Action photo of the Chicago Bulls versus the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Image Credit: Philadelphia 76ers (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The NBA has definitely seen it's share of bad nicknames over the years; especially before it merged with the ABA. Who would have guessed that Utah isn't known for it's Jazz and Grizzly bears aren't native to Memphis, Tennessee? However, we wanted to touch base and document how all 30 NBA teams came up with their nickname for everyone's enjoyment.

Atlanta Hawks - This organization was founded in Rock Island, Illinois and was named after Sauk Indian Chief Black Hawk - just like the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. At that time, they were known as the Tri-Cities Black Hawks. In 1951, two years after joining the NBA, the team re-located to Milwaukee, WI and became known as the Milwaukee Hawks. They once again, moved and became the St. Louis Hawks before landing in Atlanta in 1968.

Mascot: Harry the Hawk



Boston Celtics - The Celtics got their nickname due to two reasons. 1) The city of Boston has a massive and thriving Irish community. 2) They were named after the old New York Celtics that played from 1914 to 1939. Walter Brown of the Boston Garden Arena Corporation was responsible for the naming of the team.

Mascot: Lucky the Leprechaun



Brooklyn Nets - Originally an ABA team, the New Jersey Americans became the New Jersey Nets in 1968 so it could rhyme with the "New York Mets" and "New York Jets" organizations. The team moved back to Newark in 1977 and would stay there until 2012. In 2012, the organization once again moved back to New York and changed it's name to the Brooklyn Nets.

Mascot: None.



Charlotte Hornets - Formerly the Charlotte Bobcats (2004-2014), this is the second installment of the Charlotte Hornets. The team played in Charlotte from 1988 as an expansion team until 2002 when they re-located to New Orleans and became the Pelicans. The team was originally going to be called the Charlotte Spirit. Instead, a name the contest was conducted and the nickname "Hornets" was chosen. It refers to Charlotte's resistance to the British Army during the Revolutionary War. As Lord Cornwallis of the British Army put it, "the city was a hornet's nest of rebellion".

Mascot: Hugo the Hornet



Chicago Bulls - When owner Richard Klein was thinking of possible nicknames for his brand new team, he wanted a nickname related to Chicago being the meat capital of the United States. The two nicknames he originally considered were the "Matadors" or the "Toreadors". Aloud, his son said "Dad, those names are a bunch of bull". And that's how Klein came up with the idea to name the team the Chicago "Bulls". The nickname also signified great strength and power.

Mascot: Benny the Bull



Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cleveland Plains-Dealer newspaper held a name the team contest in 1970. A Cleveland area native named Jerry Tomko gets credit for naming the team saying that Cavaliers are fearless men that were taught to never surrender. Other nicknames that were also considered were the "Presidents", "Jays", "Towers" and "Foresters".

Mascot: Moon Dog, Sir CC



Dallas Mavericks - A name the team contest was conducted by a Dallas area radio station to decide the nickname of the team. More than 40 fans suggested the nickname 'Mavericks', which was eventually approved by owner Donald Carter. Other names that were considered were the "Express" and the "Wranglers".

Mascot: Champ, Mavs Man



Dever Nuggets - The Denver Rockets were an ABA team that was on the verge of merging into the NBA. However, the NBA already had the San Diego/Houston Rockets. So Denver scrambled to find a new nickname before the 1974 season. The organization held a name the team contest and the nickname "Nuggets" was chosen which honored the Colorado Gold Rush that took place in the 1850s. Similar to the San Francisco 49ers nickname, the Gold Rush was a time period when people were hoping to make personal fortunes mining for gold and silver.

Mascot: Rocky the Mountain Lion



Detroit Pistons - The team was founded in Fort Wayne, IN as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons by Fred Zollner. Zollner owned a business that manufactured pistons for vehicles and trains. When the team fell upon tough times in Fort Wayne, he moved the team to Detroit, Michigan. The nickname obviously still fit since Detroit was the automobile capital of the United States.

Mascot: Hooper



Golden State Warriors - During the days of the American Basketball League in the 1920s, there was a team called the Philadelphia Warriors. That team and league eventually folded. When Philadelphia, PA inherited an expansion NBA team in 1946, they named the team the Warriors in honor of the old ABL Warriors team. The team eventually relocated to San Francisco, CA and became known as the San Francisco Warriors in 1962. In 1971, the team moved across the Bay to Oakland, CA and changed it's name to the Golden State Warriors. Golden State more accurately reflects all of California than just the Northern Bay Area.

Mascot: None



Houston Rockets - The nickname "Rockets" was founded in San Diego, CA in 1967. San Diego residents were asked to choose the name for the team and they chose "Rockets" due to the influx of space industries being built in the San Diego area. Even though the team moved to Houston in 1971, Houston was also home to the NASA Space Center so the nickname stayed the same.

Mascot: Clutch the Bear



Indiana Pacers - A group of attorneys and investors chose the nickname "Pacers" in 1967. At the time, the team was a member of the ABA. They merged into the NBA in 1976. The nickname references the state of Indiana's storied history in harness racing and the pace cars used during the Indianapolis 500 auto race.

Mascot: Boomer



Los Angeles Clippers - The city of San Diego inherited the old Buffalo Braves in 1978 after previously losing the San Diego Rockets to Houston. A name the team contest was held and the nickname "Clippers" was chosen; an old type of ship that sailed the waters of San Diego Bay. Donald Sterling purchased the team in 1981 and moved the Clippers to Los Angeles iin 1984 and kept the same nickname.

Mascot: None



LA Lakers - The Minneapolis Lakers were founded in 1947 and played in the National Basketball League briefly before joining the NBA shortly thereafter. The state of Minnesota is known as the "Land of 1,000 Lakes". (There are actually much more than 1000 lakes in Minnesota). A group of investors came up with the name for the team. When the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960, they simply kept the same nickname.

Mascot: None



Memphis Grizzlies - The Grizzlies were founded in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1994. The team's front office originally wanted to name the team the "Mounties" in reference to the Canadian police unit. The police organization and area fans strongly objected. The nickname "Ravens" was also considered before "Grizzlies" was finally chosen in a name the team contest conducted by the local newspaper. (Grizzlies are commonly seen in the wilderness of British Columbia). The organization relocated to Memphis, TN in 2002 and the fan base decided not change the team's nickname. Fedex, who owns the naming rights to the Grizzlies' home arena, offered the Grizzlies money to change the team's name to the "Express". That idea was shot down by the NBA pretty quickly. The organization did however, change the Grizzlies' colors and logo into their very own scheme.

Mascot: Grizz



Miami Heat - Miami was given an NBA expansion team in 1988. The organization left it up to the fans to decide the team's name in a name the team contest. Other nicknames that were considered were the "Sharks", "Tornadoes", "Beaches" and "Barracudas".

Mascot: Burnie



Milwaukee Bucks - A name the team contest was held to decide the nickname of the franchise in 1968. There were more than 14,000 entries including the suggestion "Milwaukee Skunks". The nickname "Bucks" was ultimately chosen due to the state of Wisconsin's rich presence of fish, wildlife and game.

Mascot: Bango the Buck, Bang the Buck Jr.



Minnesota Timberwolves - Before Minneapolis was awarded an NBA expansion team in 1986, they held a name the team contest for area fans. There were more than 6,000 entries submitted. The nicknames "Timberwolves" and "Polars" were the two finalists. Afterwards, Minnesota's many city councils voted on the nickname. "Timberwolves" was the winning selection, a name that reflects the wolf population that inhabits the Northern Minnesota forests.

Mascot: Crunch the Wolf



New Orleans Pelicans - The city of New Orleans inherited the Charlotte Hornets in 2002. The team would remain the Hornets up until 2013 when owner Tom Benson wanted strongly to change the team's nickname to something that fit the city's history. Benson pursued the nickname "Jazz" from Utah but the team's ownership wouldn't give their nickname up. New Orleans was previously home to the New Orleans Jazz basketball team before they re-located to Salk Lake City, Utah. Benson finally decided on the nickname "Pelicans" since the state bird is the brown pelican (Louisiana). There was also a Minor League Baseball team known as the New Orleans Pelicans that played in the city for more than 50 years.

Mascot: Pierre the Pelican



New York Knicks - Ned Irish, the founder of the New York Knicks in 1946, nicknamed his team the "Knickerbockers" in reference to the rolled up pants that New York's Dutch settlers wore during the 1600s. "Knickerbockers" was eventually shortened to "Knicks".

Mascot: None



Oklahoma City Thunder - The Seattle Supersonics re-located to Oklahoma City, OK in 2007. Owner Clay Bennett wanted to change the team's name so the organization came up with 64 possible nicknames. They then let the fan base choose the best nickname from the list. Other nicknames that were considered were the "Renegades", "Twisters" and "Barons".

Mascot: Rumble the Bison



Orlando Magic - Orlando was awarded an NBA expansion team in 1987. By that time, the city of Orlando had already decided on a nickname for the team. A name the team contest was held by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper and more than 4200 entries were submitted. Other nicknames that were considered include the "Heat", "Tropics", "Orbits" and "Juice". Ultimately, ownership decided to name the team the "Magic" referencing Orlando's number one attraction; Disney World.

Mascot: Stuff the Magic Dragon



Philadelphia 76ers - Philadelphia inherited the Syracuse Nationals basketball team in 1963. The team was renamed the 76ers in honor of the Declaration of Independence which was signed in 1776 in Philadelphia.

Mascot: Franklin



Phoenix Suns - The Suns organization held a name the team contest during its expansion year in 1968. There were more than 28,000 submissions including nicknames such as "Scorpions", "Bushwackers", "Cactus Giants", "Yardbirds" and "Sundials". General Manager Jerry Colangelo eventually decided on the nickname "Suns".

Mascot: Go the Gorilla



Portland Trail Blazers - Portland was given an expansion NBA team in 1970 and the team's front office held a name the team contest. There were more than 10,000 entries. The ultimate winner was "Pioneers" but a nearby college was already using that nickname. "Trail Blazers" references the settlers to the Portland area and the excavating they did to the forests to build towns and cities.

Mascot: Blaze the Trail Cat



Sacramento Kings - The Kings are another franchise that has seen it's share of re-locations over the years. The organization began in Rochester, NY as the Rochester Royals before moving to Cincinnati, OH in 1957. By 1972, the team had moved to Kansas City/Omaha and the results of a name the team contest changed the franchise's name from Royals to Kings. The Kansas City Kings eventually moved to Sacramento in 1985 where they have been ever since. In 2012 and 2013, it appeared definite that Sacramento was going to lose the Kings to Seattle before a deal for a new downtown arena was approved.

Mascot: Slamson the Lion



San Antonio Spurs - The San Antonio Spurs were born as the Dallas Chaparrals, an ABA team (a chaparral is a roadrunner). A group of investors in San Antonio purchased the Chaparrals in 1973 and re-named them the San Antonio Gunslingers, a name that was a great fit, if you ask me. The owners wanted to re-name the team and give it a nickname that reflected Texas' heritage more accurately. A name the team contest for fans was conducted and the nickname "Spurs" was chosen. I can't help but to notice the connection between a Chaparral (roadrunner) and the Coyote, the Spurs' current mascot.

Mascot: The Coyote



Toronto Raptors - The Raptors began play in 1995 as the NBA's newest expansion team along with the Vancouver Grizzlies. A name the team contest was conducted nationwide and there were more than 2,000 entries submitted. Among the other possible nicknames for the team were the "Scorpions", "Terriers", "Hogs", "Dragons" and "Beavers".

Mascot: Stripes, the Raptor



Utah Jazz - Salt Lake City inherited the New Orleans Jazz in 1979, a club that was founded in 1974. The nickname was chosen as part of a name the team contest and generated almost 7,000 submissions. Other possible nicknames included the "Dukes", "Pilots", "Crescents" and "Deltas". The team kept the nickname 'Jazz' after moving to Salt Lake City. The New Orleans Pelicans owner recently tried to get Utah to abandon their nickname but too much history behind the nickname had already been established. No, there are no Jazz roots in Salt Lake City but the Jazz fans are some of the most dedicated and vibrant fans in the NBA.

Mascot: Jazz Bear



Washington Wizards - The Washington Wizards organization was previously known as the Washington Bullets until 1997. The organization for whatever reason had continuously been tied to violence in the DC area due to their "Bullets" nickname. After an Israeli Prime Minister and friend of Abe Pollin was assassinated, Pollin had seen enough. He vowed to change the team's name and held a name the team contest for fans before choosing "Wizards". Other submissions included the "Sea Dogs", "Dragons", "Stallions" and "Express".

Mascot: G-Wiz, G-Man



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