Utah Jazz and 5 Teams Who Need More Geographically Correct Names

Denim MillwardContributor IIIJuly 23, 2012

Utah Jazz and 5 Teams Who Need More Geographically Correct Names

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    Thanks primarily to relocation, the National Basketball Association has a handful of teams whose names are a worse fit for their current city than a small Speedo on Oliver Miller. 

    With the exception of the Clay Bennett, who renamed the former Seattle Supersonics to the more appropriate Oklahoma City Thunder when he relocated them to Oklahoma, owners have shown a curious preference for maintaining the team's name when moved regardless of regional ties the name had with the previous city.

    Here are five teams whose nomenclature could use a location-oriented overhaul. 

Utah Jazz

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    Perhaps the most glaringly obvious example of a team name being unrepresentative of its current home is the Utah Jazz.

    The Utah Jazz began life as the New Orleans Jazz.  When owner Sam Battisone decided to move the team in 1979 due primarily to financial concerns, he chose Salt Lake City.  Although a small market, Salt Lake City had proven it would happily support a professional basketball team while it was home to the Utah Stars of the ABA. 

    Oddly enough, Battisone decided to not only keep the Jazz name, but also the Mardi Gras color scheme of green, purple and gold. 

    Perhaps it was shortsightedness, perhaps it was stubbornness, or perhaps Battisone just thought the name had a nice ring to it; in any case, the Utah Jazz continue to be supported by a rabid fanbase that loyally turn a collective blind eye to the fact that Utah has zero to do with the jazz music genre.

    Geographically Appropriate Team Name Suggestions:

    Utah Mountaineers—because of the beautiful but rugged mountain terrain in and around Salt Lake City

    Utah Pioneers—an homage to the Mormon pioneers who settled the Great Salt Lake area.

    Utah Cougars—cougars are indigenous to Utah. 

Los Angeles Lakers

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    The Lakers have a similar story to Utah, and have just as silly a name considering there are approximately 65,000 things California is associated with that are more notable than lakes. 

    The Lakers became the NBA's first West Coast team when then-owner Bob Short moved them from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.  Short made the same head-scratching decision to maintain the Minnesota-centric name when the team was moved to Hollywood, despite a litany of California-themed mascot ideas at his disposal.

    Since the Lakers have been wildly successful in their 50+ years in L.A., it would take nothing less than an act of God for their name to be changed. 

    Geographically Appropriate Name Suggestions:

    Los Angeles Stars—it sounds a little cheesy now, but I'm shocked this wasn't the team name choice when the team was moved in 1960.

    Los Angeles Showtime—referencing the team's nickname in the 80's as well as the fact that L.A. is the movie industry capital of the world.

    Los Angeles Sabertooths—the sabertooth tiger is the official mammal fossil of the state of California. 

New Orleans Hornets

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    The Hornets have been an NBA orphan of sorts over the years. 

    First, they relocated from Charlotte to New Orleans after their request to relocate to Memphis was rejected in favor of relocating the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis.  Then, they were forced to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area.

    Finally, the Hornets were taken over by the league after purchasing the team from former owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest. 

    Despite having several chances to re-christen the Hornets, various ownerships have declined to do so.  Yes, there are hornets in Louisiana, but the team wasn't actually named after the bug.  The name was derived from Charlotte's fierce resistance to British occupation during the Revolutionary War. 

    Stronger ties to Charlotte couldn't have been made, ties that should have been severed when the team moved to New Orleans, a city with a wide variety of culture and features to tie into the team's new name.

    Geographically Appropriate Name Suggestions:

    New Orleans Gators—referencing the large alligator population in Louisiana swampland.

    New Orleans Cajuns—an homage to the original settlers of the area.

    New Orleans Voodoo—referring to the popularity and mystique of the black magic in Louisiana.

Sacramento Kings

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    The Kings have always had a "regal" moniker in a variety of different cities. 

    The Kings trace their roots back to the Rochester Royals, who were first a member of the NBL and then a charter member of the NBA.  The Royals moved to Cincinnati in 1957, then saw a change in name and scenery when they became the Kansas City Kings.

    There don't appear to be any ties between the Kings moniker and Kansas City, other than the alliteration of the name.  When the team relocated to Sacramento in 1985, it stuck with the Kings name despite there being nothing particularly regal about Sacramento.

    Geographically Appropriate Name Suggestions:

    Sacramento Capitals—Sacramento is the capital of California.

    Sacramento Condors—the California Condor is a well-known endangered species. 

    Sacramento Redwoods—a massive and rare tree native to the area.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    My beef with the Memphis Grizzlies isn't quite as pronounced as with the previously mentioned team names, but I think an immense opportunity was missed when the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis.

    Since Grizzly territory doesn't extend farther east than western Missouri, you don't have to be a geography major to realize there are no Grizzly bears in Memphis, except at the zoo. 

    Once again, a team owner (Michael Heisley is the guilty party in this case) forgoes an opportunity to create an instant bond between the team and its new location by re-christening it with a new name that is relevant in the new city. 

    Geographically Appropriate Name Suggestions:

    Memphis Express—Memphis is the home of shipping behemoth FedEx.  With the league leaning more towards sponsors on jerseys, this name would make a lot of sense.

    Memphis Kings—If Sacramento ever decides to give the moniker up, the Grizzlies could use it to reference Elvis Presley, whose famous Graceland estate is in Memphis.

    Memphis Blues—Memphis has very strong ties to blues music, though the NBA might be hesitant to have two team named after music genres.