What's in an NBA
Name? Part III
A guy named
R.D.Treblicox of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin got himself a brand new car for
coming up with the name Bucks back in 1968 for Milwaukee's NBA team.
His pick beat out names like Stags, Skunks, and
Stallions. R.D. said, "Bucks are spirited, good jumpers, fast and
Treblicox knew both his bucks and his basketball. Alliteration
was probably one of the reasons for the name Cavaliers winning out in a
Cleveland newspaper competition back in 1970. But that name in recent
years has been de-emphasized in favor of "Cavs."
I guess some of the
media and a lot of the fans think that Cleveland's former name was a bit
too ritzy for an NBA club. When the Indiana franchise came into existence
in 1967 in the American Basketball Association, the owners said they named
the team Pacers because they intended to set the pace in professional
basketball. And when Indiana joined the NBA in 1976, the name Pacers went
The present Washington
team began life as the Chicago Packers in 1961, and was named by its owner
after his packing company. A year later, the name was Zephyrs. In 1963,
the team was in Baltimore and was renamed the Bullets after the city's
first basketball franchise that got started in 1946.
That club picked up its
Bullets' name because it played its games near a foundry that made
ammunition during World War II. In the 1973-74 season, a new name surfaced
- Capitol Bullets. The name was never politically correct until Washington
owner Abe Pollin finally changed the name to the Wizards in 1997.
The location of a huge
Boeing aircraft plant in Seattle was the inspiration for Howard E.
Schmidt's suggestion of SuperSonics as a name back in 1967 for the Seattle
NBA franchise. Mr. Schmidt was rewarded with a free trip to Palm Springs,
California and season tickets for Seattle's first basketball season. And
the franchise got itself a nice space-age name.
Toronto, the NBA's 28th
team and its first expansion franchise outside of the United States,
picked up its Raptors name in a "Name the Team" contest. Its
Canadian partner in Vancouver dubbed itself "Grizzlies", because
Grizzly bears are part of the scene in British Columbia. The animal is
also part of the mythology of the area.
One of the oddest name
situations involves the Los Angeles Clippers who, in another life, were
the Buffalo Braves. (Caution: you may have to read this explanation
In 1971, the City of San Diego lost its NBA
franchise when its team moved to Houston and became the Rockets. Seven
years later, the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego. The owners weren't too
thrilled with San Diego Braves as a name. So one of those name-the-team
contests was staged, and the winning entry was, you guessed it, Clippers.
That was because, once upon a time, lots of beautiful clipper ships passed
through the great harbor of San Diego.
There probably were
never clipper ships in Los Angeles, but in 1984 when the franchise moved
there from San Diego, the name Clippers came along.
If you've read Part I,
Part II and now Part III of my NBA name-that-team opus, your reward is
this story told to me by Red Holzman, who before his legendary days as
Knick coach was as a pretty good scout for the team.
"I was scouting a
kid from Czechoslovakia," Red said. "We decided to give him a
vision test. I got hold of an eye chart and told the kid, 'All right.
Let's hear you read the bottom line.' "'Read the bottom line?' he
asked, 'I know him.'"
And so much for names.
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
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