One might not know it from just a casual glance, but history has played a big part in the naming of most of the NBA franchises. Many of the NBA franchises get their names for their cities historical past, or from a city in which the team first originated in. This is especially true with the teams who entered the League after 1949, but even those teams have some history behind their names.
The Hawks were first called the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. Tri-Cities(Molina and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa) is located in the midwest, in lands which once belonged to the Kickapoo, Sauk, and Fox indians. The three tribes fought a long war against the United Stated called the Blackhawk war after their chief Blackhawk. The Teams name was shorted to just Hawks after the team moved to Milwaukee.
The name Celtics refers to Boston's Irish American population Many Irish believe they are ancestors of the ancient druid people called the Celts. The teams logo and mascot also reflect the Irish connections as it's a traditional symbol of Ireland; the Leprichan.
The Carolinas were invaded by the British in the Revolutionary war, and during one such invasion the British stepped into a trap laid by the Americans and the British general said it was like a Hornets nest. The name Hornets won out of a contest held to name the team in 1987 when the original Hornets first started playing in Charlotte. The name was returned to Charlotte after the New Orleans team became the Pelicans.
On the surface the name Bulls may seem very generic; but it's not. Chicago was the hub of the meat packing industry during the late 19th and early 20h century. Texas longhorns would be taken by rail from Abilene and Dodge City to Chicago for slaughter and than distribution around the country. For a long time the city boasted the largest stockyard in the world.
The team Cavalier refers to someone who supported the royalist during the English civil war. The most likely derivitive for the name of the team may be a corruption of the word Chivalier, which is a French Cavalryman. One very famous Cavalryman was a George A Custer, leader of the massicred 7th cavalry at the little bighorn. Custer was born in Ohio.
Despite popular belief a Maverick is not a horse. The team was first given to stubborn longhorns, but then was quickly applied to those who wrangled the beasts. Texas has a long important history of cattle drives and this is where the Mavericks get their name from; The lone cowboy on the prarie.
Before the Modern team there was an original NBA team called the Nuggets. Both teams take their name from the Colorado Gold rush of 1859.
Originally the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, the teams name comes from team owner Frank Zollners piston manufacturing company. Though, by some strange twist of fate the name still greatly applies to the team as Detroit is one of the leading manufacture of automobles in the world.
Golden State Warriors.
Previously known as the San Francisco and Philadelphia Warriors the teams name is likely just a generic name. But it may have a historically connection with the Delaware Indians who inhabited the area before British Colonist displaced them.
One of the most ironic name twist in sports history belongs to the Rockets. The Rockets were originally the San Deigo Rockets, which was just a generic name. But the team got a new twist on its name when it moved to Houston; home of NASA's Mission control.
Not many people know what a Pacer is, but the name is very important in the history of Indianapolis. A Pacer is the car which comes out and sets the pace during a red flag in the Indy 500.
Los Angeles Clippers.
A Clipper is a long sailing ship from the 19th century. The team got its named after it moved to San Diego from Buffalo in 1979. San Diego is a very important port city and has been for centuries. Many Clipper ships from South America docked in San Diego and other California ports during the 1849 gold rush.
Los Angeles Lakers.
To the casual fan this name makes absolutely no sense. But once you realize the team originally played in Minneapolis it starts making a lot more sense. Lakers are large ships found on the Great Lakes. Minnesota has a coast line with Lake Superior. Another variation of the name may be from Minnesota being known as the land of 10,000 lakes.
Mostly a generic left over from when the team moved from Vancouver. But the pacific northwest was a popular place for bear hunting in the past.
A generic name referring to the warm tempatures of the South Florida region.
A generic name with little historical significants
Wolf hunting was a popular sport in the early 20th century but this name appears to be mostly generic.
New Orleans Pelicans.
A generic name taken after Hornets was given back to Charlotte. Louisiana is home to a large number of swamps and bayous where pelicans frequent.
A generic basketball term
New York Knicks.
Not many people know what Knicks really means. Knicks is a shortening of the work Knickerbockers; which where a type of pants worn by Dutch immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder was chosen because of the large number of thunder storms in the great plains
The Magic got its name after the Disney world theme part located in Orlando.
Named in honor of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia.
A generic name referring to hot tempatures of Arizona.
Portland was the end of the Oregon trail, a trial which brought millions of people into the American west. A Trailblazer was someone who opened up the route for the wagons to travel upon. This person was usually a former fur trapper who knew the area well.
A generic term referring to a monarch, but no real American historical connections.
San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs are sharp objects worn on boots to control horses. While it doesn't have any historical connection to San Antonio and is mostly generic it does have a connection back to Texas cattle days of the 1860s, 70s and 80s.
Named so because of the large Boeing aircraft plant in the area.
Named after the Dinosaur in the Jurassic Park movies. No historical connection at all.
The name Jazz stuck with the team when it moved from New Orleans. New Orleans is the jazz capitol of the world. Most is not all great jazz musicians begin their careers in New Orleans.
Wizards is a generic term picked after public pressure forced the team to change its name from Bullets to Wizards. Bullets was chosen after a shoe company in the area.