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The History of Your Favorite Sport Team's Name: NBA Eastern Conference

Updated on February 18, 2014

NBA Team Names 101

Ever wonder where some sports teams got their names from? Well I have and now I'm going to do something about it; find out and tell you. After reading this hub you can sound like a genius or (an asshole depending on how you come across) during your next sports conversation.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics

Did you know that the team name "Celtics" originated in New York?

First lets start with the definition:


  1. of Celts: relating to the Celts, or their languages or cultures
  2. Indo-European language group: an Indo-European group of languages that includes Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton and has Brythonic and Goidelic subgroups.
  3. ancestor of modern Celtic languages: the reconstructed language that is the ancestor of modern Celtic languages

Now to the basketball part.

Originally in the 1920s before the NBA was started there was a New York team named The Celtics. In 1946 when the Basketball Association of America (the forefather of the NBA) began, Walter Brown, head of the Boston Garden Arena Corp. was looked at to name the team. Many names were thrown around, Whirlwinds, Olympians, Unicorns (really? The Boston Unicorns?) , but Brown wanted Celtics, saying, The name has a great basketball tradition from the New York Celtics. And Boston is full of Irishmen.

New York Knicks

The Term Knickerbocker was big in New York in the 1600. The Dutch settlers that populated what is now New York were known to wear pants that rolled up below the knees. These pants became known as "Knickerbockers" or "Knickers".

Now let's get to the sports!

The first organized team in BASEBALL, yes BASEBALL was named The New York Knickerbockers or The Knickerbocker Nine. When the NBA began its infancy the teams founder wanted to keep the New York tradition alive, so he named the team after that baseball team. Check this out, the guys name was Ned Irish. Remember the Celtic stuff from above?

The name has been shortened to the KNICKS, but some still call them the Knickerbockers.

New Jersey Nets

Wow look at that. Once again the third team on oour list owes it's origin to the great state of New York.

The New Jersey Americans was a charter member of the ABA in 1967. The team moved to Commack, NY, then changed it's name to the New York Nets. The name stemmed from the net on a basketball hoop. In addition "Nets" rhymed with other New York Sports teams at the time, The Mets and Jets (I guess they wanted some type of unity). Before joining the NBA in 1977, the team moved back to New Jersey and became The New Jersey Nets. But wait, this story is about to get funny. Now the team is moving back to NY and will be called The Brooklyn Nets. It looks like Jersey gets no love, huh.

Philidelphia 76ers

This NBA team name has numbers in it! This one has to be interesting, right?

The Syracuse Nationals relocated to Philly in 1963 and of course we all know how big (Liberty Bell) Philadelphia is into The Declaration of Independence which was signed in '1776'. Get it? I put the 76 in bold see? Yeah ok, moving along.

Toronto Raptors

This one seemed kind of generic to me. The owners of Toronto's prospective NBA expansion team conducted extensive market research across Canada in 1994. Eventually they held a nationwide vote that concluded with the name Raptors, which the film Jurassic Park made popular at the time. Hmmm, so if this marketing team for Toronto was doing this now in 2012 instead of 1994 what would the team name be? The Toronto iPads? The name 'Bob Cats' was a runner up. Those lucky dogs in Charlotte. Hey how come these teams are never named after dogs? I like dogs.

Chicago Bulls

One of the most popular sports teams of my generation, who had the most popular sports star (Michael Jordan) of all time. I was a little bit excited about this one.

team owner Richard Klein was brainstorming nicknames for his new franchise in 1966 and was looking for a name that put an emphasis on Chicago's meat capital of the world status. Klein considered a couple of names, but after his young son told him that his ideas were a bunch of 'bull' the name was born. Eh. At least they still have the Jordan statue and the rings.

Cleveland Cavaliers

This name was the winner of a poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer in 1970. Jerry Tomoko who suggested the name wrote, “Cavaliers represent a group of daring fearless men, whose life pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds.”

YAWN. Next.

Detroit Pistons

This one is obvious if you know anything about American history.

Interestingly enough the name did not originate from the 'Motor City'. Fort Wayne, Indiana's Zollner Pistons moved to Detroit in 1957. Named after owner Fred Zollner's piston business he dropped the first part of the name after the move. How fitting that the word 'Pistons' was already in there. This team was bound to when a couple of championships.

Indiana Pacers

The word 'Pacing' describes one of the main gates in harness racing and pace cars are used for auto races like the Indy 500. As you probably know Indianapolis is big on car racing. TADAA!

Milwaukee Bucks

First of I'd just like you all to know I hate spelling out Milwaukee. See even right there I just copied and pasted. Stupid name in my opinion. No offense people from that place where the Bucks play.

This was another poll, this one was done in 1968. I guess there are a lot of hunters in that place where the Bucks play and they all decided on the name 'Bucks'. The only interesting thing about this one is the fact that one of the runner-up names was 'Skunks'. The Milwaukee Skunks...hmmm. It would have been nice to be the first person to say, "this team stinks" after the first bad game.

Atlanta Hawks

Okay, before I check I'm gonna guess there are a lot of hawks in ATL.

Guess not. In 1948 3 cities (Moline, Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA) known as the "Tri-Cities" were given NBA team. The team was named after the Sauk indian Chief Black Hawk. The team moved to the place where the Bucks play for awhile (damn I thought I was done with that dumb name) and shortened it to Hawks. When they moved to Atlanta the name stayed shortened. I kind of like The Atlanta Black Hawks. Sounds like a swat team or a super hero league something. They should change it back and come out with some Black and White uniforms. That would be cool.

Charlotte Bobcats

Another team with a cat in the name. Dogs get no respect.

In 2004 one of these polls was done again and the names that came up were, Dragons, Flight (really?), and Bobcats. The team owner Bob Johnson like the fact that his first name (Bob) was in the team name and ran with it. bobcats are indigenous to Western North Carolina. The team had also considered the name 'Cougars' the nickname of Carolinian's ABA team and Dragons. What ever the name is this team has sucked for years and if you ask me that's what they get for naming the team after another goddamn cat. Had they named the team the Charlotte Greyhounds they might be winning some games. Oh what's that you say, what do greyhounds have to do with Charlotte? Ha, let me tell you something. I have taking a Greyhound bus down south plenty of times and many other people have as well. Checkmate. Next.

Miami Heat

I am a New York Knicks fan so let me start this off by saying, The Heat suck! They flop all day long and get the majority of calls from the refs when they do. This year less flopping because of the new rules and hey look at that. They ain't winning that much anymore. As for their stupid name, it's not hard to figure out where it came from. It's hot in Miami. I went down there not too long ago and got a sunburn that still hasn't gone away yet.

This was another poll, this time conducted for the expansion team in 1986. Other names included, Sharks, Tornadoes, Beaches, and Barracudas. I like the name 'Tornadoes' for them, because tornadoes make things fall, just like they do when ever you come next to them, they fall to the floor trying to get a foul called.

I can't this video below. It shows the most blatantly embarrassing flop I have ever seen in my life courtesy of the Miami Heat's Chris Bosh.

I know you rewinded that video a few times. Go ahead watch it one more time. Go ahead, its okay. I'll still be here when you get back.

Orlando Magic

Hmmm. When I hear the word Orlando I think Disney World. Disney World....Magic Kingdom. Hey is this team named after Mickey Mouse and his buddies?

Yup, that's it. No wonder this team gets treated like a bunch of kids. You can insert your Orlando Magic-Disney World joke here _____________________________.

And last,but not....wait a minute; today is 11/26/2012 and The Wizards have not won a single game yet this season?!. Yeah this is last AND least on the 1st half of my list.

Washington Wizards

If your as old as me or older you remember when the Washington Wizards were The Washington 'Bullets'. Now, I am not one to make fun of people being shot, but I wonder; how the hell did they get away with naming a team after bullets in a gun violence riddled city.?Better yet a gun violence riddled city that is also our nations capital (D.C.)?!!

In the 1990s the teams owner Abe Pollin was getting tired of the name of his team being attached to gun violence. After Pollins friend, Israeli Prime minster Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated he announced plans to rename the team. Before 1997-98 season when the new team name was announced, the local chapter of the NAACP' president complained that the name carried Ku Klux Klan associations. Excuse me? Go look at the statistics around that time and tell me what race was killing each other by way of the gun. I guess he wanted to keep the name Bullets? I told you that I speak the truth hear. Oh and I am a Black man, just like the current President of The United States. So don't go calling me racists for that one. I was just thinking out loud. I think most political leaders Black or White are seriously flawed and power hungry, but that's a story for another day.

Other names for Washington included, Dragon's (again, we have to having a Dragons team sooner or later) and Sea Dogs. Wait! Dogs! Finally a suggestion of Dogs comes up and that's the one that almost made it? Sea-Dogs! SMH.

This concludes the first half of my lNBA Team History or whatever I called it ist, this half was the Eastern Conference half. next I will be doing the Western Conference. Why not do both here you ask? I have two great reasons for you.

  1. Splitting it up into two lists gives you time to digest the first list before heading into the second.
  2. I get paid per click baby! Two lists are better than one, CHA CHING!

Hey I'm just keeping it real. That's all you can ask of people these days. See ya on the next list.

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