The worst thing about NBA basketball? That’s easy: The team names! What with the rapid franchise movement and just incomprehensible obsession with the uncountable noun, American professional basketball is simply bogged down with names that are mostly laughingly displaced (e.g. Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies), generic (e.g. Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Hornets, Phoenix Suns), and those groaningly stupid in their impossibility to properly visually represent (Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and the brutally bad Oklahoma City Thunder).
All in all, aside from maybe the Philadelphia 76ers, the league at the supposed epicenter of international sports marketing consists of two-dozen teams none of which you’d ever want to be seen purchasing, much less wearing.
Then, there’s Europe. With some 600 major teams on The Continent alone, there’s got to be some beauties among the team names, even if there is a tragic amount of sponsors subverting the proper name of a given club. (Seriously, is there a lamer name in basketball than “Armani Jeans Milano”? I thought not.)
Without further ado, then, here is Ball in Europe’s official and prestigious “Top 12 Team Names in European Basketball” list, culled from hundreds of prospective squads. Hopefully, someone in Seattle and/or wherever the NBA’s 31st and 32nd franchises might be located is reading…
12-11. Sundsvall Dragons, Artland Dragons. Just to bring home the lame-names point: If you were given the choice of mascots between some generic feline or a badass fire-breathing nigh-indestructible creature of myth which lends itself to killer logos, which would you take? Of course you’d name your team the “Bobcats,” right? Tell you what: If Charlotte management had followed Sundsvall and Artland’s lead (not to mention South Brisbane, Camberwell, or even Drexel University’s), at least the team would be making a few more dollars on paraphernalia sales.
10. Kolossos Rhodes. Now how many teams are named after a World Wonder? Until the Pyramids of Giza tip off, Rhodes has the greatest classical-era mascot ever.
9. Euphony Bree. Yes, the Belgian team is named for its telecom sponsor, but what a sound … “Euphony Bree.” It’s nice, it’s beautiful, it’s … euphonic, really.
8. SK Cherkassy Monkeys. What takes guts? Naming your professional sports team, with opponents like the Dragons and Red Army on the schedule, “the Monkeys.” What takes more guts? Playing with that jersey emblazoned with “the Monkeys” on it.
7-5. Les Bleus (team France), Panathinaikos Greens, Olympiacos Reds. Let’s hear it for simplicity! Sometimes it pays to simply co-opt a color for your team name (even if the moniker is not, strictly speaking, official). It’s catchy, it lends itself easily to creating the “Wall of Fans” effect for home games and, let’s face it, if you’re good enough, you’ve laid claim to one-seventh of the visual spectrum for Naismith’s sake.
4. Glasgow Rocks (formerly the Scottish Rocks). Though it seems bizarre to name an ostensibly fleet-of-foot sports team after a seriously inanimate object, Glasgow gets high marks for sports news headline potential. Think about it: For a win, you could run “Rocks rock!” or “Glasgow Rocks!” For a home win (and more space-filler), there’s “Glasgow Rocks rock Glasgow!” For an easy win, “Rocks roll.” For a new teammate, “Rock’s role.” For a loss, “Rocks broken!” or “Rocks rolled!” or … you get the idea. “Glasgow Rocks” simply rocks.
3. Soproni Sördögök. A popular choice for a team name in the basketball universe from Duke and Arizona State on down plays off “demon” or “devil.” In Hungarian, that word is “ördög.” But when Soproni Brewery were established as sponsors, they cleverly tweaked the name to reflect their product: beer (or “sör” in Hungarian). Thus, the Sördögök, or Beer Demons! Isn’t that brilliant? Ah, well, Hungarians think it’s hilarious…
2. 08 Stockholm Human Rights. An absolutely wonderful name which evidences “the club’s commitment to using basketball as a tool to combat racism.” Now how many other sports franchises would make such a concession to decency? This is such an excellent name and sentiment that I am frankly afraid to visit the team’s homepage for fear that the women’s team is not named “The Stockholm Women’s Rights,” as it probably should be.
1. Honka Espoo Playboys. Now you’re talking: Honka, Finland, may not boast much in the way of international press coverage for its basketball but they do have simply the ass-kickingest team name in Europe. “Playboys” is totally unique, sponsor-independent, cleverly worded, and, perhaps most importantly, a *guy* thing. Naturally, the only disappointment with the Playboys is the logo. But since ol’ Hugh Hefner is reportedly strapped for cash, why shouldn’t the team make a play for the classic bunny? Here’s to hoping…