The Great NBA Moniker Swap (a Vision of Reversion)

Followers of Sport Change will be well aware of the concept of a Vision of Reversion.  It’s basically stating that mistakes were made by owners in days gone by to relocate franchises or to fail to rebrand when relocating.  The VOR points out ways to revert to past structures that would obviously benefit the sport–or at least be an improvement.  This was previously explored for the NFL, but now we turn our sights to the National Basketball League.

Time for some switchin’ and swappin’


In a Sport Change post back in August, NBA teams were explored to determine which teams were “fair game” for relocation and rebranding discussion.  More recently, a post was dedicated to ranking the nicknames of each NBA team.  Those explorations have set the stage for talk of various relocation and rebranding scenarios.  For now, we’re focused simply on a sensible moniker swap; much of which is a reversion to former names.  There is no recent precedent for moniker swapping, so this is certainly pure fantasy.  If anything, it might be a good way to stay vigilant about which nicknames are worth keeping and which are worth dropping when a team moves.  Let’s get started.


The Four Point Loop

We begin with Toronto, a large market that certainly deserves pro sports teams.  The NBA has already broken the border, so we’re happy keeping a team in Toronto.  The problem is that the team is called the Raptors.  This moniker is based on the lingering popularity of the film Jurassic Park around the time of 1994, when Toronto was branding an expansion franchise.  Popular opinion chose ‘Raptors’ over another moniker that we’ll discuss soon.  Nearly twenty years later, ‘Raptors’ seems dated, cute, and lacking context.  I would be content to see Toronto keep the moniker but totally rebrand into a reference to birds of prey, but that’s not as much fun.  There is probably only one region where the dinosaur version of raptor could find a lasting appropriate home, and that location is…


The fierce, feathered Utahraptor

Utah.  The Raptors leave Canada and find a home in Salt Lake City, near the excavation sites of the aptly named dinosaur, the Utahraptor.  It works.  It certainly makes a hell of a lot more sense than Utah’s current team name.  Which brings us to….


Bringing back the Jazz to to where they were in the heyday of Pistol Pete

New Orleans.  This is truly a retro revert.  I certainly do not like non-singularable/non-pluralable monikers, but ‘Jazz’ has been around a long time and it fit with the unorthodox nature of New Orleans.  Of course, that means that the Hornets buzz out of town and find their way to…


Time for the ‘nets to fly home to North Carolina

Charlotte.  Charlotte fans have never fully embraced their current identity, and pine for the days of Alonzo, Larry, and the great Tyrone Bogues.  Charlotte gets back the Hornets, and the ‘Bobcats’ moniker claws it’s way North to….


They should’ve been the Toronto Bobcats from the get-go.

Toronto.  In the name-the-team contest in the mid-nineties, Raptors beat out Bobcats and Dragons.  Dragons is cool, but is not best served as a pro team nickname.  You can say the same thing about Bobcats, but it just feels more at home in Ontario than North Carolina.

So that gives us the Utah Raptors, the New Orleans Jazz, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Toronto Bobcats.  Nice.  There is something uniquely satisfying about this closed loop Vision of Reversion.  If only this would actually happen, the NBA would be a much better place.


Now let us take a look at another quick swap that is essentially unthinkable.  In fact, it features a team that didn’t qualify to be considered in the Sport Change “fair game” teams exploration.  But let’s do it for fun anyway.

There’s only one place where a nickname as odd as ‘Lakers’ can find a home.

The problem here is that Los Angeles stole the Lakers moniker from Minneapolis.  It has never been a good pro nickname, and at face value would be ranked in the lower quartile of NBA monikers.  It’s comparable to the Colorado Rockies.  But if it made sense anywhere, it made sense in Minneapolis, not Los Angeles.  Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers have been in existence for over fifty years and have built one of the most storied and colorful histories of any NBA franchise.  They are a quintessential example of the “historical skater” phenomenon, similar to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  So…

1.  Los Angeles gives the Lakers nickname back to Minneapolis, where they become the Minnesota Lakers.   Makes good enough sense in a “land of 10,000 lakes,” as the saying goes.

2. Minnesota drops the Timberwolves from their name, and Los Angeles takes the opportunity to seize a more general version of the nickname; becoming the Los Angeles Wolves.  Los Angeles Lobos would be kind of fun, but is too obscure for pro sports.  Just Wolves.  At face value: a much better moniker than Lakers.

In the words of Los Lobos: “Will the Wolf Survive?”

So there’s that little exercise.  Nothing serious, but hopefully thought-provoking.  The important thing here will be to keep thoughts like these at hand as teams are created or rebranded.  Feel free to comment.  Next up will be a combined moniker ranking of teams in the Big Four sports leagues.  Sounds like a good project for spare moments around the holiday.  Unless you consume too much tryptophan, stay alert for that.

For more NBA posts, click here.


  1. Jacob Zimprich said:

    I was thinking about the NBA name changes and came up with the same answer. Not many people know about the Utahraptor. Which would be a great nickname in Utah. I also thought Toronto could take grizzlies from memphis , Memphis either takes bobcats or my favorite become the blues or another name of their choosing.
    I’m from Minnesota so as much as I love the wolves, we want the Lakers name back. That should never have left the state. People don’t remember that Mina (the first hall of famer) won 5 titles here in Minnesota before being sold to Los Angeles.

    • Jacob Zimprich said:

      Mikan not Mina…damn phone

      • Damn autocorrect!

    • I don’t think Grizzlies would fit with Toronto very well. There are just as many Grizzlies in Toronto as there are in Tennessee, which is to say none. If Seattle decided not to resurrect the Sonics brand, the Seattle Grizzlies would work just fine. has been running a similar reimagining lately, and that guy suggested Toronto Timberwolves….not bad!

      I like Memphis Blues too, but I don’t think the NHL’s St. Louis team would be very happy.

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