Friday, January 16, 2009
A lot of traditional sports fans decry WNBA team names which are usually singular nowns. Only four of the thirteen WNBA teams have names that end in the letter "s". When the Seattle Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, traditionalists were up in arms that the new name - the Thunder - was another non-plural noun.
Even though baseball and football don't have teams with non-plural nouns, basketball - a sport which only found itself on firm professional footing in the 1950s - has been more willing to experiment. In 1974, the New Orleans Jazz because one of the first major franchises without a traditional plural noun as a team name. In the late 80s, the Jazz (now in Utah) was joined by the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat.
Perhaps the reason so many WNBA teams have non-traditional names is because it isn't "traditional" for women to have a professional league of their own. If conventional wisdom was to be set on its ear by the WNBA, why not set aside the old naming conventions as well? Aside from soccer, non-traditional team names have also become synonymous with the WNBA.
Here are the origins of the team names of the thirteen WNBA teams:
Atlanta Dream - The nickname for the expansion Dream was chosen in a contest. The name is evocative of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech from Dr. Martin Luther King, the famous civil rights activist who was born in Atlanta.
Chicago Sky - The name was decided by the franchise and is evocative of the Chicago skyline. Chicago boasts three of the five world's tallest buildings.
Connecticut Sun - The team was originally named the Orlando Miracle, after its brother NBA team the Orlando Magic. It was then purchased by the Mohegan Native American tribe in Connecticut and renamed after the Mohegan Sun casino.
Detroit Shock - The name keeps with the automotive theme of its brother NBA team, the Detroit Pistons. Shock owner William Davidson is also the principal owner of the Pistons.
Indiana Fever - This rather generic name was chosen to evoke the feverous passion for basketball that exists in the state of Indiana. The team shared the colors of the NBA Indiana Pacers.
Los Angeles Sparks - From a quote from WNBA: A Celebration
"Los Angeles President Johnny Buss's inspiration was from an unlikely source. With a final deadline approaching, Buss was discussing the nickname while on the phone with the WNBA. At the same time, Brandi Bratcher, who worked for Buss, was on the phone with her dad, who was a welder. He suggested Sparks because, he said, when welding, sparks will fly and the basketball team should do the same thing. Buss was sold."
Minnesota Lynx - The name keeps with the wild animal theme of its brother NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Glen Taylor owns both the Lynx and the Timberwolves.
New York Liberty - The team derives its name from the Statue of Liberty, which is used as the Liberty's logo.
Phoenix Mercury - The team was formerly owned by Jerry Coangelo, who was the former owner of the Phoenix Suns. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. The name has a unique triple-meaning - the Mercury art deco logo is avocative of the vehicles of the 1950s such as the Ford Mercury, and Phoenix is known for its hot temperatures.
Sacramento Monarchs - The name keeps with the royalty theme of its brother NBA team, the Sacramento Kings. The Maloof family owns both the Kings and the Monarchs. The Monarchs logo also has the suggestion of the butterfly wings of the Monarch butterfly.
San Antonio Silver Stars - The team was originally named the Utah Starzz, to honor of the old ABA team the Utah Stars - the Stars was customized to "Starzz" because of the double-zz ending of the Utah Jazz, and both the Starzz and the Jazz were owned by the same owner in 1997. The team moved to San Antonio in 2003, and combined the silver color of the San Antonio Spurs with the "lone star" of Texas.
Seattle Storm - The Storm was named after the Seattle rainy weather. The name also was "what the team plans to do to the league".
Washington Mystics - The name keeps with the magical theme of its brother NBA team, the Washington Wizards. After 2005, the Wizards and Mystics were owned by separate companies.