The Secret History of Strange NBA Team Names From The Past That People Don’t Seem To Remember

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Welcome to the first installment of Ballerball’s “The Secret History of Strange NBA Team Names From The Past That People Don’t Seem To Remember.” It looks like the The Kings are going to get to stay in Sacramento for now. There really is nothing worse than having your team ripped away from you by another city. The history of the NBA is littered with teams that have moved cities and changed their names. Of course you know about The Seattle Sonics becoming The Oklahoma Thunder or the Charlotte Hornets becoming the New Orleans Hornets only to be renamed The Pelicans. What about some of the teams that time has forgot?


Did you know The New York Knicks were originally named The New York Young Toughs? That’s right. The phrase Knickerbocker was coined in 1925 when Francis Knickerbocker played for the team and demanded their pants be shortened by two inches bringing them just above the ankle. Opposing fans mocked The Young Toughs and calling them layabouts and palookas. To mock Francis for the shocking amount of ankle he and the team were showing they would shorten his name chanting Kinck. After a few years the name just stuck and in 1931 The Young Toughs became…The Knicks.

The Chicago Bulls were originally the Michigan Badger Holes. After 34 years of losing seasons they were forced to move. Setting a precedent that we see even today as anyone hoping to achieve any level of success in Michigan is forced to move to Chicago.

Have you heard about Duluth Gazoozles? Started by a notorious gambler as a way to launder his winnings the Gazoozles played in the NBA in the late 30’s. The most famous player in the team’s history was Dead Eye Doug Dougans. Known as Dead Eye of course because of his lazy left eye and penchant for staring at people. The gambler lost the team in the first recorded game of pai gow in North America to a showgirl named Dorris Brave. She moved the team to Buffalo, New York eventually losing the team to a traveling soap salesman named Irving Clipper from San Diego. You know the rest. The team briefly toyed with the idea of becoming The San Diego Sterlings following the sale of the team to Donald Sterling in 1981. Mr. Sterling balked at the price of buying new jerseys and thus they stayed The Clippers.

What about the tale of Garden City Gams? During World War 2 with most of the NBA off punching ol’ Adolph’s ticket the league allowed women to play. The Gams were the first all female team to play against men. The Gams were nearly undefeated in 1943 narrowly losing the championship game to The Minnesota Lakers in a best of 27 series as was the custom at the time. When the fellas came back from giving The Krauts what for the team was renamed The Garden City Giraffes. Eventually the team was folded thanks to the owner’s money trouble from investing heavily in Hula hoops in 1960. The Hula Hoop craze had died out in ‘56. News travelled slow in Garden City, maybe too slow.


Speed Round

The Nets were once called The Nuts. They started life as an intramural team at a New Jersey Mental Ward. They became The Nets due to the practice of the orderlies using giant butterfly nets to capture patients that escaped, yep just like in old timey movies and cartoons. The Nuts once lost a playoff game to a women’s prison team when their star point guard was mistakenly given a lobotomy.

The Pacers were known as The Breakers after the very popular 1979 film “Breaking Away” about a boy, his bike, and a dream. Before they became The Pacers they were almost known as the Indiana Never Ending Stories. People in Indiana love movies.

The 76er’s were The Nationals through the 1963 season. The phrase 76’ers comes not from Philadelphia’s role in American History but is actually the number of women Wilt Chamberlain slept with after his first game with the team in 1964.

The Seattle Sonics were once a team called The Milwaukee Bucks. The changed their name when the team was relocated in 2015.


As you can see The NBA has a long and twisted history of teams changing cities and names. Join us again at Ballerball for “The Secret History of Strange NBA Team Names From The Past That People Don’t Seem To Remember.”

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