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25 Things Turning 25 in 2017

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If you were born in 1992, you're in good company! Here's our annual list celebrating 25 things (people, companies, movies, books, etc.) turning 25 this year.


On February 14, Wayne's World graduated from Saturday Night Live sketch to feature film. No way?! Way!! Featuring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey and directed by Penelope Spheeris, it was a landmark comedy that both reflected and affected '90s pop culture. It single-handedly revived Queen's song "Bohemian Rhapsody," introduced the world to the intellectualism of Alice Cooper, and convinced teens that public-access TV was worthwhile after all. As a pair of wise men once said: "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"


On December 3, 1992, 22-year-old engineer Neil Papworth sent the first text message over a cellular network. He used a computer connected to the Vodafone GSM network to send the message to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis's Orbitel 901 mobile phone (which was gigantic, but technically "mobile" by 1992 standards). The message read: "Merry Christmas." Why the early Christmas greeting? Jarvis was at a Christmas party at the time.


To the immense frustration of adults and delight of toddlers, the purple dinosaur Barney appeared on PBS on April 6. Barney & Friends was initially envisioned four years earlier as a direct-to-video series called Barney & The Backyard Gang created by Sheryl Leach, a Dallas elementary school teacher who wanted to create toddler-appropriate programming for her kids. (She noted that most programming for kids assumed too long an attention span, which led to the simplistic bits featured on Barney.)

If you missed this moment in television history, let's catch you up. Barney is a giant purple Tyrannosaurus rex made of cloth, who likes to sing and dance. He is utterly non-threatening, essentially a scaled-up version of a plush dinosaur toy. When a People Magazine article called the lyrics to Barney's songs "stupid," an era of Barney-bashing began. Toddlers didn't care one bit, and clamored for Barney merchandise, as an actor in a six-foot tall Barney costume embarked on a mall tour in December.


On August 11, the Mall of America—the largest mall in the United States—opened in Bloomington, Minnesota. This was just one of many projects enacted by Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich, who created a World Trade Center in St. Paul, received a visit from Mikhail Gorbachev, and brought the Super Bowl to the Twin Cities in 1992.

The Mall of America was indeed the largest in the U.S., covering approximately 2.7 million square feet, though it was actually smaller than the Edmonton Mall in Canada. U.S. visitors didn't mind, as Minnesota's Mall contained, as the Los Angeles Times reported:

... the nation's largest indoor amusement park, the world's largest parking ramp, the world's largest indoor planting of live shrubs, the world's largest indoor miniature golf course, and arguably the world's largest concentration of Tivoli lights.

Asked about the Mall, humorist Garrison Keillor joked:

"Minnesota is where the shopping mall was invented, so it's natural that the biggest one should be there ... but some people disappear in them and never come out, thousands in Minnesota alone, and the Mall of America is going to triple the toll.

... Fifteen thousand shoppers will vanish in the next year, never to bring their purchases home, and the terrible tragedy is that they will not be particularly missed. Their families will simply order duplicate credit cards and go on without them."

The Mall eventually included 400 stores, 14 movie theaters, seven restaurants, five nightclubs, and 31,000 live trees and shrubs.


On October 1, the first 24-hour channel devoted to cartoons debuted, courtesy of the Turner Broadcasting System. The channel was based in part on TBS's purchase of Hanna-Barbera and its back catalog, which contained roughly 1500 hours of animated content spread across 350 TV series and movies.

Jeffry Scott of the Cox News Service reported:

In a private ceremony Thursday, [Ted] Turner himself will launch the channel with a push of an Acme dynamite plunger on the front lawn of Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s facility on Techwood Drive [in Atlanta].

The plunger will spark a fuse, which will explode a barrel of colored chicken feathers and confetti. Then, on a huge TV screen will pop the picture: a cartoon character named Droopy Dog introducing the world to Turner’s new "cartoon universe."


On May 5, the landmark game Wolfenstein 3D brought stunning first-person shooter graphics to DOS PCs. Developed by id Software, the game had a WWII theme, and you played as Allied spy B.J. Blazkowicz on a series of anti-Nazi missions. It was violent, it was technologically advanced, and it was a massive hit.

Considered the "grandfather of 3D shooters," Wolfenstein 3D was followed up quickly by Doom, which led to an explosion of first-person shooter games. Wolfenstein 3D was also hugely influential in proving the viability of shareware publishing, as the best-selling shareware of 1992.

You can play Wolfenstein 3D online for free using most modern desktop browsers.


From July 25 to August 9, the 1992 Summer Olympic Games were held in Barcelona. They're best known—to American audiences, anyway—for the performance of the U.S. men's basketball team, which was the first to include current NBA players. We called it the "Dream Team."

The Dream Team featured an all-star lineup of 11 NBA players: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin. There was also a twelfth member, college player Christian Laettner (who would go on to the NBA). Their goal was to bring home a Gold Medal, and they crushed it.

They won all eight of their Barcelona games, with an average lead of 44 points. Interestingly, although the Dream Team did a great job, the 1956 U.S. team exceeded their performance, with an average of +56 points per game. Still, the Dream Team is often considered the best team ever assembled in any sport.


Dr. Dre released his first solo album on December 15. It was a masterpiece of hip-hop production, and it was Dre's first appearance outside of N.W.A. The Chronic included tons of appearances by Snoop Dogg, kickstarting his career.

1992 was a huge year for ex-N.W.A. members releasing solo albums. In that same year, Ice Cube released The Predator, Eazy-E released 5150: Home 4 tha Sick, and MC Ren released Kizz My Black Azz. (D.O.C. was also involved with The Chronic.)


The USDA released its first Food Guide Pyramid in 1992. This guide was just the latest in a long series of food guidance offered by the USDA [PDF], but it was the first to take a pyramid shape. (The USDA based its design initially on Sweden's food pyramid, though the contents differed.)

Based on a broad platform of "Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta," the guide's visual design was informed by consumer research [PDF], which compared (among other things) a "bowl" shape divided into segments versus the pyramid design. The research read, in part:

... the differences between the pyramid and the bowl in communicating the proportionality and moderation concepts were large and highly significant (p<.001). Higher scores for the pyramid were consistent across all the subpopulations examined, including those for whom concern was greatest—children and individuals on food assistance programs.

In 2005, the USDA switched to what it called "MyPyramid," and in 2011 ditched the whole pyramid thing in favor of "MyPlate." The Food Pyramid's guidance remains controversial.


On April 12, Euro Disney opened in Paris. French citizens weren't too enthused, seeing it as an invasion of American commercialism. (Disney CEO Michael Eisner was hit with eggs and presented with "Mickey, Go Home!" protest signs when he appeared at the Paris stock exchange.) Americans weren't particularly keen either, already having world-class Disney parks at home. Visitors couldn't even drink wine in the park when it first opened. French commentators called it a "cultural Chernobyl."

The park was eventually renamed Disneyland Paris, and became the most-visited tourist attraction in Europe. In 2015 it attracted more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower combined. Unfortunately, this visitor traffic has not led to profit, and the park has faced financial troubles over the decades.


Super Mario Kart started the Mario Kart racing game franchise on August 27, when it debuted in Japan. (It was released on September 1 in the U.S.) It boasted a multiplayer split-screen mode as well as excellent graphics (at least for a Super Nintendo game). Super Mario Kart went on to sell more than eight million cartridges and spawned many sequels.


IBM debuted its first ThinkPad laptop on October 5, 1992. Its name was inspired by an old line of IBM paper notepads that bore the slogan "Think." Although IBM introduced three sleek black ThinkPad models, the ThinkPad 700c was the star. It featured a 10.4-inch color screen, integrated TrackPoint pointing device (that little red nubbin in the middle of the keyboard), and a beefy 486 CPU. It was truly a powerful computer for its era, and at just 7.6 pounds, it was considered very portable. Of course, its $4350 price tag was a problem, but there were cheaper options (with monochrome displays) in the lineup.

Today the ThinkPad is manufactured by Lenovo, but its design and build quality are still reminiscent of that original 700C—minus most of the weight.


In 1982, researchers began working on a computer file format that would store photographic data. The goal was to compress images so that photographs would be small, making them easy to download over low-bandwidth connections, and easy to store on small storage devices. The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) formed in 1986 to develop the compression standard.

On September 18, the first JPEG standard was published, and the rest is computer history. The JPEG's ability to handle photographs (and other kinds of detailed imagery) while tossing out extraneous data makes it similar to the MP3 format for sound. Throughout the 1990s, JPEG joined file formats like GIF as the basis for web pages, and you're still looking at JPEGs on this website today!


In 1992, the first prescription nicotine patch reached the market—four years later, it became available over-the-counter. The patch was developed by Dr. Murray E. Jarvik, a UCLA pharmacologist (and nonsmoker) who figured that delivering nicotine to smokers via a skin patch could curb their cravings, helping them to quit smoking.

Jarvik had a long history working with nicotine; in the 1960s he taught monkeys to smoke cigarettes and established that nicotine was the addictive ingredient. That discovery led to nicotine gum and eventually the transdermal patch.


Starting on April 13, pre-addressed ballots appeared at post offices around the U.S. They allowed the public to vote on two proposed designs for a stamp bearing the image of Elvis Presley. The key question: Should we show young Elvis or old Elvis? (Ahem, "mature" Elvis, with sequined white jumpsuit.) People Magazine ran a full-page ad asking the public to "Decide which Elvis is King." The vote ended on April 24, so there was a frenzy to acquire these ballots and make votes in the minimal time they were available.

The vote was a matter of public debate, with designs created by artists Mark Stutzman and John Berkey. (These were the finalists after eight artists submitted 60 sketches to the U.S. Postal Service.) More than 1.2 million ballots were cast, with roughly 75 percent of them selecting Stutzman's "young Elvis" painting.

The Elvis stamp itself was released on January 8, 1993—on what would have been Elvis's 58th birthday.


The Muppet Christmas Carol sleighed into theaters on December 11, 1992. An adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic, the film starred Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, along with the classic Muppet characters. (Kermit played Bob Cratchit and Gonzo played Charles Dickens himself, as the narrator.) It was the first Muppet movie made without Jim Henson.

The film was directed by Brian Henson, Jim's son. Jim had died on May 16, 1990, so Kermit was played by Steve Whitmire. Longtime Muppet puppeteer Richard Hunt died on January 7, 1992 before production began, and his characters (including Statler, Beaker, and Janice) were handled by other performers. The film was dedicated to the memory of the two men.


Freddie Mercury died on November 24, 1991, aged 45. He was the first rock star to die from AIDS complications, and the remaining members of the band Queen organized a concert to promote AIDS awareness.

The tribute concert was held at London's Wembley Stadium on April 20, 1992. It featured a star-studded lineup including David Bowie, George Michael, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Metallica, Annie Lennox, Guns N' Roses, Seal, and U2. It was broadcast live to an international TV audience.

If you haven't seen the concert, head over to YouTube. It's fantastic. (The entire three-hour concert is also available for rent on various online services.)


"November Rain" is one of Guns N' Roses's longest songs, clocking in just shy of nine minutes. A lot of that is extended guitar solos and orchestral segments. To go with the song, the band put together an epic music video which, somehow, has more than 700 million views on YouTube.

Directed by Andy Morahan (who also directed such masterpieces as George Michael's "Faith"), the video featured model Stephanie Seymour—then Axl Rose's girlfriend—as his wife. The video cost more than $1.5 million to make (at the time, the highest-budget music video ever). A big chunk of that budget was devoted to building a chapel in the desert so Slash could wail in front of it while a helicopter zoomed by.

The video is famously complex, so much so that in 2014 Slash admitted that he had "no idea" what it meant. He commented, in part, "I knew there was a wedding in there somewhere and I was not into the concept of the wedding."


On November 25, The Bodyguard—starring Kevin Costner as the titular bodyguard and Whitney Houston as the pop star he's protecting—graced theaters. It was Houston's first film role, and it was a massive box office hit.

But more important than the movie was its soundtrack: Houston's iconic cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" was the standout hit, and the soundtrack was a blockbuster, currently ranked the 16th bestselling record of all time, and it is the number one bestselling soundtrack.

At one point in 1993, the soundtrack held five simultaneous number one positions on the Billboard charts. Now that's a hit record.


On May 22, 1992, Johnny Carson finished his run as host of The Tonight Show on NBC. On May 25, Jay Leno became the new host, and Billy Crystal was his first guest. Branford Marsalis led The Tonight Show band, and Ed Hall was the new announcer. After Billy Crystal on that first episode, the guests were performer Shanice Wilson and Robert Krulwich (later co-host of Radiolab).

Leno was the fourth host of the show. Steve Allen was first, followed by Jack Paar, then Johnny Carson's incredible three-decade run. Leno hosted from 1992-2014 (with a brief interruption where Conan O'Brien had the gig from 2009-2010). After Leno's retirement in 2014, Jimmy Fallon took the hosting job and remains there today.


In a surprising turn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens costars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were both born in 1992. The Force is strong with this year. Here's a rundown of some famous birth dates:

Taylor Lautner - February 11

John Boyega - March 17

Daisy Ridley - April 10

Kate Upton - June 10

Selena Gomez - July 22

Demi Lovato - August 20

Nick Jonas - September 16

Miley Cyrus - November 23


In 1992, lawyers Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck founded The Innocence Project. The organization's mission is to exonerate wrongfully convicted (innocent) people and reform the criminal justice system that convicted them in the first place. One of their key tools is DNA analysis, which sometimes was not available at the time of conviction.

To date, The Innocence Project has been involved with hundreds of exonerations, including cases in which they have helped find the actual perpetrator.


1992 was an incredible year for alternative and hip-hop bands. Here's a partial list of bands formed that year:

Blink-182 (initially as "Blink")

Built to Spill


Collective Soul

Digable Planets


Tha Dogg Pound

Hanson (initially as "The Hanson Brothers")

Harvey Danger


Less Than Jake

Nada Surf

Porno for Pyros

Seven Mary Three


Soul Coughing

Sunny Day Real Estate


Wu-Tang Clan


In 1992, brothers Dane and Travis Boersma opened the first Dutch Bros. Coffee location in Grants Pass, Oregon. The brothers were of Dutch descent, hence the company's name. They were former dairy farmers, trying their hand at a new business. They proceeded immediately on their mission of "Roastin' and Rockin'," then proceeded to spread across the country to more than 260 locations that continue "spreading the Dutch Luv" [sic].


On February 1, U.S. President George H.W. Bush met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin at Camp David. The two issued a join declaration formally ending the Cold War, and declaring a new era of "friendship and partnership" between the two nations.

At the announcement, Yeltsin said, in part:

"Today one might say that there has been written and drawn a new line, and crossed out all of the things that have been associated with the Cold War.

From now on we do not consider ourselves to be potential enemies, as it had been previously in our military doctrine. This is the historic value of this meeting. And another very important factor in our relationship, right away today, it's already been pointed out that in the future there'll be full frankness, full openness, full honesty in our relationship."

The Joint Declaration promised all sorts of great stuff, including reducing strategic arsenals, promoting free trade, and promoting "respect for human rights." You can read the whole declaration for a taste of what the future looked like in 1992.

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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.


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.


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."


Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

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.


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.


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."


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.


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."


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!"


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.


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.”


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.


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,, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.


Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into, 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.


“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.”


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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