the Lakers' mascot isn't Robert Sacre — the iconic Lakers are one of the NBA teams who do not have a team mascot."
Memphis Grizzlies The Grizz The team name is a holdover from when the team was originally based in Vancouver. They actually have a mascot based directly on the team name, with Grizz serving those duties.

All 30 NBA Mascots

Miami Heat Bernie the Fireball The Miami Heat are named after the weather of all things in South Florida. Their mascot is Bernie, who is a depiction of the fireball that is featured on the team’s logo.
Milwaukee Bucks Bango the Buck The Bucks have a fairly generic team name based on wildlife found outside of the city. The team mascot is Bango the Buck.
Minnesota Timberwolves Crunch the Wolf Although hunting wolves was popular in the area in the early part of the 20th Century, the team name is otherwise a generically assigned one. They do have a cool team mascot with Crunch the Wolf.
New Orleans Pelicans Pierre the Pelican The team name was assigned to the team after the Hornets name was given back to the new franchise in Charlotte. The area is home to a number of bayous and swamps where a large number of pelicans are found. The team mascot is Pierre the Pelican.
New York Knicks The Knicks team name is the short version of Knickerbockers which were a type of pants worn by the Dutch immigrants in the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Knicks are one of the teams who do not have a mascot today.

Oklahoma City Thunder Rumble the Bison The Thunder are another NBA team named after the weather in the location of the team’s home city. Rumble the Bison is the team mascot.
Orlando Magic Stuff the Magic Dragon The Magic are named after Disney World that is located in their home city. Stuff the Magic Dragon is the team mascot.
Philadelphia 76ers Franklin The 76ers are named after the men who signed the United States Declaration of Independence. Their team mascot is Franklin.
Phoenix Suns Go the Gorilla The Suns are named after the hot weather in Arizona. Go the Gorilla (as in Go-rilla, get it?) might be the most famous NBA mascot in the entire league… even though a gorilla in Phoenix makes little sense.
Portland Trailblazers Blaze the Trail Cat Portland was the end of the Oregon trail that brought millions of people out to the American west. A trailblazer was the person who would open up the route and new the area well. Blaze the Trail Cat is the team mascot.

NBA Mascot Names

Sacramento Kings Slamson the Lion A generically assigned team name. Slamson the Lion is the team mascot.
San Antonio Spurs The Coyote The Spurs are named after the sharp objects worn on the heels of cowboy boots to help control horses dating back to the cattle days in Texas. The team mascot is The Coyote.
Toronto Raptors Raptor The Raptors are named after the featured dinosaur from the original Jurassic Park movie from 1993 but the name has little to no association with the local area. Fittingly the Toronto Raptor is also the team mascot."
Utah Jazz The Jazz Bear The Jazz kept the team name after moving from New Orleans which is the jazz capitol of the world. The Jazz Bear is the team mascot.
Washington Wizards G-Wiz and G-Man The current Wizards of Washington started out as the Chicago Packers, then to Baltimore and finally into Washington as the Capitol Bullets. They changed from 'Capitol' to 'Washington' a couple seasons later. In the 1990s the Bullets were pretty much forced to change their team name in 1997 due to the appearance that the name supported and encouraged firearms in an increasingly gun-centric violent society. The Bullets was changed to the Wizards; as well as a generic selection for their name and their mascot; G-Wiz and G-Man.

Haven’t had enough of mascots and team name history? Check out our posts on “How countries got the nicknames for the National Teams” or take a look at these old school college mascot logos.


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