NBA Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Every Team's Nickname

J FCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2011

NBA Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Every Team's Nickname

0 of 30

    DENVER - NOVEMBER 11:  A detail of the jersey and tattoo of Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers as they face the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 118-112.  NOTE TO USER: Use
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Not many people pay attention to the titles of professional basketball's thirty teams, but if you take the time to ponder them, you'll find yourself asking, "Why in the world are they called that?"

    Team nicknames usually have some probable cause or an interesting background, and this is certainly true in the NBA.

    For those of you who are wondering and don't know why your team plays under a seemingly absurd title, I've discovered the reasoning behind the madness.

     Note: If you are also interested in NCAA, NFL, NHL, and MLB nicknames, check out my profile for the articles.

Phoenix Suns

1 of 30

    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 17:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Dallas Mavericks at US Airways Center on February 17, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Mavericks defeated the Suns 112-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    When the Suns joined the league in 1968, the Arizona Republic held a contest in which there was thousands of entries with names such as Scorpions, Mustangs, Cougars, and Rattlers.

    Suns was chosen and the winner was given one grand and season tickets for that year.

    To me Scorpions or Rattlers sounds cooler, but Suns is appropriate for Arizona I suppose.

Golden State Warriors

2 of 30

    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 04:  Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after the ball is given to the Boston Celtics on March 4, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Celtics defeated the Warriors 107-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Warriors is a pretty basic name for a sports' team, and was first given to this NBA back when they resided in Philadelphia in 1946.

    The name stuck with the team when they moved to San Francisco.

Boston Celtics

3 of 30

    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 04:  Acie Law #2 of the Golden State Warriors takes a shot as Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics defends on March 4, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Celtics defeated the Warriors 107-103. NOTE TO USER: User express
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Walter Brown, the first owner of the Celtics, considered nicknames like the Whirlwinds, Olympics, and even Unicorns.

    Finally, he came up with a better name, the Celtics, probably because of the amount of Irish people in Boston.

Orlando Magic

4 of 30

    ORLANDO, FL - MAY 18:  Jameer Nelson #14 of the Orlando Magic wipes his face with his jersey against the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 18, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Like the Suns, a newspaper contest was held to determined the nickname of Orlando's new franchise.

    There wasn't quite as many entries, but the finalists included the Heat, Magic, Juice, and Tropics.

    Obviously, the committee decided on the Magic, but don't ask me how that relates to Orlando...

New York Knicks

5 of 30

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30:  Raymond Felton #2 of the New York Knicks reacts agaisnt the New Jersey Nets on November 30, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Most people know that Knicks is short for Knickerbockers, but what exactly is a Knickerbocker?

    It is a term for the first Dutch settlers of New York, and later became a nickname for all people who live in New York.

Miami Heat

6 of 30

    MIAMI - NOVEMBER 06:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives against guard Terrence Williams #1 of the New Jersey Nets  at American Airlines Arena on November 6, 2010 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Miami Heat entered the league around the same time as the Magic.

    A Name the Team contest also decided what Miami's new franchise would be called.

    It's hot in Miami so it fits I guess...

Los Angeles Lakers

7 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat exchanges words with Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers late in the fourth quarter during the NBA game at Staples Center on December 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Heat defe
    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    The Lakers franchise began in Minneapolis, Minnesota aka "The Land of 10,000 Lakes".

    Thus the Laker were born, yet now their name is just a memory of the past. It has nothing to do with Los Angeles.

    Would the L.A. Hollywooders be more appropriate?

Milwaukee Bucks

8 of 30

    MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 16: Drew Gooden #0 of the Milwaukee Bucks signals to a teammate against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Bradley Center on November 16, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Lakers defeated the Bucks 118-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    R.D. Trebilcox won a new car for being one of 45 contestants to choose the name Bucks. He claimed that deer were fast, good jumpers, and agile.

    I'm not sure why he is the one credited for the suggestion, but I wish I could've entered such a contest and picked up a new ride.

Cleveland Cavaliers

9 of 30

    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 29:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 29, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograp
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Jerry Tomko won the Cavs contest when his choice was selected over Foresters, Presidents, and Jays.

    Yet again, the name really has nothing to do with the city except for beginning with the letter C.

Houston Rockets

10 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01:  Courtney Lee #5 of the Houston Rockets drives past Ron Artest #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at Staples Center on February 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 114-106. NOTE
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Rockets were founded in San Diego in 1967. At this time, a U.S. defense contractor, the General Dynamics Corporation, was close by and developing a rocket program.

    I think you can put two and two together...

Portland Trail Blazers

11 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18:  Wesley Matthews #2 of the Portland Trailblazers and the Sophomore Team goes up for a shot against DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings and the Rookie Team in the second half during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The most popular choice in Portland's naming contest was the Pioneers. This suggestion was rejected because a local college already was using the nickname.

    Trail Blazers had 172 votes out of around 10,000 entries, and was selected.

Atlanta Hawks

12 of 30

    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks shoots against the New Jersey Nets at Philips Arena on December 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photog
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The team was first known as the Buffalo Bisons until moving to Illinois where it was renamed the Black Hawks, after the Black Hawk War (a U.S. war with Native Americans) which was fought mostly within the state.

    Upon its move to Milwaukee, it became known as just the Hawks. After yet another move, this time to St. Louis, the Hawks finally ended up in Atlanta.

Indiana Pacers

13 of 30

    INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 15:  Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball during the NBA game against the  Miami Heat at Conseco Fieldhouse on February 15, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    A committee of investors decided on the Pacers at the team's founding primarily because of Indiana's history of harness racing pacers (a type of horse racing), and the pace car used at the Indianpolis 500.

    Apparently it was more difficult to decide if it should be named the Indiana or Indianapolis Pacers.

Chicago Bulls

14 of 30

    MIAMI, FL - MARCH 06:  Carlos Boozer #5 of  the Chicago Bulls posts up Mike Miller #13 of the Miami Heat during a game at American Airlines Arena on March 6, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Bulls resemble strength and power, and back in 1966 Chicago was also the meatpacking capital of the world.

    Richard Klein, the Bulls' first owner, also considered Matadors and Toreadors.

Sacramento Kings

15 of 30

    CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 25:  Eugene Jeter #5 of the Sacramento Kings tries to steal the ball from Shaun Livingston #2 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 25, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: U
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The team began its journey in Rochester where, after a naming contest, it was known as the Royals.

    At one point it ended up in Kansas City, which already had a baseball team called by the same name, so it was changed to the Kings.

Detroit Pistons

16 of 30

    AUBURN HILLS, MI - FEBRUARY 11:  Austin Day #5 of the Detroit Pistons look gets in for a dunk while playing the Miami Heat at The Palace of Auburn Hills on February 11, 2011 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Miami won the game 106-92.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/G
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The franchise's first owner, Fred Zollner, also owned a foundry that manufactured pistons for autmobile engines.

    When it moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Detroit, the name was kept because the city relied on car manufacturing.

Oklahoma City Thunder

17 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18:  Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sophomore Team moves the ball up court in front of Greg Monroe #10 of the Detroit Pistons and the Rookie Team during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam at Staples
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    When the team recently moved from Seattle, it needed a new nickname.

    Out with the Sonics, in with the Thunder. Apparently thunder is common weather in Oklahoma.

New Orleans Hornets

18 of 30

    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 22:  Chris Paul #3  of the New Orleans Hornets smiles as he walks off the court during the game against the New Jersey Nets at the New Orleans Arena on December 22, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Hornets defeated the Nets
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The team moved from Charlotte where it was given its name following a contest.

    The British referred to Charlotte as a hornets' nest during the Revolutionary War because of its great hostility toward Britain.

    When the British invaded, they found a trap (hornets' nest) waiting for them in the Carolinas.

Charlotte Bobcats

19 of 30

    DENVER, CO - MARCH 02:  D.J. Augustin #14 of the Charlotte Bobcats takes a free throw against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on March 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Bobcats 120-80.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    While it is possible that Bobcats could be derived from the team's first owner, Bob Johnson, it is more likely that it is name after the native animal.

    The bobcat is an athletic, fierce predator. Maybe the team will soon live up to its namesake...

San Antonio Spurs

20 of 30

    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 04:  Guard Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on March 4, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When the team moved to San Antonio it was originally supposed to be called the Gunslingers, but instead it became the Spurs.

    There were cowboys in Texas, cowboys wore spurs on their boots, San Antonio is in Texas, it makes sense...

Memphis Grizzlies

21 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 02:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers is boxed out by Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Staples Center on January 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Grizzlies defeated the Lakers 104-85
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Barring an objection from the Canadian Mounted Police, the team would've started as the Vancouver Mounties.

    Instead, since the grizzly bear is native to the area, it was nicknamed the Grizzlies instead. The name followed the team to Memphis even though there is no grizzlies near by.

Denver Nuggets

22 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 5:   Wilson Chandler #21 of the Denver Nuggets waits in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on March 5, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloa
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    A contest dubbed Denver's team the Nuggets, presumably because of the gold rush in Colorado during the 1800's.

    Many gold nuggets or pieces of gold were found in the area. Denver could use some extra gold after 'Melo's departure...

Los Angeles Clippers

23 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 5:  Mo Williams #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers controls the ball against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on March 5, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers won 100-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    During the American gold rush, Clippers would come to the porty city of San Diego, the team's old home.

    In case you were wondering, a Clipper is a sailing ship.

Philadelphia 76ers

24 of 30

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18:  Jrue Holiday #11 of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Sophomore Team dunks the ball in the first half against the Rookie Team during the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam at Staples Center on February 18, 2011 in Los Ang
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Declaration of Independence was signed in the city of Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

    The team's name is a tribute to this monumental year in the history of the United States.

Minnesota Timberwolves

25 of 30

    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts after missing a shot against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on March 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The contest came down to two finalists. the Polars and the Timberwolves.

    There is a large population of wolves in Minnesota, and hunting them was popular.

Washington Wizards

26 of 30

    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05:  Maurice Evans #6 of the Washington Wizards is guarded by Lazar Hayward #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Verizon Center on March 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The team used to be called the Bullets, but it was changed to the Wizards because of its violent sound and the crime in Washington.

    Wizards was also controversial because of the African-American public, and Wizard being a rank in the KKK.

Utah Jazz

27 of 30

    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23:  Forward Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center on February 23, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consen
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The team was founded in New Orleans, where jazz music originated and was popularized.

    There really isn't much more to it than that.

Dallas Mavericks

28 of 30

    WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 26: Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks against the Washington Wizardsat the Verizon Center on February 26, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Pho
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The nickname was chosen by fans.

    Thought to be a horse, by definition a maverick is an unbranded range animal.

    Others say it is a cowboy.

New Jersey Nets

29 of 30

    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04:  #8 Deron Williams of the Nets speaks with his coach, Avery Johnson during the NBA match between New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors at the O2 Arena on March 4, 2011 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    The Nets were named as such to rhyme New York's two other pro teams, the Mets and Jets.

    It also is part of a basketball hoop, and there is some speculation that it could refer to NJ's prominent fishing industry.

Toronto Raptors

30 of 30

    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04:  #24 Sonny Williams of the Raptors in action during the NBA match between New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors at the O2 Arena on March 4, 2011 in London, England. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    The Raptors' contest entries included the likes of Terriers, Dragons, Hogs, T-Rex, Beavers, and Tarantulas.

    It is said Raptors was successful because of the popularity of Jurassic Park at the time.