Last week, I talked about NFL and NHL teams that shared their name with another sports team in their city. If you missed it, here it is. The teams in part 1 all shared their name with an already-existing team, but today, some of the teams existed years apart from each other. Before I talk about the other leagues, there is one more NHL team name to discuss.
Winnipeg has had two teams called the Winnipeg Jets, and the current one was formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers. They had won one Southeast Division title in 2007, but they then proceeded to get swept in the playoffs by the Rangers. That was the Thrashers’ only sniff of the playoffs in their entire Atlanta tenure. In 2011, they were sold and subsequently moved to Winnipeg. Their name wasn’t actually revealed until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Leading up to that, among the rumored names for them were the Falcons. Moving a team out of Atlanta and then calling them the Falcons would’ve been the ultimate troll move, but thankfully they revived the Jets name instead. In their time in Winnipeg, the franchise has already proven that they are no longer the Thrashers. They won a playoff game. Eleven of them, in fact. The furthest they’ve gotten in the playoffs was the 2018 Western Conference Finals, where they lost in five games to the brand-new Vegas Golden Knights.
The original Winnipeg Jets have won more playoff games than that, as they won three World Hockey Association championships before that league died. Subsequently, several teams, including the Jets, were accepted into the NHL. Their NHL tenure unfortunately did not result in a Stanley Cup. Both times that they made it to the West Finals, they got swept. The team had its fair share of talent, though. They had one of the best players in hockey history, Bobby Hull, and other Hall of Famers including Serge Savard and Dale Hawerchuk. This franchise also had its struggles financially, so in 1996, they relocated to the desert and became the Phoenix Coyotes, and later changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes. Interestingly, their financial struggles have not halted, so a Winnipeg-based group was actually considering bringing the team back. This fell through, and they then bought the Thrashers.
When it comes to basketball, the most obvious example of this is the Charlotte Hornets. The original Hornets had some sexy uniforms, but they never made it past the second round of the playoffs. They had some talent throughout their years, like Robert Parish, Larry Johnson, Glen Rice, and Alonzo Mourning, but it wasn’t enough for attendance near the end. In 2002, the team moved to New Orleans. Only two years later, Charlotte got another team: the ill-fated Bobcats. They were bad. They were very bad.
One Rookie of the Year award for Emeka Okafor does not change that. In 2010, the team was acquired by the GOAT, Michael Jordan. GOAT as in the GOAT player, that is. His tenure has not turned things around at all. In 2011, they drafted arguably the best player in franchise history, Kemba Walker. Unfortunately, he never won a playoff series in Charlotte in his two trips. Since 2004, the Bobcats/Hornets have made the playoffs only three times. The original Hornets did it seven times before moving to the Big Easy, where they made it five more times as the Hornets, and two more under their current name. In 2013, they changed their name to the Pelicans and gave the franchise history of their Charlotte years to the Bobcats. Subsequently, the Bobcats took the Hornets name beginning in 2014.
Personally, I think both franchises have names that sound right for both cities. Pelicans is unique like NOLA, and Hornets has its basketball history with Charlotte. Bobcats never sounded right to me. Interestingly enough, the New Orleans Pelicans was also the name of a minor league baseball team that died in the ‘50’s. It housed several eventual legends including Shoeless Joe Jackson, Earl Weaver, and Bob Lemon.
The Denver Nuggets are a notable franchise today, but they weren’t the first team with that name. This team was founded in 1935 and played in various leagues, but in 1948, they found their way to the National Basketball League. One year later, that league merged with the Basketball Association of America to create the National Basketball Association as we know it today. Interestingly enough, this was actually the state of Colorado’s first professional sports team, as the Broncos didn’t arrive until 1960.
In the original Nuggets’ only NBA season, they finished 11-51 and lost their first 15 games. They moved to the National Professional Basketball League the next year, and they were never heard from again. The NBA would eventually swallow up the American Basketball Association, including several teams. One of them was the Denver Rockets, who then changed their name since the NBA already had the Houston Rockets. The name makes a lot more sense for Houston, given that city’s connections to space. Denver then voted on a new name for their team, and ultimately decided the Nuggets would be the best fit. It’s a nice tribute, and it’s a unique identity for the league.
The aforementioned Basketball Association of America saw a team in Washington D.C. take the name “Capitols.” This is one letter off from the current Washington Capitals of the NHL, but it’s close enough. Their green and white color scheme is definitely unexpected for a D.C. team, but it looks good. The team joined the NBA when the BAA merged with the NBL, but they only finished 10-25, since they bit the dust in January 1951. They came back the next year in the American Basketball League, and then folded again. Their two most notable players were Hall of Famers Earl Lloyd and Bill Sharman. Lloyd was actually the first African-American to play in the NBA, paving the way for many more eventual legends in the league. Bill Sharman eventually became the first man to win NBA championships as a player (with the Celtics), coach (with the Lakers), and executive (again with the Lakers). The Capitols also had two separate winning streaks reach the double digit mark, winning 17 and 15 straight in ’46 and ’49 respectively.
The ABA saw a similarly-named team, the Washington Caps, exist for one season in ’69-’70. The franchise had previously been known as the Oakland Oaks. How original. That one season saw them with eventual Warriors legend Rick Barry. They finished 44-40 and made the playoffs, but lost in the division semifinals. The next year, they became the Virginia Squires and continued to exist until 1976.
The Milwaukee Brewers as we know them today first came into existence in 1970, when they fled their 1969 life as the Seattle Pilots. Prior to this, there was another Milwaukee Brewers team that coincidentally existed for only one season in the American League.
After their 1901 escapades, where they went 48-89, they moved to St. Louis and took the name Browns. The St. Louis Browns shared the city with the Cardinals, who were also named the Browns before. In 1954, the Browns jumped ship and became the Baltimore Orioles.
Speaking of which, there was also another Orioles team in Baltimore, but this franchise also exists today. The team was founded in 1901, just like the former Brewers, but they spent two years in Baltimore.
The reason they were in Baltimore, however, was due to tensions between the National and American Leagues. Today, with the exception of the DH, these leagues are basically interchangeable under the MLB umbrella. Back then, they were completely separate entities. The owners of the OG Orioles originally wanted the team in New York City, but thanks to the NL’s New York Giants (we’ll talk about them in a bit), that was an issue. The leagues’ tensions settled at a meeting, and the Orioles moved to NYC in 1903. They then changed their name to the New York Highlanders, and didn’t win a World Series for ten seasons. Then, they adopted their current name. They’re a little, humble franchise that has won a mere 27 World Series. The Yankees have largely been a powerhouse, whereas the current Orioles have only won three World Series and haven’t been to the playoffs nearly as often as their rivals.
Funny enough, there was yet another Baltimore Orioles team from 1882-1899. Interestingly, they won two NL Championships, or Temple Cups. The World Series didn’t exist until the aforementioned tensions between the NL and AL died. These winning teams had the likes of Hall of Famers John McGraw and Joe Kelley. These Orioles went away due to the National League shedding teams.
As promised, here is the abridged story of MLB’s New York Giants. Founded in 1883 and spending their first two seasons as the “Gothams,” the Giants inhabited the Polo Grounds from 1891-1957. They won five World Series there, and notable players included iconic center fielder Willie Mays and Hall of Famer Mel Ott. The team naturally had rivalries with their neighbors the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, but in 1958, the Yankees were the only team left in NYC. The Giants and Dodgers had moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively. Their rivalry is still one of the most intense in baseball. The Giants’ cap logo would later be adopted by the Mets when they were born.
In fact, the Mets’ color scheme was inspired by the orange and blue of the Giants and Dodgers. In 1925, the NFL’s New York Giants were born, and became alternatively known as the “New York Football Giants” to differentiate themselves from the National League club. The team still acknowledges this nickname on their endzone walls today.
Another American metropolis is its capital, Washington, D.C. Before the Montreal Expos moved there in 2005 and became the Nationals, there were three previous Major League franchises in the city with the name “Senators.” The first one was in the National League throughout the 1890s, and had an astonishing 13 managers throughout that span. Naturally, they weren’t that good and died at the turn of the 20th century to be replaced by a new Senators team.
The second Senators team was in the American League and existed from 1901-60, and actually won a World Series in 1924. That winning squad included Hall of Famers Goose Goslin (OF), Sam Rice (OF), Bucky Harris (P/Manager), and Walter Johnson (P). They would win two more pennants, but ultimately didn’t have much success leading up to their relocation to Minnesota in 1960. The team would take the name “Twins,” named after the famous “Twin Cities,” and win an additional two World Series. Interestingly, these Senators were also alternatively known as the “Nationals.”
Much like the original Senators, the Senators that are now the Twins would be replaced in the city by a new Senators team.
Once again in the AL, this team existed from 1961-71, but they never made the playoffs and only posted a winning percentage above .500 once. They lost 100 games in each of their first four years. Something notable about their uniforms is that their hats would eventually be adorned with the “Curly W” that the Nationals would later use.
In 1972, this team also relocated, this time to the Dallas area, and became known as the Texas Rangers. The Senators’ final game involved fans storming the field in the top of the ninth inning… when the team was about to win. First base was stolen by a fan, and the Senators ended up forfeiting the game as a result. Yikes. There’s no video of this incident, but the radio broadcast is on YouTube (go to 2:43:40 for the chaos).
Well, that’s all the teams from the four big leagues that I can mention, but there is one more little-known football league that I would like to talk about.
World Football League
This disaster of a league existed for one whole season in 1974, then ceased operations midseason the next year. They existed longer than the AAF and both incarnations of the XFL, at least. Anyway, four of their teams shared names with teams that would eventually exist in other sports.
The 1974 season saw the Chicago Fire, which the Windy City’s MLS franchise is known as, Houston Texans, and Charlotte Hornets take the field. The Texans relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana in the middle of the season and adopted the name “Steamer.” The Hornets were originally called the New York Stars, and then the Charlotte Stars. The Memphis Southmen then changed their names in 1975 to the “Grizzlies,” and the NBA’s later Vancouver Grizzlies eventually became the Memphis Grizzlies in a weird coincidence. The Fire had folded and the Chicago Winds took their place at this point, as well. I guess you could figuratively say the wind put out the fire, even though that’s not how it works in reality. If you want to know more about this ill-fated league, I highly recommend you watch this video by one of my favorite YouTubers, KTO.
Wow, that was a lot of teams. I hope that you enjoyed this two-part blog post, since I had fun writing it. With more and more copyrights being filed today, I doubt we’ll see anything like this in the future. In 1972, the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals relocated to Kansas City. Seeing how the city had the MLB Royals, the franchise decided to change their name to the Kings. They then kept this name throughout the rest of their history, including their 1985 move to Sacramento, where they remain today. Also, when the Vegas Golden Knights’ name was announced, there was a legal conflict with the U.S. Army’s parachuting “Golden Knights,” and it also sounded similar to the Army Black Knights college sports teams. Imagine how confusing a situation with two identical team names would be today. On top of this, teams are trying to win over fans with unique identities and traditions, so copying a name just seems silly. So, the lesson of the story here is… get creative with future team names.
Thanks for reading! Most logos taken from sportslogos.net.