Nicknames of sports teams can sometimes provide insight into the region where they play. They can be based on the presence of certain ethnic groups, industrial activity, types of wildlife, or local culture.
Boston’s basketball team name, the Celtics, acknowledges the sizable Irish population in the city. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers got their nickname from the meat-packing companies that sponsored the team in the early days of professional football. The Arizona Diamondbacks of MLB are named after the rattlesnake species prevalent in that part of the Southwest. The Cowboys are a perfect fit for Dallas and its Western heritage, and they are among the most popular NFL teams.
Other nicknames, however, are head-scratchers, holdovers from team moves to places where the moniker no longer applies. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of team names that make no sense, using sources such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.
While some of the decisions by these franchises to retain nicknames are curious, the success of several of these relocated teams is unquestioned. When the Jazz played in New Orleans, the team never had a winning season. After the team moved to Utah, they reached the NBA Finals twice. The Los Angeles Lakers, who originated in Minnesota, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” have won 11 championships since moving to California, and are among the teams with the most hall-of-fame players.
The change of venue for other teams that have retained their nicknames hasn’t worked out so well. The Clippers moved to Los Angeles from San Diego, known for its massive naval base and port of call for clipper boats in the 19th century. The Clippers have not enjoyed the success of the Lakers, who share the same city. The Grizzlies left Vancouver, home to grizzly bears, to Memphis, where grizzlies don’t live, and the basketball team has faltered recently, making the Memphis Grizzlies one of the hardest teams to root for.