Sports teams have never made good cartographers. Pro franchises have a history of relocating to new cities and keeping their original identities. But when was the last time you swam in a Los Angeles lake? Or saw a grizzly bear running through Memphis? Here, we revisit some on the most peculiar nicknames in sports.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
The Brooklyn Dodgers were originally nicknamed the “Bridegrooms” because seven team members got married in the two years prior to the team’s 1890 debut. Granted, Bridegrooms was about the goofiest name for a pack of jocks. So the team soon became the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, since the borough was filled with trolleys at the time. The moniker was later shortened to the Dodgers. By the time the Brooklyn Dodgers uprooted to Los Angeles in 1958, streetcars in Los Angeles were on the decline. The last L.A. trolley was taken out in 1963—the same year the L.A. Dodgers won their first World Series.
Los Angeles Lakers
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota
One would think that, given all of the creative talent in Hollywood, the Los Angeles sports fans could come up with some original team names. Even though lakes aren’t indigenous to Los Angeles, the Lakers brand has endured for 55 years. Prior to the team’s move to L.A., the Lakers rightfully called Minnesota—the land of 10,000 lakes—home.
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana
The Jazz’s time in New Orleans was short-lived and full of losses. After only five seasons, the team headed to Salt Lake City in 1979. Despite having no jazz tradition whatsoever, Salt Lake City kept the nickname. The only major modification the team made was changing the logo from one with a J-shaped music note to one displaying the nearby Wasatch Mountain range.
Birthplace: Vancouver, British Columbia
No one has ever spotted a grizzly bear pawing through downtown Memphis, but that did not stop the franchise from keeping the Grizzly nickname when it arrived in Tennessee in 2002. The urban legend is that Fed Ex, which is based in Memphis, tried to offer the Grizzlies $120 million to rename the team the Express, but the NBA rejected the idea.
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia
“Flames” is a nod to Atlanta’s past, referencing when Atlanta nearly burned to the ground during the Civil War. The franchise headed north to Calgary in 1980, and the owners kept the name. They felt it was a good fit for an oil town, because oil and fire together make one heck of a flame.