Team Names That Make No Sense

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Los Angeles Lakers
> First season: 1960-1961
> Notable players: Kobe Bryant, Jerry West
> Moved from: Minneapolis

The Lakers were originally from Minnesota, which is sometimes called the “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” (actually 11,842). Los Angeles isn’t quite as blessed with that many bodies of water, but the alliteration was apparently too good to pass up. The Lakers, who had already won five titles in Minneapolis, extended their success in Los Angeles, winning 11 more championships.

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Memphis Grizzlies
> First season: 2001-2002
> Notable players: Mike Conley, Zach Randolph
> Moved from: Vancouver

The Grizzlies began their NBA life in 1995 in Vancouver, British Columbia, where there are many grizzly bears, but the team struggled, finishing last in five of the six years they were in Canada. When the team left for Tennessee, they took the Grizzlies nickname with them, even though there are no grizzly bears in Memphis. Things improved for the basketball franchise after the move.

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Toronto Raptors
> First season: 1995-1996
> Notable players: Chris Bosh, Vince Carter
> Moved from: N/A

The Raptors, who have been in the NBA since 1995, are in the NBA Finals for the first time this year. When the NBA expanded into Toronto, fans there were asked to choose a nickname for the new franchise. Eventually, the nickname Raptors was selected, reportedly because of the popularity of the newly released film “Jurassic Park,” which featured ravenous dinosaurs called velociraptors. Unlike the Nashville Predators, who get their name from saber tooth tiger fossils found in the city, Toronto has no velociraptor remains. Those fossils are only found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China.

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Utah Jazz
> First season: 1979-1980
> Notable players: Karl Malone, John Stockton
> Moved from: New Orleans

Of all the incongruous decisions to retain a sports nickname, the Utah Jazz might be the most puzzling. The team originated in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, and never had a winning record in Louisiana. That likely hastened the team’s move to Utah, a state known for spectacular parks, but not jazz. Since moving west, the Jazz have played well in Utah, reaching the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons in 1996-1997 and 1997-1998.

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Washington Wizards
> First season: 1997-1998
> Notable players: John Wall, Gilbert Arenas
> Moved from: Baltimore

Before they moved to Washington, the team was called the Baltimore Bullets and retained the nickname after the move. But team owner Abe Pollin was becoming increasingly appalled by gun violence and wanted to jettison the Bullets nickname. Fans chose the name Wizards in a naming contest before the 1997-98 season. The name change didn’t free the franchise from controversy. The NAACP pointed out that the name wizard is associated with the Ku Klux Klan. While the Orlando Magic gets its supernatural nickname from the “Magic Kingdom” of nearby Disney World, most people would agree that there is nothing particularly magical about the nation’s capital.