New Orleans Becomes The Pelicans…And NBA’s Name Problem

The New Orleans Hornets, formerly the Charlotte Hornets, are changing their name, logo and colors. A press conference is scheduled for later today to announce this change, but before the announcement, we got a glimpse at the new logo of the New Orleans PELICANS! I do say…I approve.

After running into trouble with the NBA needing to take over the reigns of the franchise during the 2010 season, they were bought by Tom Benson. Benson pledged to keep the struggling Hornets in New Orleans for the near future and is going all in to try to make New Orleans a viable NBA market, just like the NFL has done with the New Orleans Saints. After holding onto the visuals of a franchise that hasn’t been relevant since the days of Muggsy Bogues in Charlotte, Benson has decided to put the New Orleans stamp on the franchise with the introduction of the Pelicans.

It may be a classic animal name that is so popular in modern sports teams, but it still has the feel of an out of the box name. The Pelican holds a lot of ties to New Orleans and will hopefully make the franchise feel more welcome alongside the Saints. In an age where NBA teams keep names just to keep names, it is refreshing to see Tom Benson realize that the team needed a name change to connect with the New Orleans market.

More teams should have done this long ago. Many NBA teams just don’t make any sense when you think about their city, its culture and the name associated with that team. Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies should have changed their name after their move from Vancouver to Memphis, but I will give them a break because they at least have bears in Tennessee, just not grizzly bears, and many teams keeps animal names that don’t associate with their area. Many may jump on the Chicago Bulls as breakers of this rule, but the Bull pulls out associations in Chicago’s history of meatpacking and butchers.

The more egregious choices are the decision of the Los Angeles Lakers to retain their name after they were originally the Minneapolis Lakers, obviously going back to Minnesota being the “land of 10,000 lakes”. California is not known for its lakes, let alone the Los Angeles area, it is far too late to change their name now because of having such a storied history.

Every joke in the NBA seems to come from Utah not allowing music but being named the Jazz. It is extremely played out and not true, but it is a strange name for an area that has no history of jazz influence. The Utah Jazz were the original New Orleans basketball team back in and before the 70’s. I strongly feel that Utah still could and should change their logo and nickname, giving the Jazz name back to New Orleans. It would be such a natural name for that franchise and would truly connect with the public.

That leads us to the last point, it appears as if Michael Jordan is looking into bringing the Hornets name back to Charlotte. It has some history in the area because of the popularity of the franchise with Muggsy Bogues, but it doesn’t seem to elicit a need to bring it back. If Utah gave up the Jazz, New Orleans would have to bring it back (prior to becoming the Pelicans…so, not so much anymore), but Charlotte doesn’t need to bring back the turquoise and purple bee. MJ has made some interesting decisions so this would really be the least surprisingly of all. The Hornet may not be out of a job for long.

Just for fun, let’s look at three new names for a few teams that need to change.

Los Angeles Lakers
1. Stars (obvious reasons)
2. Showtime (appeals to movies and their basketball past with Magic)
3. Freefalls (seems appropriate given recent production)

Utah Jazz
1. Salties (relates to the salt lakes)
2. Saints (heavy religious ties in Utah to Latter-Day Saints)
3. Plateaus (can’t get over the hump)

Memphis Grizzlies
1. Mummies (town named after Memphis, Egypt)
2. Music (only if Jazz go away, but Memphis has high musical ties)
3. Tax Dodgers (because of salary dump trade recently)

Toronto Raptors
1. Canadians (only Canadian team left, should take advantage of it)
2. Mounties (again Canadian)
3. Ehs? (Ok…I’m done)

Cleveland Cavaliers
1. Rockers (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
2. Bessies (Lake Erie monster)
3. LeBrons (he would come back for this…right?)

Sacramento Kings
1. Seattle Supersonics

About the author /


Colby is the Editor-in-Chief, Founder and Lead Contributor to Other League. Also a law student focusing on Labor & Employment law and intersections with law and sports. You can find him on Twitter via @Colby_OL.

  • Charlie

    Maybe a team could change their name to a color ala NFL’s Cleveland Browns (e.g., The Blacks, The Reds, The Yellas)? How about a year in history, like what Philadelphia did?

    The Utah Jazz definitely need to change their name. I understand they came from New Orleans, but Jazz for Utah.. really?

    • Jaybird1103

      If the city of New Orleans had cared about the Jazz nickname and colors, the Crescent City should have told then-owner Sam Battistone that before he moved the team to Salt Lake City the rights to the name and colors would stay in New Orleans. However, Battistone kept the Jazz nickname because he did not want to spend anymore money changing the nickname, logo, or colors. Thus, since 1979, the Jazz has been the name of the NBA team in Utah, A state where the closest relation to jazz music was when Donny and Marie and the rest of the Osmonds would perform a Dixieland number on their TV variety show. Yet, with the now deceased Larry Miller having purchased the franchise to save it from financial ruin, the Jazz name should be kept in memory of Miller who helped save the franchise.