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Basketball Team Name Origins

April 21, 2016

Here’s what we dug up about pro basketball team names and their origins.

Basketball team name origins

Los Angeles Lakers

There are no lakes in L.A. The team was originally the Minneapolis Lakers; Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Seattle SuperSonics

Named after a supersonic jet proposed by Seattle-based Boeing in the late ’60s. (The jet was never built, and as of 2008, the team is slated to move to Oklahoma City.)

Detroit Pistons

It’s not named for that city’s auto industry. The team’s founder, Fred Zollner, owned a piston factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1957 the Zollner Pistons moved to Detroit.

New Jersey Nets

Originally called the New York Nets to rhyme with N.Y. Mets (baseball) and N.Y. Jets (football).

Houston Rockets

They began as the San Diego Rockets—a name inspired by the theme of a “city in motion” and its “space age industries.”

Orlando Magic

Inspired by Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

New York Knicks

Short for knickerbockers, the pants that Dutch settlers in New York wore in the 1600s.

Indiana Pacers

Owners wanted to “set the pace” in the NBA.

Los Angeles Clippers

Started out in San Diego, where great sailing boats known as clipper ships used to land 100 years ago.

Sacramento Kings

When the Cincinnati Royals moved to the Kansas City–Omaha area in 1972, they realized both cities already had a Royals baseball team. They became the K.C. Kings, then the Sacramento Kings.

Atlanta Hawks

Started in 1948 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa), they were named after Sauk Indian chief Black Hawk, who fought settlers of the area in the 1831 Black Hawk Wars. In 1951 the team moved to Milwaukee and shortened the name to Hawks.
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