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 along.
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
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 twice).
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.
And that's a slam dunk!
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
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"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
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