Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lions, Tigers and Bears, and Pants, Oh My!

Something that every sports fan knows about is their team's names. But did you ever stop to think about what the teams are named after? I did. For this survey, I am using former names of teams still in existence only if the name changed. For example, the Hawks are counted only once even though they were in four different cities over the years, they were always the Hawks. However, the Kings Franchise has been in 4 cities and used two names, Kings and Royals, the most recent of each is counted.

The NBA, which is what I know best, has 30 current teams and several former teams/names, so I will start with them:

Animals: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orelans Pelicans, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Stags, Charlotte Bobcats,

Peoples: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Sheboygan Redskins, Buffalo Braves, Indianapolis Olympians, Cincinnati Royals,

Vehicles: Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers,  Providence Steamrollers, Indianapolis Jets, Washington Bullets, Seattle SuperSonics, St. Louis Bombers.

Pants: New York Knicks

Sporting Equipment: Brooklyn Nets,

Weather: Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns,  Chicago Zephyrs,

Abstract (Everything Else): Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, Chicago Packers, Syracuse Nationals,

So the totals come up to:
Animals 10
Peoples 9
Vehicles 9
Sporting Equipment 1
Weather 4
Abstract: 11
Pants: 1

Now, to the NHL, with 30 teams...until October.

Animals: Anaheim Ducks/Mighty Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Atlanta Thrashers, California Golden Seals, Detroit Cougars, Detroit Falcons, Hamilton Tigers, Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Eagles, Quebec Bulldogs,

Peoples: Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Brooklyn Americans, Cleveland Barons, Pittsburgh Pirates,

Vehicles: Winnipeg Jets,

Weather: Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lignting, Colorado Avalanche

Abstract: Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Scouts, Montreal Maroons, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Arenas, Toronto St. Patricks,

NHL's totals being:
Animals 15
Peoples 7
Vehicles 1
Weather 3
Abstract 22

Now, on the MLB, which also has 30 active teams.

Animals: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Bees, Brooklyn Robins, Cleveland Spiders,

Peoples: Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Boston Americans, Boston Beaneaters, Boston Pilgrims, Brooklyn Grooms, Louisville Colonels, Seattle Pilots, Washington Senators

Abstract: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Los Angels Angels, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Boston Rustlers, Brooklyn Superbas, Cleveland Blues, Cleveland Naps,  Houston Colt .45's, Indianpolis Hoosiers, Montreal Expos,New York Highlanders, St. Louis Browns,

Only three categories here.
Animals 11
Peoples 16
Abstract 22

Finally, we move to the NFL, the league I know the least about, but has the most active teams, 32.

Animals: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Canton Bulldogs,

Peoples: Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, Boston Yanks, Brooklyn Dodgers,

Abstract: Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers,  Tennessee Titans, Houston Oilers, Pottsville Maroons,

Vehicles: New York Jets

Animals: 16
Peoples: 12
Abstract 8
Vehicles 1

I took a look at the MLS soccer teams but I can't quite figure them out so I didn't include them. NASCAR teams are a little different in that they are usually named after the person who started them, although animal themed teams do exist there, too- Red Horse Racing just closed up on this past month, in fact. But I stuck with the four leagues profiled above.

Here's a screencap of the excel chart I made up so I didn't have to do any actual math
Interestingly, the MLB's different team lead only comes out to 1, which surprises me because they have been around so long. Maybe my source (The Teams listing on the Trading Card Database) is missing some of the old ones, if they don't have any cards issued. I know there are some early NBA teams that don't have any cards. I remembered one in this list (Sheboygan) but I am probably forgetting some others.

Surprisingly, only one team is named after sports favorite team, the Nets. I didn't see that coming!

What I did suspect, though, is that the New York Knicks ARE the only team named after pants! I've always wondered about that, and now I know.

Animals didn't have as much a lead as I thought they did- although some of the Peoples listing may be a little bit of a stretch. I'm not 100% sure the origins of the team names in baseball and football, so I may have classed some of them wrong. I showed the work so if you see an error feel free to correct me in the comments.

The MLB really needs a team named the Jets! The other three leagues have, or had, one. (The NBA's Jets were a very short lived team in the early day).

At some point perhaps I will expand out this survey to include minor leagues, college teams, former leagues. I nearly included the ABA in this survey but I wanted to keep it to the top league in the sports surveyed, and the ABA had so much change and renaming it would have skewed the numbers. If I do expand it out the ABA is where I will begin though.


  1. Interesting analysis Billy. Funny the Lakers kept the name when they moved from Minneapolis. With Minnesota being the land of 10,000 lakes it made sense
    Always thought Knicerbocker was because of the beer. Never really thought about it

    1. Yes, the Lakers owner was a bit...odd. he also insisted that they wore blue when it was clearly purple. He is the one who installed the purple and yellow color scheme also!

  2. This was the best! I love it; although I don't like the name for Cleveland: Spiders! And the title is very funny.

  3. mls names are actually pretty great: Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, DC United are my three favorites, thanks to Mrs. O' Leary's cow, all the stars and partisan gridlock.

    DC United may be the only sarcastic team name.

    Minor league baseball does it well too - here's looking at you, Macon Whoopee.

    1. It is probably my extreme lack of knowledge to be honest... So many have fc or sporting in the names.
      I like the minor league team names as well. I'm partial to the Richmond Flying Squirrels myself.