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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 agile."

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 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 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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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

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, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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