Tell Me Again About Those Intimidating NBA Team Names
I’ve already written on this topic, but as the reports of the renaming of the New Orleans Hornets as the New Orleans Pelicans get more and more credible, I felt I should revisit it.
Here’s the thing: a lot of people are complaining about the Pelicans name. They think it’s weak, or doesn’t pertain to New Orleans enough, or the Hornets name was just fine. The Hornets name is just fine, sure. Even though the name has to do with Charlotte, NC’s Revolutionary War fighting style and not the insect, we changed it to the mean-ass insect and it worked here. But here’s the deal: the Hornets haven’t ever been fully accepted as a professional sports team in this city. I think some of that is because being named the Hornets still reminds us of Charlotte because that’s who they were for so long. It’s like we’re just borrowing the team for a little while. Renaming and re-branding would make the team feel more like New Orleans’ own and not a team on loan. Hell, none of the front office or coaching staff or players from the Charlotte Hornets are on the NOLA Hornets. It’s an entirely different team.
Rhea and I were at the Hornets vs. Bucks game Monday night and the Arena was damn near empty. Sure it was a Monday night against a team that isn’t exactly a household name, but I can promise you if the Saints were in that situation — playing a Monday night game against some small-market team — the Superdome would be packed.
There’s a reason the NBA had to buy the team and took so long to find a buyer. There’s a reason the team almost left the city. That reason is that the majority of the people here don’t go to the games, don’t buy merchandise, and basically just don’t care about the Hornets.
But the moment a new name is announced OH GOD I BETTER START WHINING EVEN THOUGH I’VE BEEN TO LIKE A GAME. I’m willing to bet that the last 2 days of complaining about “Pelicans” is the most time most people in this city have spent talking about our NBA team. And hey, whatever gets you guys talking about the team is fine by me, but all this down-talk about the name and about how the team has played this season (Almost every player on that team is new to the league! They’re going to take some time to get better and they’re playing REALLY well despite that. Their losses have been VERY close, save for maybe 2 games) just seems misguided.
The biggest complaint is that Pelicans isn’t intimidating enough. Let’s look around the NBA at some team names:
- Boston Celtics
First, there’s the mispronunciation of their name (SELL-ticks instead of KEL-ticks). Second, “Celtic” is an adjective and can’t be pluralized (“Celt” is a noun, referring to the group of Celtic people). This would be like naming a team the New England Britishes. Also, aside from being stereotypically drunk, I fail to see how this mascot is “intimidating”. I’ll give them that it’s representative of Boston’s large Irish heritage.
- Brooklyn Nets
SO SCARY! Nets. Because basketball nets. CLEVER AS HELL.
- New York Knicks
Short for Knickerbockers, the name comes from a pseudonym that writer Washington Irving used in his book A History of New York. Yep, this intimidating name refers to a fake name a writer used that was later used to refer to descendants of the original Dutch settlers in the area. So scary.
- Philadelphia 76ers
The name is short for 1776, as in the year our nation was established. It’s short for a YEAR. Years are intimidating, y’all. I’ll concede that it’s to pay homage to those that fought and gave their lives to give us this great nation, and that’s respectful. They get a pass.
- Toronto Raptors
Firstly, they’re Canadian, so intimidation is right out from the get-go. However, this is offset by their super badass mascot of a Velociraptor, with claws and bone protrusions to attack its prey. That’s pretty rad, except modern paleontologists tend to think that they actually had wings and feathers and were more like birds. CRAZY ANGRY CLAWED LIZARD? NOPE. Weird-ass looking bird.
- Chicago Bulls
Okay, Bulls are pretty hardcore creatures. And, the name refers to Chicagos stockyards and meat-packing industry, where some hardworking people work, so I’ll let this one pass.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Firstly, this name was the winning name from a contest and bears no historical significance to Cleveland or Ohio. It beat out Jays, Forresters, and Presidents. Yep, Presidents. I get it, because a lot of presidents were from Ohio, especially bearded presidents, but not intimidating at all. But neither are Cavaliers, which were just what Parliamentarians — those that fought King Charles I and his supporters — called King Charles I’s supporters. Yep. Intimidating.
- Detroit Pistons
Detroit is known for its automotive manufacturing, and that’s respectable. Plus, a piston is a hardworking part of the combustion engine. It’s clever, but, it’s not exactly intimidating, either.
- Indiana Pacers
Pacers refers to the pace car used in the Indy 500, which is a super fast race and dangerous, but the pace car just kind of goes an okay speed for a few laps and keeps the other cars from hauling ass. LAME. Also, pacers refers to the “harness racing pacers” in harness racing. What’s harness racing, you ask? Oh ho ho:
Yep. Super intimidating.
- Milwaukee Bucks
Bucks are male deer. They have giant antlers and will fight other bucks just for the hell of it. They can also total your car and live to brag about it if you hit them. Bucks are pretty bad ass, so, they’re okay.
- Atlanta Hawks
Hawks are pretty intimidating animals. Not that Atlanta really has an influx of hawks or anything. And the name is a hand-me-down from Milwuakee, who got it as a hand-me-down from Moline, Illinois. Gets a pass only because of the animal, but it’s Atlanta, so, NOPE.
- Charlotte Bobcats
Bobcats are pretty intimidating animals. I’ll allow it. Unless it’s this Bobcat.
- Miami Heat
Cleverly related to the fact that it’s hot as hell in Miami year-round, and heat can kill you, especially if you don’t hydrate! If the players were actually on fire during games, they’d be the most intimidating team in the NBA, but, it’s not about fire. It’s about being hot and sweaty. Not intimidating. I will give them that it’s an adjective that they didn’t try to pluralize.
- Orlando Magic
Because Disney. NOPE.
- Washington Wizards
Firstly, they were called The Bullets, which is intimidating as hell. Bullets are scary when they’re exiting a gun. But the owner was too much of a wuss because of violence and held a contest to rename the team. The second place winner was The Dragons. DRAGONS. Dragons are intimidating as all heck! But they went with Wizards. Not intimidating, especially because they changed it from Bullets and could have been the Dragons.
- Denver Nuggets
I get it, gold mining, nuggets of gold. It’s clever enough, but is a nugget of gold intimidating? NOPE.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Wolves are pretty intimidating. Also, Eastern Timber Wolves have been known to prey on deer, rodents, moose, and, oh BLACK BEARS. Yeah, timber wolves been known to take down black bears every now and again. Intimidating.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder because of tornadoes, which are scary as hell. Thunder itself isn’t very intimidating, but it does signify the presence of scarier stuff. Barely gets a pass as intimidating.
- Portland Trail Blazers
They chose Trail Blazers because Pioneers was taken by Lewis & Clark College. Basically, their mascot are people that traveled from the east to the mid west in the 1800s. Lots of history there, which is nice, and lots of those people died of dysentery and had to fight wild animals to survive. But, is the notion of a pioneer intimidating? Nope.
- Utah Jazz
Utah isn’t known for any kind of music. Especially not Jazz. I wish we could steal it back, but, what’s done is done. It makes no sense for the state and, what’s more, is it’s not intimidating.
- Golden State Warriors
Kudos on using your state’s nickname instead of its actual name or a city name. Chosen originally when in Philadelphia, Warriors refers to Native Americans. Also, it featured a super racist logo!
Not intimidating, especially since now their logo is just the Golden Gate Bridge. Yep. A bridge.
- Los Angeles Clippers
Sail boats. Sail boats.
- Los Angeles Lakers
The name refers to someone who is mariner or commercial sea-goer in the Great Lakes, from when they were in Minnesota. So, aside from making no sense geographically, it means a guy who goes out on a boat. Not intimidating.
- Phoenix Suns
Same reason Miami’s team is the Heat. Yep. It’s hot in Phoenix, so, Suns. Not that clever and also not intimidating, even if the Sun is a giant ball of incandescent gas burning at millions of degrees.
- Sacramento Kings
Started out as the Rochester Royals in 1945, then moved to Cincinnati, and then to Kansas City where they became the Kings because of a whole defecting to the BBA thing, and alliteration. Kings, lots of power, not intimidating.
- Dallas Mavericks
They stole the name from a TV western called Maverick. Cowboys with guns are a little intimidating, but since it’s the name of a TV show, and the word really doesn’t hold the same meaning these days (Ooooh! You don’t follow the mainstream? Intimidating!), I vote not intimidating.
- Houston Rockets
Clever because of NASA. Rockets can be a little intimidating, especially if one’s aimed at your face or you’re inside one going to space. Gets a narrow pass.
- Memphis Grizzlies
Grizzly bears are intimidating. Pass.
- New Orleans Hornets
Hornets (the insect) are pretty intimidating. I’ll give you that, but the name actually refers to Charlotte’s hardcore resistance to the British during the Revolutionary War. British Commander Lord Cornwallis referred to Charlotte as a “veritable hornets nest” because it was so crazy with attacking soldiers and citizens. This was also intimidating.
- San Antonio Spurs
Spurs. The spiked wheels on the back of cowboy boots that cowboys use to kick a horse to make it run faster. Intimidating to a horse, probably, but otherwise, I say no.
That gives us about 8 teams with “intimidating” names. So, why does our team name have to be intimidating? Also, who says pelicans aren’t intimidating.
Watch this video and tell me this isn’t intimidating. This pelican — a bird — just walks up to a pigeon — also a bird — and just eats it alive and in one piece. A big bird ate another bird in one gulp. YEAH OKAY, THAT’S NOT INTIMIDATING AT ALL.
I’m all for the change. Partly because I think everyone’s arguments are dumb, and partly because I like the name, and partly because I love watching our NBA team.