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5 NBA Team Names That Don’t Make Any Sense

April 27, 2015

It’s an old joke about how the Los Angeles Lakers name doesn’t make any sense after the team moved from Minnesota, the “land of 10,000 lakes.” There are actual a few dozen lakes in L.A.—but the rest of these NBA team names really are perplexing.

Atlanta HawksAtlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks began in 1948 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. Based in Moline, Illinois, they were named after the Sauk chief Black Hawk, who ruled the area in the 18th century. It was shortened to Hawks (and the mascot made into a bird) after a move to Milwaukee, and kept for the movie to Atlanta. Chief Black Hawk never went to Atlanta, although 12 species of hawk are native to the state of Georgia.

Utah Jazz

The appropriately named New Orleans Jazz moved to Salt Lake City in 1979. While New Orleans is both a hotbed of and birthplace of lots of great jazz…Utah isn’t. There are no full-time jazz clubs in Salt Lake City, but six bars there have a weekly jazz night.

Memphis Grizzlies

Bears are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, particularly British Columbia, where the team began as the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1995. Despite there being zero grizzly bears in Tennessee, the team retained the name when it moved to Memphis in 2002. (It’s works better than the owners’ first idea: the Mounties, referring to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.)

Los Angeles Clippers

San Diego has long been a shipping hub. There’s a U.S. Navy base there, and in the 19th century “clipper” ships docked there. When the Buffalo Braves moved there in 1978, they took on the name Clippers in tribute to the city’s heritage. When the team moved to Los Angeles in 1981, they kept the name, despite the lack of historical significance.

Toronto Raptors

The team was created in 1994, right after the release of Jurassic Park. Unfortunately, there are no living velociraptors in Toronto.

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St. Lou

The Atlanta Hawks were the St. Louis Hawks from 1955 to 1968.

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