What's In A Name Basketball


Basketball is an extremely popular game with over 200 countries world wide having national representative teams, making it truly one of the most popular team sports in the world today. It is played by both males & females with many commencing to play before their 10TH birthday. Invented in 1891, by Dr James Naismi that the YMCA In Springfield Massachusetts, in order to help keep his athletes fit during the cold winter months, and as such was designed to be played indoors in the available college gymnasiums. The game quickly spread through the education system and was soon the favourite college winter sport and then naturally evolved internationally and then into the professional arena.

Professional basketball in the USA has had a really fascinating if not somewhat conquered history enroute financially to where it is today with a huge annual turnover and astonishingly outrageous salaries paid to coaches and players.


The NBA started in 1946 as The Basketball Association of America with 11 teams, but virtually changed to some degree every year, merging with The National Basketball League in 1949 featuring16 teams, but quickly dropping down to 8 teams. Under considerable financial pressure it struggled through lost franchises and then new expansion teams until the mid-seventies when it merged with The American Basketball Association (ABA) and new television million-dollar deals helped stabilise the teams’ financial positions. How about this for a list of teams in 1946:

  • Boston Celtics.
  • Chicago Stags.
  • Cleveland Rebels.
  • Detroit Falcons.
  • New York Knickerbockers.
  • PhiladelphiaWarriors.
  • Pittsburgh Ironmen.
  • Providence Steam Rollers.
  • St.Louis Bombers.
  • Toronto Huskies.
  • Washington Capitols.

Only two of these have survived through until today in their original format: New York & Boston. Philadelphia have also survived, but are now based in Oakland, California as the Golden StateWarriors.

By 1953 that had reduced to 9 teams:

  • Baltimore Bullets.
  • Boston Celtics.
  • FortWayne Pistons.
  • Milwaukee Bucks.
  • Minneapolis Lakers.
  • NewYork Knickerbockers.
  • Philadelphia Warriors.
  • Rochester Royals.
  • Syracuse Nationals.

Then by 1961 it was starting to take a shape that is more recognisable today:

  • BostonCeltics.
  • ChicagoPackers.
  • CincinnatiRoyals.
  • DetroitPistons.
  • LA Lakers.
  • NewYorkKnickerbockers.
  • PhiladelphiaWarriors.
  • St.LouisHawks.
  • SyracuseNationals.

So What’s in a Name?


Have you ever wondered why the LA Lakers are called the Lakers?  Well, in 1960, when the Minneapolis Lakers decided to become the first west coast team in the NBA and moved to LA, they kept the Lakers name and became The Los Angeles Lakers. In Minnesota, The Lakers was an appropriate pseudonym as Minnesota was known as the ‘Land of Ten Thousand Lakes‘. The rest, as they say, is history with LA becoming a hugely successful franchise, boasting legends such as Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar(Lew Alcindor) AndKobeBryant, plus many more.Similarly, the background of some other teams is really interesting too.


The LA Clippers were established in 1984 when the team moved from SanDiego, which was of course the home port for those wonderful Clipper sailing ships that plied their trade throughout the Pacific in the 1800’s. The franchise was created. However, in 1970, they were called The Buffalo Braves and then relocated to SanDiego in 1978 and renamed themselves The Clippers. They have in recent years become quite a consistent performer and have challenged The Lakers as the premier LA based team.


This team is also very interesting having been formed in Philadelphia in 1946 as the Philadelphia Warriors, before moving to San Francisco in 1962 to become The SanFrancisco Warriors playing most of their home games at The Cow Palace. In 1971 they moved their home games across The Bay to Oakland which was now serviced by the rapid transit rail and subsequently renamed themselves ‘The Golden State Warriors’. They have through their history also featured many great players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, Rick Barry and Chris Mullins, but none better than their current crop of champions, StephenCurry, Klay Thompson: The Splash Brothers and Kevin Durant as well as Draymond Green with 3 championships in the past 4 years. They have just added Demarcus Cousins to the roster as well! Now how do you beat that line-up?


This team was named ‘The Celtics’ due to the huge number of Irish immigrants that made Boston their home. Founded in 1946, this team played home games for many years at the famous Boston Garden with its unique parquetry floor. The most successful franchise in The NBA with 17 championships and a record 10 MVP Awards shared amongst: BobCousy, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens and Larry Bird. Too many great players to name, but Tom Heinsohn, JohnHavlicek, KC Jones and Kevin McHalest and out along with their legendary coach and mentor Red Auerbach. Bill Russell also has the record of 11 championship rings, which surely will never be equalled let alone beaten. Here is some interesting trivia:BillRussell won a gold medal at The Melbourne Olympics competing for the USA following a stand out career at The University of SanFrancisco. However, had Russell competed in the High Jump and equalled his PB, he would have won a gold medal there as well.


This is probably the most unusual; name for a team in the NBA, they are however, one of the two original teams from 1946 that are still remaining in the League in its original city base. The other team is the Boston Celtics. Unless you are a New Yorker, you probably won’t know the derivative of the term ‘knickerbocker’, but it refers to the Dutch founders of New Amsterdam and their common dress of pants to just below the knee. The term is much loved and revered by New Yorkers. Playing out of the world at the famous Madison Square Gardens, they have regrettably, probably been under achievers throughout their history, but have fielded some truly outstanding players: Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Bernard King and Earl Monroe.


Chicago was the great rail terminus for all of the beef shipped North from the Mid west states such as Texas. The Chicago Bulls were founded in 1966, and they became a legendary team in the 1980/90’s under the guidance of Phil Jackson and the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan, backed up by Scottie Pippento make the greatest two-some of all time. Many other great names have worn The Bulls uniform including current Warriors coach Steve Kerras well as Australian NBA pioneer Luc Longley, who earned 3 championship rings with Chicago.


Portland in the US state of Oregon was the end of the OregonTrail, where thousands of settlers flooded West in the mid 1800’s in their covered wagons, a dangerous and very long journey that saw many lose their lives. A journey that couldn’t possibly be imagined by the residents of Portland today. The Portland Trailblazers were founded in1970, and they have been hugely in their hometown. Their best players were arguably Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton, although their Lithuanian superstar Arvydas Sabonis would have joined them had he played with them prior to his knee issues. He still, however, made a huge impact.


One would think that the name ‘Pistons’ was used due to the cities’ involvement in the motor industry, similar to the famous music industry icon: Motown, but no. The team was founded in the early 40’s as The Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, because the owner Fred Zollner owned a foundry business that manufactured pistons. They moved to Detroit in 1957 but kept the name for obvious reasons. The team boasted some wonderful players in the early days: DaveBing, Dave DeBusschere and BobLanier. They had a golden era in the 80’s under coach Chuck Daly with their team of champions: Isaiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars and JohnSally. They will always be remembered as:‘TheBadBoys’.


Jazz was the well-known franchise started in New Orleans in 1974, so the name makes sense. The team relocated in1979 to Salt Lake City and achieved only moderate success until the arrival of coach Jerry Sloan and marquee players John Stockton and Karl Malone, A.K.A. ‘The Mailman’, given this nick name because he always delivers. It is also now the home of Australians Joe Ingles and Dante Exumand under young coach Quin Snyder, is starting to display consistent wins and should see some regular finals action in the coming years.


This franchise was formed in 1961 as ‘The Chicago Packers’ and then moved to Baltimore in Maryland in 1963, where they their name to ‘The Bullets’. The name change was due to the fact that the original US Armory Arsenal was located just North of the city, which today is the headquarters of The Maryland Police.

The team moved again 1973 to Landover in Maryland which is an outer suburb of Washington DC where they played as ‘The Capital Bullets’ before finally settling in Washington DC as‘The Washington Bullets’. Due to the violent connotations of the name ‘bullets’, the name was again changed to ‘The Wizards’.This team has had a number of outstanding players such as: Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld, Moses Malone, Bernard King and lately, John Wall. Michael Jordan became a minority owner in 2000 and made a short lived comeback before finally hanging up the famous shoes in 2003.He is today the owner and president of The Charlotte Hornets and still claims he can hold his own in training with his players.


This is surely one of the oldest franchises having been founded in 1923 as ‘The Rochester Seagrams’. Several name changes followed before becoming ‘The Rochester Royals’ in 1943, and then moving to Cincinattiin 1957. Here they enjoyed some great success with coach Bob Cousy and two absolute superstars in Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Robertson actually averaged a triple double in the61/62 season and that was without a three-point-line. In1972 they moved again to Kansas City and became‘The Kings’, then finally in 1985 relocated to Sacramento. The current GM and President of Basketball Operations is former LA Lakers star Vlade Divac. So the next time you are watching aLakersV Clippers game, just nudge your mate and fill him in about the origins of their team names, and he will give you that look that says: “How the hell did he know that”?!

What’s In A Name

2 Responses

  1. A really interesting article. I had no idea that “knickerbocker” refers to the Dutch founders of New Amsterdam and their common dress of pants to just below the knee. I always thought it had something to do with women’s knickers!

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