“Fair Game” Teams in the NBA

What teams are fair game?  What teams are hands off?

In a previous post, I described my cutoff for teams that are entrenched with tradition (hands off) and teams that are “fair game” for discussions and ideas relating to rebranding and *gasp* relocation.  To read that post, click here.

Basically, I use an arbitrary blanket cutoff date of 1968 for the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball.  Teams that were added as expansion teams, moved, or were drastically rebranded after that date are “fair game.”

The “fleur de bee” is genius, but the New Orleans Hornets are one of many NBA teams ready for a rebrand.

For the NBA, here are those teams and a quick analysis:

Brooklyn Nets (ABA rebrand of New Jersey Americans 1968)  The Nets were recently rebranded and there really isn’t much to take issue with.  I like the simple black and white and parking a team in Brooklyn is a good idea.  I’ve never liked the Nets nickname.  It seems somewhat weak – almost like the team is the scoring receptacle for another team.  Brooklyn Balls: now there’s a good name.  Sport Change Verdict: If they were going to change their name, they would’ve done it this time around.  It must be OK.

Milwaukee Bucks (expansion, 1968) Good name for an upper-Midwestern team.  Supposedly Bucks beat out Skunks in a fan poll.  Good call, especially since the team has stunk like a skunk most every year since the 80s.  The Bucks had great green and red unis in the 70s, then switched to the crappy two-tone-green and white side-checkers uniforms.  The Nineties introduced hideous purple and a new more aggressive looking Buck logo.  Recently they’ve kept the nineties logo and took a cue from the 70s color palette.  Another good call.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

Phoenix Suns (expansion, 1968)  Not much to say about the Suns.  Suns is about as generic of a name as you can get this side of Rays.  Purple and Orange have been their colors forever and sort of work to bring an Arizona sunset to mind.  No need to change anything now.  I don’t see any changes unless the Sacramento savior  Kevin Johnson puts it on his to-do list.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

Cleveland Cavaliers (expansion, 1970)  What an interesting suggestion by Brett Tomko’s dad.  Was he a Virginia alum?  Cavaliers.  Say it with me now: cuh-vah-lee-ays.  Cavs for short.  Not Calves.  Cavs.  If they were going to change the name, they should’ve done it when they switched their uniforms to the gaudy light-blue Shawn Kemp era duds.  The poor Cavs could use a rebrand, but I say no.  I recently found a 1977 Topps basketball card of Jim Chones wearing a yellow-with-red-pinstripes warm up suit.  Kyrie and co. have been wearing those colors recently, but it’s time for a full-sail retro revert rebrand.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

The Cavs have had a rough history, but it’s a history nonetheless.

Portland Trailblazers (expansion, 1970)  It’s amazing to me that the Blazers are so successful.  They’ve rarely been good, they play in a small city, and their brand is headscratchingly bland.  Apparently it’s a reference to Lewis & Clark or the Oregon Trail.  The name was supposed to be Pioneers, but a small, local college already had that name.  Nowadays, it would’ve been Pioneers and if necessary, David Stern would have stomped that tiny school.  Blazers is a pretty cool consolation prize.  Portland obviously embraces them (among top teams in attendance) and they’ve been around long enough to earn merit of tradition.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

San Antonio Spurs (ABA rebrand from Dallas Chaparrals, 1973)  The “Spurs” is kind of a dumb nickname.  It fits with the whole Texas cowboy mystique, but it’s still a horse-riding accessory.  Why not San Antonio Saddles?  You’ve got to admire the bland minimalism of their team colors: black, white, grey, another shade of grey and the (very) occasional splash of the “fiesta” blue, orange, and yes: pink.  Spurs fans have had some great people as favorite players: George “Iceman” Gervin, David “Admiral” Robinson, and Tim “Tim” Duncan.  Oh, and they’ve won a surprising (at least to the casual basketball fan) amount of championships.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

Denver Nuggets (ABA rebrand from Denver Rockets, 1974)  Ah, the Nuggets.  A name so bad that it’s the best nickname ever.  Also, their old logo is outstanding.  Gotta love the Nuggets.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

Los Angeles Clippers (relocation/rebrand from Buffalo Braves, 1978, and San Diego, 1984)  The Clippers are such an enigma.  Only recently they’ve become respectable.  For many years, they were one of those sports teams that just always has everything falling apart.  Now I see them staying competitive (even with the mighty Lakers) and earning their keep in L.A.  As for the brand…yikes.  Leave that name to MiLB’s Columbus Clippers.  If that weren’t fishy enough, their colors and the “Clipper” are remini-scent of Old Spice cologne.  For now, we’ll let them be what they are.  Sport Change Verdict: Nothing to change for now

Dallas Mavericks (expansion, 1979)  The Mavericks are as untouchable, just like all Dallas teams.  Cuban and co. won a championship recently, so that should keep seats full and critics at bay.  As far as brand goes…meh.  I prefer the old green and blues and the cowboy M, but that’s probably just ’cause I grew up with them.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

Utah Jazz (relocation from New Orleans, 1979)  Ugh.  Like any sane person, I hate the fact that the Jazz nickname was dragged out of the bayou along with the all the players back in the 70s.  As much as I could argue that Salt Lake City doesn’t deserve a franchise at all, the Jazz pull the Elders into the seats and remain at least somewhat competitive.  Malone and Stockton are a classicly awesome combination.  In a future blog post, I’ll detail my Vision of Reversion in the NBA, wherein Jazz would return home to the Big Easy.  If the Beehive state deserves a team, maybe they should be called the Bees.  (oops, taken by AAA baseball)  If there’s a Lakers, why not a Salt Lakers?  Sport Change Verdict:  Team stays for now, brand will be explored in the future “Vision of Reversion” post.

Sacramento Kings (relocation from Kansas City, 1985)  “Kings” is a good name.  Shared with the NHL’s LA Kings, but it’s one of those nicknames that is easy to forgive duplicity.  The big question these days is: Are the Sacramento Kings moving?  And if so, to Seattle?  It seems that Kevin Johnson has stopped trying to keep the Kings from moving and is now focused on bringing the Oakland A’s baseball team to Sac-Town.  I think KJ’s “think big Sacramento” campaign should be changed to “think moderately, Sacramento.”  The Golden capital is lucky enough to have one team in a major sport.  At least for now.  This will be explored more fully in an upcoming post.  Sport Change Verdict: Relocation Quite Possible, and that May Be OK

-Miami Heat (expansion, 1988)  I don’t like the “Heat” nickname and most non-plural nicknames in sports.  One thing you’ve got to hand to the Heat is consistency.  They’ve had the same look and feel since their inception in the late eighties.  Now they’re good.  And popular.  And not likely to change.  Sport Change Verdict: Hands Off

In 1994, the land of Epcot Center was the epicenter of basketball cool. Let’s just say the Magic has since worn off.

Orlando Magic (expansion, 1989)  The Magic were once truly just that.  Shaq was unstoppable and loomed over the NBA like the jolly blue giant.  Penny “Anfernee” Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Scott Skiles, and Horace Grant also helped to put the goofy Disney franchise on the map.  T-Mac carried the torch for a while, and then Dwight Howard picked up the burden.  With Howard gone, the Magic are in full rebuild mode and they do have at least one chance to redeem their franchise.  But the Magic are pathetic in some ineffable way and I don’t think they will ever win a championship.  Why?  Because Orlando is not a real city and the Magic are not a real team.  They are contrived and just look silly alongside old teams like Boston or New York.  I would be happy to see the Magic move to a new city with basketball history like St. Louis, KC, or even Cincinnati.  Look for it in an upcoming post.  Sport Change Verdict: Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Or-lan-do has got to go.

Minnesota Timberwolves (expansion, 1989)  It took Minnesota a good amount of time to reclaim a stake in the NBA after L.A. stole the Lakers.  Timberwolves is a solid region-specific name, and those are often the best kind.  Their old uniforms/logo have a retro appeal, but I think it’s for the best that they switched to the more aggressive wolf in the 90s.  Though it’s a small market, I guess Minnesota should have a team as they also have NFL and AL franchises. Sport Change Verdict: Safe For Now, But Will Be Mentioned in the “Vision of Reversion.”

-Washington Wizards (Rebrand from Bullets, 1995)  Washington should definitely have a team in every major sport, and it’s a shame that the Wiz have struggled so much.  Rebranding the Bullets in 95 was a smart move, but was Wizards the best choice?  Alliteration can backfire.  I like Wizards as a sports nickname, but it was a better fit on the old Fort Wayne Wizards of baseball’s Midwest League or the old KC Wizards of the MLS.  In this post Harry Potter world, franchises are dropping Wizards left and right.  Maybe Washington should follow suit?  Hmmm… Sport Change Verdict: Possible Rebrand

-Toronto Raptors (expansion, 1995)  Canada needs at least one team.  Toronto is a huge city and Canadians invented basketball for-crying-out-loud.  The Raptors brand is, unfortunately, a brand of a specific time.  A specific decade where purple was the “in” color and velociraptors were the raddest thing on two legs.  To quote a popular movie at the time: “Clever girl.”  Though it was probably contrived by a deeply evil team of marketers, the Raptors brand was a blast for a while.  Damon “MIghty Mouse” Stoudamire wore that jersey proudly.  For at least the last ten years, the Raptors have been cringingly out of place–especially since they play in the same division as the Knicks, Celtics and Sixers.  Let’s all help out Toronto and give them a new lease on life.  Sport Change Verdict: Rebrand! And Possibly a Satellite of the Vision of Reversion.

Grizzlies in Graceland? Does anyone else think Memphis could’ve picked a new nickname?

-Memphis Grizzles (relocation from Vancouver, 2001)  *just puked*  Excuse me, but the idea of Grizzlies in Memphis is ridiculous and repellent.  When Vancouver was granted a franchise along with the Raptors in ’95, they did a great job picking a nickname that was both respectable and region-specific.  The Grizz were almost called the Mounties, and now it’s a shame that didn’t happen.  When Vancouver flopped as a team and as an NBA market, it was great that Memphis had a shot at a franchise.  But they dragged the Grizzlies clawing and screaming across the continent and plunked them in the Mississippi Delta.  Surely they wouldn’t have been the Memphis Mounties, right?  Hmmm…that alliteration of M and M sounds pretty good…Sport Change Verdict: Rebrand ASAP!

New Orleans Hornets (relocation from Charlotte, 2002)  This is a tough one.  For starters, I’ll just say that I believe New Orleans can support an NBA team and they look promising in the near and long-term future.  The Hornets owner announced that he wants to rebrand, so that deserves a post or two of it’s own.  I’ll have a place for NOLA in my aftermentioned Vision of Reversion, but in reality this is tough cookie for the folks in the French Quarter.  Hornets may be the best available choice for a nickname, but that nickname belongs in Charlotte.  I’m biased because I was a huge fan of Zo, Muggsey, and Grand-ma-ma.  I even like Dell Curry, Kendall Gill, and J.R. Reid.  As I’ve said, unestablished teams are “fair game,” and the Charlotte Hornets were born with the Heat in ’88.  But there was something special about those teams of the ’90s and well, it meant something to my generation.  More on this later.  Sport Change Verdict:  Explore in Depth, VOR (vision of reversion), etc.

Charlotte Bobcats (expansion, 2004)  A nice segue into the team that filled the void in Charlotte after the bees buzzed away.  A lot of folks hate the Bobcats name, but I actually love it.  Maybe not for Charlotte and maybe not even for a pro team, but it’s a solid North American name.  The poor Bobcats have really suffered in record and attendance.  MJ and MKG may incite some hope, but likely something will have to change.  Will the Bobcats move to a new city?  Are North Carolinians too busy watching the Tar Heels and the Wolf Pack and the Blue Devils?  I’m going to run them through the VOR and see what happens.  Sport Change Verdict: Explore in Depth, VOR, etc.

Oklahoma City Thunder (relocation from Seattle SuperSonics, 2008)  What a heartbreaker.  Unbelievable that the Sonics were ripped out of Seattle’s arms in a such a shady way.  All sports fans should see the movie Sonicsgate.  The situation pisses me off in many ways, especially in how it points to the NBA’s bloated power structure and the neverending quest for more bucks.  That said, I can’t help but cheer a little for Oklahoma City and the Thunder.  OKC has proved that they can fill seats, have a competitive team, and host a major sports franchise.  It would be interesting to see how they would’ve faired without Kevin Durant–as in the Blazers taking him over Oden in the ’07 draft.  They probably would’ve been marginal and may have been the next Vancouver Grizzlies.  It could have been the oh, I don’t know, Nashville Thunder in 5 years.  But the Thunder is set in OKC.  Or would it be the Thunder are set?  Did I mention how much I loathe non-pluralable nicknames?  Sport Change Verdict: No Need to Change Now, But For-Crying-Out-Loud the Sonics Need to Come Back.

The Sonics will be back. Something’s gotta give.

If nothing else, just to stick it to David Stern.

Note: Though the San Francisco Warriors became the Oakland-based Golden State Warriors and the Hawks moved from Missouri to Atlanta right after the cutoff date, I see no reason to mention either team in the context in the context of rebranding or relocation.  The locations and brands of both teams are fine for now.

That concludes the exploration of what NBA teams are fair game.  Much more to chew on than my previous post about MLB.  The NBA is a newer league that seems more malleable and less sacrosanct, so the to-do list is longer.  To wrap up:

the Vision of Reversion will feature several teams from this list: Utah, New Orleans, Charlotte, Minnesota, Toronto, and also the L.A. Lakers–who we’ll fiddle with just for the VOR.

Teams from this list that I’d like to explore simple relocation are Orlando and Sacramento.

.Teams that I would like to explore rebranding are the Grizzlies, Raptors, and possibly the Wizards.  Since the topic is hot in places other than my mind, I’ll also have a post weighing in on the Hornets.

Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome.  If you’d like to read a similar post about MLB, click here.  For the NFL, click here.



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