In 1974, a contest was held to name the NBA expansion team in New Orleans. Of the more than 6,500 names suggested, eight semi-finalists were selected: Jazz, Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights. As NBA fans know, Jazz was crowned the winner and remains the team’s name. (Even when the team was moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, five years later — a town not particularly celebrated for its swinging jazz culture.)
Meanwhile in 2003, the Charlotte Hornets, whose name comes from a British commander who called Charlotte "a veritable nest of hornets" during the Revolutionary War, moved to New Orleans to become the New Orleans Hornets. And although Hornets seems like a perfectly good name for a basketball team — feisty, agile, inflictors of sting — a new name has been requested.
The NBA attorney who represents brand names for the league has filed trademarks for five possible new names for the team: Mosquitoes, Bull Sharks, Swamp Dogs, Rougarou and Pelicans.
Not that Crescents, Pilots or Deltas were all that catchy, but Mosquitoes? Who the heck likes mosquitoes? What kind of poetry — other than utter misery and peskiness and swatting all night and crazy-making itchiness and various deadly diseases — does a name like that bring to the team? And Swamp Dog may be a bayou term of endearment for alligators, but it sounds more like the name of a sad, smoky drinking-at-the-bar-alone song by Tom Waits.
And then there's Rougarou. Really? Pronounced “roo-ga-roo,” the idea of a folkloric swamp werewolf is kind of a fierce and cool image to bring to the court, but roo-ga-roo? Once you say it in a Scooby Doo accent, it loses every ounce of dignity it may have scrapped together in the first place.
And last but not least, Pelicans. While the Louisiana state bird is truly one of the coolest creatures around and shows grace and courage when fishing, it is hard to deny that it is also one exceedingly strange-looking animal. These modern-day pterodactyls galumph around with their hefty stature and gawky bills — and charm they do, but they seem so very, very un-basketball.
Yet when all is said and done, few other symbols are as well-associated with Louisiana as the pelican, so it does make for the most logical name ... until the team moves to Pittsburgh, that is.
The new name may be in play as early as next season. Stay tuned.
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