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11 Actors You May Have Forgotten Were in Band of Brothers

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HBO has an archive of award-winning material, but perhaps the crown jewel in the cable channel's mini-series program is Band of Brothers, a ten-episode special presentation that brought World War II to startling on-screen life in 2001.

Chronicling the real-life experiences of the Easy Company of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne, Brothers dove deep inside some of the most essential parts of the war, from D-Day to Market Garden to the taking of Hitler’s private holiday residence. The remarkable stories told within it were only bolstered by a massive cast of new and emerging talent. Much of Band of Brothers was filmed in the UK, resulting in the casting of a bevy of up-and-coming British actors as some of America’s finest soldiers (alongside plenty of American talent, too), and also guaranteeing that you’ve probably forgotten many of the men who made the series so great.

1. Michael Fassbender

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Though born in Germany, Michael Fassbender was raised in Ireland and got many of his big breaks in London—like his role as Sgt. Burton “Pat” Christenson in Band of Brothers. Don’t remember seeing Fassbender in the series? We can’t blame you—still an apple-cheeked newbie (the series is only his second on-screen credit), Fassbender may be present in seven episodes, but he really only stands out in two of them.

In the series’ opener, “Currahee,” Fassbender’s Christenson is just one of many whipping boys targeted by the nefarious Captain Sobel, and he’s punished for drinking from his canteen during a hilltop run with, yes, still more running. Fassbender most frequently appears in background shots for much of the series, including a memorable sequence in the wrenching “Why We Fight,” when he stands by while his unit attempts to make sense of the concentration camp they just discovered.

2. Tom Hardy

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While Tom Hardy doesn’t appear in as many episodes as Fassbender (his Pvt. John Janovec is a replacement who shows up in the final two entries in the series), he certainly shows off more than his compatriot. While Fassbender and Hardy are both known for their physical (and actually naked) roles in big films these days, it’s Hardy who leaps off the screen sans skivvies in Band of Brothers.

The first time we meet his Janovec, he’s engaging in a little R&R with a local lass, and the pair are forced to stop their amorous activities when a higher-ranking officer busts in. It was a memorable start to the actor’s career: Band of Brothers is Hardy’s first on-screen credit. He followed the series with a role in Black Hawk Down, and all that military movie training seems to have foreshadowed some of his bigger roles—like the rebel-leading baddie Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

3. James McAvoy

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That’s right: Both Magneto and Professor X appear in Band of Brothers. Unlike Michael Fassbender, however, James McAvoy didn’t get to stick around for seven episodes; he only shows up in one.

The remarkable thing about Band of Brothers is that it manages to cover so many key events in the war while still sticking with just one company. Easy Company really was on the ground for the many events the series portrays, and when McAvoy appears as fresh-faced Pvt. James W. Miller in an episode titled “Replacements,” it’s part of a real sea change in the series. “Replacements” takes place after the events of D-Day, when Easy Company is in need of, you guessed it, replacements to fill the roles of the recently lost. McAvoy's character is roughed up a bit by the veterans who balk at the zippy attitudes of the new dudes, attitudes that won’t serve them well in their next big operation—Market Garden. You can probably guess that McAvoy’s Miller doesn’t make it out alive, but the Scottish actor manages to leave a lasting mark with his small role (only the seventh on his very long resume).

4. Ron Livingston

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Just two years after Office Space, Ron Livingston appeared as the wry, whisky-swilling Capt. Lewis Nixon in every single episode of Band of Brothers. Mainly assigned to intelligence-aimed operations, Nixon doesn’t ever see combat in the series—and that’s a good thing, because Livingston’s mix of humor (no other actor turns in as many amusing and on-point facial expressions as Livingston does in this series) and drama (Nixon goes through war with the black cloud of an impending divorce and an alcohol addiction hanging over him) proves essential to the series. Even when Nixon’s personal life is going down the tubes (during, you know, a world war), Livingston’s presence is always a welcome one. His bond with our next entry is also one of the most realistic-feeling and ultimately touching elements of the entire miniseries, too, and that’s something worth remembering.

5. Damian Lewis

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Like Ron Livingston, Damian Lewis is one of the main actors in Band of Brothers. Though he might be more famous for his role in Homeland, the actor does very solid, very moving work in Band of Brothers.

As the eventual Maj. Richard D. Winters (Lewis’s character rises through the ranks throughout the series, and in a big way), the actor was tasked with playing arguably the most beloved character in the series—or, at least, the one most beloved by his men. A leader in the best and truest sense of the word, Winters consistently serves both his men and his rank, and he’s paid back in sparkling loyalty and admiration. Lewis is wonderful in the role, bringing the right amount of gravitas and bewilderment to a man who clearly deserved all the praise he received. Rooting him in reality is his bond with Livingston’s Nixon—the pair signed up for the 101st together, and their journey through the war is an unsentimental look at the power and value of friendship.

Like many of the other stars of the miniseries, Lewis is also British, and the series was one of his first big parts. He’d previously popped up for one-off roles in a few television shows and even had a big arc on the series Hearts and Bones, but Band of Brothers was his real breakthrough, and he delivered on that with a bullet.

6. David Schwimmer

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Despite its title, Band of Brothers isn’t just about a whole company of men who loved each other like kin—there are more than a few bad apples in the bunch. None, however, compare to David Schwimmer’s Captain Sobel, a villain for the ages (and a strangely understandable one, at that).

Smack in the middle of his work on Friends, Schwimmer took on the decidedly un-Ross Geller role of Sobel. As the main focus of the series’ first episode, Schwimmer’s Sobel is a hard-nosed, unrelenting, and often just plain enraging leader who works the men of Easy Company to the bone during their training exercises back in America. Sobel is never nice, never kind, and never fair (he even tussles with Winters, of all people!), and he’s rewarded for that by a series of staggering demotions and a company that hates him. That’s right, the seemingly perfect Sobel may know how to train, but once he hits the battlefield, he’s an utter disaster who is unable to even properly read a map.

7. Simon Pegg

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Well, we said Band of Brothers was outfitted with a metric ton of British actors, and who gets more British than funnyman Simon Pegg? As 1st Sgt. William Evans, Pegg appears in the first pair of episodes, mainly as Sobel’s near-silent right-hand man. He does get off one memorable line, though it only stands out because Pegg’s American accent is so well done that it might make viewers wonder if that really is the actor (it is!).

8. Jimmy Fallon

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Another funnyman filled a small but recognizable role in the series: Jimmy Fallon literally drives in and out of one sequence as 2nd Lt. George C. Rice. As the 101st prepares to enter the icy forests of Bastogne (where the Battle of the Bulge will eventually take place) in the miniseries’ fifth episode, “Crossroads,” it begins to slowly dawn on them that they are woefully unprepared for what’s before them.

As the men begin to beg, barter, and all but steal supplies from outgoing troops (from winter apparel to artillery), a single officer zips his way toward them in an Army jeep. It’s Fallon! Or, well, Rice! And he’s got supplies to share! It would, of course, be a funny appearance, if not for the fact that their creeping realization that even Rice’s contributions won’t be enough to get them through a wrenching winter ends up being upsettingly true.

9. Colin Hanks

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Band of Brothers was produced by Tom Hanks, who also helped pen the episode “Currahee” and eventually directed “Crossroads,” so it’s not totally surprising that his son would show up in a role. Colin Hanks appears in just two episodes—tough ones, too—as 2nd Lt. Henry Jones, a recent West Point grad who joins Easy Company with an officer commission and zero experience. It’s unfortunate that Jones comes on board when he does, as his lack of battlefield know-how doesn’t endear him to the company, to the point that he feels the need to volunteer for a poorly-conceived mission in order to impress them.

The part was one of Hanks’ first big roles, though he had already started his run on TV’s Roswell a couple of years before, and his solid performance easily erases any possible cries of nepotism.

10. Dominic Cooper

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Despite the remarkable listing of talent in Band of Brothers, only one of our entries seems impossible to find within the actual series—Dominic Cooper, who apparently appears as someone named “Allington” in the show’s first episode. That episode, “Currahee,” does serve as a flashback entry, one that depicts the training of the 101st back in America, so it seems that Cooper was tasked with playing one of many troops that populate some of the more sweeping scenes. Perhaps he was even there when Fassbender made his big debut! In any case, Band of Brothers marks only Cooper’s fifth on-screen credit.

11. Donnie Wahlberg

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Like Lewis and Livingston, Wahlberg was a mainstay of Band of Brothers. As Sgt. C. Carwood Lipton, Wahlberg appears in all 10 episodes. Like his character, he was reliable, consistent, and strong—the men may adore Winters, but they also appreciate Lipton.

Though Wahlberg was already well on his way to a respected acting career by the time he signed up for the series—The Sixth Sense, in which he has a pivotal role, hit screens in 1999—Band of Brothers added some guns and gravitas to his resume. He went on to a bevy of television work, big film franchises (Saw!), and an eventual return to the New Kids on the Block.

Primary image courtesy of Top Ten TV.

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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
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Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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The Origins of All 30 NBA Team Names
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The Hornets were supposed to be the Spirit, while the Grizzlies were almost named the Mounties. Why is a team in Los Angeles nicknamed the Lakers, and what's a team called the Jazz doing in Utah? Here's the story behind the nicknames of all 30 teams.

Atlanta Hawks

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In 1948, the cities of Moline and Rock Island, IL, and Davenport, IA—collectively known as the Tri-Cities at the time—were awarded a team in the National Basketball League. The team was nicknamed the Blackhawks, who, like Chicago's hockey team, were named after the Sauk Indian Chief Black Hawk. When the team moved to Milwaukee in 1951, the nickname was shortened to Hawks. The franchise retained the shortened moniker for subsequent moves to St. Louis and finally Atlanta in 1968.

Boston Celtics

Celtics coach Brad Stevens

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Team owner Walter Brown personally chose Celtics over Whirlwinds, Olympians, and Unicorns (yes, Unicorns) as the nickname for Boston's Basketball Association of America team in 1946. Despite the warnings of one of his publicity staffers, who told Brown, "No team with an Irish name has ever won a damned thing in Boston," Brown liked the winning tradition of the nickname; the New York Celtics were a successful franchise during the 1920s.

Brooklyn Nets

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The New Jersey Americans joined the American Basketball Association in 1967 and moved to New York the following season. The team was renamed the New York Nets, which conveniently rhymed with Jets and Mets, two of the Big Apple's other professional franchises. Before the 1977-78 season, the team returned to New Jersey but kept its nickname. In 1994, the Nets were reportedly considering changing their nickname to the Swamp Dragons to boost its marketing efforts. The franchise relocated to Brooklyn in 2012.

Charlotte Hornets

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The three finalists in the name-the-team contest for Charlotte's 2004 expansion franchise were Bobcats, Dragons, and Flight. Owner Bob Johnson was fond of BOBcats, but some of the league's players were less than impressed. "It sounds like a girls' softball team to me," Steve Kerr told reporters at the time. "I guess it shows there aren't many good nicknames left to be had." Perhaps Kerr was right. Bobcats became the Charlotte Hornets in 2014, reuniting the city with its previous NBA franchise's original nickname.

Where did Hornets come from? In 1987, George Shinn and his ownership group announced that Spirit would be the nickname of Charlotte's prospective expansion franchise. Fans voiced their displeasure, and it didn't help that some fans associated the nickname with the PTL Club, a Charlotte-based evangelical Christian television program that was the subject of an investigative report by the Charlotte Observer for its fundraising activities. Shinn decided to sponsor a name-the-team contest and had fans vote on six finalists. More than 9000 ballots were cast and Hornets won by a landslide, beating out Knights, Cougars, Spirit, Crowns, and Stars. Afterwards, Shinn noted that the nickname had some historical significance; during the Revolutionary War, a British commander reportedly referred to the area around Charlotte as a "hornet’s nest of rebellion."

Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls
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According to the Chicago Bulls Encyclopedia, team owner Richard Klein was brainstorming nicknames for his new franchise in 1966 and wanted a name that portrayed Chicago's status as the meat capital of the world. Another theory is that Klein admired the strength and toughness of bulls. Klein was considering Matadors and Toreadors when his young son exclaimed, "Dad, that's a bunch of bull!" The rest is somewhat dubious history.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Lebron and Wade
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Fans voted Cavaliers the team nickname in 1970 in a poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The other finalists included Jays, Foresters, Towers, and Presidents. The Presidents nickname was presumably an allusion to the fact that seven former U.S. Presidents were born in Ohio, second only to Virginia. Jerry Tomko, who suggested Cavaliers in the contest, wrote, "Cavaliers represent a group of daring fearless men, whose life pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds." (Tomko's son, Brett, went on to become a Major League pitcher.)

Dallas Mavericks

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A Dallas radio station sponsored a name-the-team contest and recommended the finalists to team owner Donald Carter, who ultimately chose Mavericks over Wranglers and Express. The 41 fans who suggested Mavericks each won a pair of tickets to the season opener and one of those fans, Carla Springer, won a drawing for season tickets. Springer, a freelance writer, said the nickname "represents the independent, flamboyant style of the Dallas people." That's certainly an apt description for current team owner Mark Cuban.

Denver Nuggets

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Denver's ABA team was originally known as the Rockets. When the team was preparing to move to the NBA in 1974, they needed a new nickname, as Rockets was already claimed by the franchise in Houston. Nuggets, an allusion to the city's mining tradition and the Colorado Gold Rush during the late 1850s and early 1860s, was chosen via a name-the-team contest.

Detroit Pistons

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The Pistons trace their roots to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they were known as the Zollner Pistons. What's a Zollner Piston? A piston manufactured by then-team owner Fred Zollner, who named the club after his personal business. When the team moved to Detroit in 1957, Zollner dropped his name from the nickname but retained Pistons. The name was fitting for the Motor City.

Golden State Warriors

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The Philadelphia Warriors, named after the 1920s team that played in the American Basketball League, won the championship in the inaugural 1946-47 season of the Basketball Association of America. The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco after the 1961-62 season and retained their nickname. When the team relocated across the Bay to Oakland in 1971, they were renamed the Golden State Warriors.

Houston Rockets

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The Houston Rockets originally called San Diego home. Rockets was chosen via a name-the-team contest and was a reference to the city's theme, "A City In Motion." Liquid-fueled Atlas rockets were also being manufactured in San Diego. When the team moved to Houston in 1971, it made perfectly good sense to keep the name, as Houston was home to a NASA space center.

Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers
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According to Michael Leo Donovan's book on team nicknames, Yankees to Fighting Irish: What's Behind Your Favorite Team's Name, the Pacers' nickname was decided upon in 1967 by the team's original investors, including attorney Richard Tinkham. The nickname is a reference to Indiana's rich harness and auto racing history. Pacing describes one of the main gaits for harness racing, while pace cars are used for auto races, such as the Indianapolis 500.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers
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When the NBA's Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego in 1978, the owners wanted to rebrand the team with a new nickname. They settled on Clippers, a popular type of ship during the 19th century. San Diego had been home to the Conquistadors/Sails of the ABA during the 1970s. Donald Sterling bought the Clippers during the 1981-82 season and relocated them to his native Los Angeles in 1984. He lost all respect in San Diego but kept the Clippers name.

Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
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How many natural lakes are there in Los Angeles? The short answer: Less than 10,000. When a pair of investors relocated the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League to Minneapolis before the 1947 season, they sought a name that would ring true with the team's new home. Given that Minnesota is "The Land of 10,000 Lakes," they settled on Lakers. When the Lakers moved to Los Angeles before the 1960 season, their nickname was retained, in part because of the tradition the team had established in Minnesota.

Memphis Grizzlies

Marc Gasol
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When Vancouver was awarded an expansion franchise in 1994 to begin play the following season, the team's owners had tentative plans to name the team the Mounties. The Royal Mounted Canadian Police and fans alike objected, so team officials resumed their search for a name. The local newspaper sponsored a name-the-team contest, which club officials monitored before choosing Grizzlies, an indigenous species to the area, over Ravens. When the team relocated to Memphis before the 2001-02 season, FedEx was prepared to offer the Grizzlies $100 million to rename the team the Express, but the NBA rejected the proposal.

Miami Heat

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In October 1986, the owners of Miami's expansion franchise selected Stephanie Freed's Heat submission from more than 20,000 entries, which also included Sharks, Tornadoes, Beaches, and Barracudas.

Milwaukee Bucks

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Despite Wisconsin’s hunting tradition, the most popular entry in the contest to name Milwaukee’s NBA franchise wasn’t Bucks. It was Robins. The judges overruled the public and decided on a more indigenous (and much stronger) name. The choice could have been much worse: Skunks was among the other entries.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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The ownership group for Minnesota's prospective franchise chose Timberwolves through a name-the-team contest in 1986. The nickname beat out Polars by a 2-1 margin in the final vote, which was conducted in 333 of the state's 842 city councils. Tim Pope, who was one of the first fans to nominate Timberwolves, won a trip to the NBA All-Star Game. Pope submitted 10 nicknames in all, including Gun Flints. "I thought a two-word name would win," he told a reporter. The most popular entry in the contest was Blizzard, but the team wanted a nickname that was more unique to its home state. "Minnesota is the only state in the lower 48 with free-roaming packs of timber wolves," a team official said.

New Orleans Pelicans

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Soon after Tom Benson purchased the New Orleans Hornets in 2012, the team announced they were going to change their name. According to Yahoo's Marc J. Spears, they "considered the nicknames Krewe (groups of costumed paraders in the annual Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans) and Brass," but settled on Pelicans—after the brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird.

New York Knicks

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The term "Knickerbockers" referred specifically to pants rolled up just below the knee by Dutch settlers in the New World during the 1600s. Many of these settlers found homes in and around New York City, where a cartoon drawing of Father Knickerbocker became a prominent symbol of the city. In 1845, baseball's first organized team was nicknamed the Knickerbocker Nine and the name was evoked again in 1946 when New York was granted a franchise in the Basketball Association of America. Team founder Ned Irish reportedly made the decision to call the team the Knickerbockers—supposedly after pulling the name out of a hat.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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When the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season, fans voted on potential nicknames from an original list of 64 possibilities. Thunder was chosen over Renegades, Twisters, and Barons, and the name was extremely well received. The team set sales records for the first day after the nickname was revealed. "There's just all kinds of good thunder images and thoughts, and the in-game experience of Thunder," team chairman Clay Bennett told reporters. The SuperSonics had been named for the Supersonic Transport (SST) project, which had been awarded to Boeing. The company has a large plant in the Seattle area.

Orlando Magic

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When the Orlando Sentinel sponsored a name-the-team contest for Orlando's prospective expansion franchise, Challengers—an allusion to the space shuttle that crashed in 1986—was the most popular suggestion. Other entries included Floridians, Juice, Orbits, Astronauts, Aquamen, and Sentinels, but the panel of judges, including Orlando team officials who reviewed the suggestions, decided to go with Magic. The name is an obvious nod to the tourism-rich city's main attraction, Disney World.

Philadelphia 76ers

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The Syracuse Nationals were relocated to the City of Brotherly Love in 1963 and the team was renamed the 76ers, an allusion to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776.

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns
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General manager Jerry Colangelo, only 28 at the time, settled on a name for his expansion franchise using a name-the-team contest in 1968. Colangelo chose Suns over Scorpions, Rattlers, and Thunderbirds, among the other suggestions included in the 28,000 entries. One lucky fan won $1,000 and season tickets as part of the contest, which included such obscure entries as White Wing Doves, Sun Lovers, Poobahs, Dudes, and Cactus Giants.

Portland Trail Blazers

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In 1970, Portland was granted an expansion franchise in the NBA and team officials announced a name-the-team contest. Of the more than 10,000 entries, Pioneers was the most popular, but was ruled out because nearby Lewis & Clark College was already using the nickname. Another popular entry was Trail Blazers, whose logo is supposed to represent five players on one team playing against five players from another team.

Sacramento Kings

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The Kings' royal lineage stretches all the way back to the founding of the National Basketball League's Rochester Royals in 1945. The Royals retained their nickname after a move to Cincinnati in 1957 and became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings (soon dropping the Omaha) through a name-the-team contest in 1972. The name remained unchanged when the franchise relocated to California in 1985.

San Antonio Spurs

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A group of San Antonio investors purchased the Dallas Chaparrals from the American Basketball Association in 1973 and decided to hold a public contest to rename the team. Five thousand entries with over 500 names were submitted. After reconsidering their first decision to call the team the Aztecs (several teams already used that name), the judges (investors and local press representatives) settled on Spurs. It may have just been a coincidence that one of the team's main investors, Red McCombs, was born in Spur, Texas.

Toronto Raptors

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The ownership group of Toronto's prospective expansion team conducted extensive marketing research across Canada in 1994 and held a nationwide vote that helped team officials come up with a list of potential nicknames. Raptors, which Jurassic Park helped popularize the year before, was eventually chosen over runners-up Bobcats and Dragons.

Utah Jazz

Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
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No, Utah isn't known for its Jazz. The team originated in New Orleans in 1974 and club officials decided to keep the name after relocating to Salt Lake City in 1979. The Jazz nickname was originally chosen through a name-the-team contest, which produced seven other finalists: Dukes, Crescents, Pilots, Cajuns, Blues, Deltas, and Knights. Deltas would've translated to Salt Lake City rather well (the airline of the same name has a hub there), while Cajuns may have been even worse than Jazz.

Washington Wizards

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In the early 1990s, Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin was becoming frustrated with the association of his team's nickname and gun violence. After Pollin's friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated, Pollin decided to take action and announced his plans to rename the team. (Though Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Bog wrote a very detailed history of the name change, and called into question the impact Rabin's death had on the decision.)

A name-the-team contest was held and fans voted on a list of finalists that included Wizards, Dragons, Express, Stallions, and Sea Dogs. Not long after Wizards was announced as the winning name before the 1997-98 season, the local NAACP chapter president complained that the nickname carried Ku Klux Klan associations. Previous nicknames for the franchise when they were still in Chicago include Packers and Zephyrs.

This post was originally published in 2009.

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