Name changes seem to be all the rage these days in the NBA. The Pelicans just began their switch from the Hornets name, the team's first complete rebranding since moving from Charlotte. And speaking of Charlotte, in response to New Orleans vacating the Hornets moniker, the Bobcats will abandon their current name in favor of returning the Hornets back to the land from which it originated. In the most recent news, Toronto Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke revealed that the team may make the dinosaur extinct once more. That's right, the Raptors might be the third NBA team in three years to completely rebrand their organization.
I get why they'd consider it, too. The name was a reflexive grab for buzz in the year following the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. Plus, there's no evidence raptors (velociraptors or otherwise) even lived in the country. Velociraptor fossils have been found in Mongolia and surrounding areas. Further, the Toronto Raptor is nowhere near what a velociraptor looks like. Paleontologists have since discovered that the raptor likely had feathers, more like a lithe, flightless bird than the traditional Tyrannosaurus Rex-looking dino we see today in Toronto's logo or dancing on the court during timeouts.
But so what! Lakers aren't native to Los Angeles. Jazz isn't native to Utah. Cavaliers didn't discover Cleveland. Yet somehow fans of those teams don't seem to mind. Phoenix's mascot doesn't look anything like a sun, because it's a gorilla! Did you know hornets aren't really teal and purple? Do mascots need to perfectly represent a team name? Hardly. I sure don't need anatomically correct animal costumes, either.
As for the Jurassic Park ties, can people seriously not get past that? I feel really bad for people who see an anthropomorphic dinosaur dunking or eating people and thinking, "Jeez, this would be cool but Jurassic Park is a popular film series." I've read that "Raptors" is an outdated name. I'm not sure how a dinosaur genus title can be outdated.
Besides, dinosaurs are awesome. In a recent double-blind study performed at Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge and Oxford, extensive research proved the theory that dinosaurs are super cool. "Just look at this crazy thing," said Sir Jimothy Flangeller, Oxford's dean of the Bloody Rad Studies department. "I bet this dinosaur could haul ass through some trees, stomp a smaller dinosaur without blinking and then fight another wicked ancient monster. Holy crap, it's so cool to think these things once might have walked on the same land we stand on right now."
Shoot, dinosaurs are so cool, I say we should change the other 29 franchises to dinosaurs or some other type of creature. There's so many types that even when constrained to one country, each city can have their own cool prehistoric dinosaur or other critter without much overlap. And I know how much people love having their team name have local ties so each dinosaur or prehistoric animal has either had fossils found in that particular state or nearby.
Also, I made pictures for each dinosaur/creature in Microsoft Paint by myself. And I made them in various states of sobriety (or lack thereof). So be nice, folks.
Without further ado, let's begin.
The team formerly known as the "Celtics" is one of the NBA's oldest franchises, which is fitting because the Podokesaurus is one of the earliest dinosaurs to live in the eastern United States. The name is derived from Greek, meaning "swift-footed lizard." Sounds like a perfect match for a Rajon Rondo team.
The Coelophysis was another one of the earliest-known dinosaurs. It was a small, carnivorous creature that stood on two feet and had a long narrow head. It had large eyes that faced forward for good depth perception. Its name means "hollow form" because the Coelophysis' limbs had hollow bones. Is this where I put a Brook Lopez joke?
Knicks Sea Scorpions
The creature known scientifically as the Eurypterus Remipes is more commonly known as the sea scorpion. It crawled upon the bottom of the ocean that once covered New York so many millions of years ago. It was the largest arthropod that ever lived, preying upon trilobites and cephalopods.
Named for being discovered on land owned by FedEx near the Pittsburgh International Airport, the Fedexia looked similar to a salamander and is estimated to have been about two feet long. Plus, Wikipedia's picture for it shows the Fedexia in red and blue, which means there's a good chance the extinct lizard has been in 76ers colors more recently than Andrew Bynum.
Fair is fair, so since I'm changing every team's name to a local(ish) dinosaur or prehistoric animal, I'll make Toronto's somewhat local too. Since Toronto effectively represents all of Canada as its only NBA team, I'll choose the Gorgosaurus, which has been found in Alberta and already closely resembles their current mascot. Boom, that was easy.
Bulls Tully Monsters
The Midwest teams are tough. For a long time the region was submerged under water and a lot of cool dinosaurs don't really swim well, especially the ones with short arms and big teeth. However, this underwater location did suit the Tully Monster, or Tullimonstrum gregarium, pretty well. Unfortunately for those hoping for some terrifying monster, the Tully Monster isn't some fearsome predator that scared the scat out of ancient beasts. The largest discovered fossil was an estimated 14 inches long (35 centimeters) and it was a soft-bellied invertebrate. However, it did have eight sharp teeth! But the teeth were small. Regardless, the common name Tully Monster should more than make up for the actual creature's lack of inspiring terror. If someone can turn a pelican into a threatening logo, I'm sure someone can do it for a Tully Monster.
By far the most appropriately named creature for a basketball team, the Dunkleosteus is also displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It was a strong swimmer and a strong biter with a mouth that resembles a beak. A study said "it could bite a shark in two" and rivaled the Tyrannosaurus Rex's biting power. Its nickname is "the Dunk," to boot. Heck, this one writes itself.
I ain't gonna lie. Physeters still exist today. You might know them as sperm whales. Well, their ancestors were swimming around Michigan back when Michigan was part of the ocean floor. As sperm whales traditionally love warmer waters, scientists have theorized that some whales migrated during the Ice Age then got stuck in shallow rivers and died. Look, Detroit. I'm sorry y'all got a whale but whales are enormous, which is pretty neat, and heck, I couldn't let y'all get stuck with a freaking trilobite.
Mastodons are often confused with our next team's mascot, the Woolly Mammoths, but the American mastodon's tusks didn't curve up as much and were much shorter.
Bucks Woolly Mammoths
The Woolly Mammoth is famous for its adaptation to weather, cohabitation with early humans and fossil discoveries in North America. As I mentioned above, they are pretty similar to mastodons. Sorry for the close similarity but at least this will make for a great rivalry!
This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Technically it's considered a whale because of its inner ear bones, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a gentle creature. Its banana-shaped teeth say otherwise. Imagine a more streamlined alligator with longer limbs and larger webbed feet. Yeah, you better believe that's one scary SHUT YO MOUTH.
Bobcats/ Hornets Postosuchus
At 16 feet long, the Postosuchus could either have run on four or two legs, scientists think. The predator resembles a quadruped Tyrannosaurus with longer front arms (though still not as long as the hind legs). It had large sharp teeth, a spiky back and a long tail. Bobcats? MEH. Hornets? MEH. Four-legged T-Rex? HECK YES.
These lion-sized feline-like prehistoric animals existed for about 8.3 million years. Juwan Howard had a couple of them as pets when he was in high school. They had short, powerful legs and a short bobcat-like tail to go with their strange head. Barbourofelises had two monstrous fangs that protruded well beyond their jawline. With such power, speed and bite, I can't help but think of LeBron James. Now, we just need historians to find out how clutch bardbourofelises were so Skip Bayless can ignore it and make his own argument.
A) Otoduses are sharks and Florida has lots of beaches; B) Alliteration is such a bonus; C) What, sharks aren't cool enough for you? Watch Jaws again and report back to me.
I just really like the idea of a person in a sauropod mascot costume with the head and neck extending many feet into the air and a really long tail tripping kids around the arena concourse. It's also Maryland's state dinosaur.
Warriors Giant Short-Faced Bears
Oh, are you laughing at the name? Well, this bear was normally about 2,000 pounds, could grow to 13 feet tall and could run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. Besides, why would you laugh at a bear? What did the Giant Short-Faced Bear ever do to you? It was just minding its own business until they went extinct about 11,000 years ago. Gee, good going laughing at a bunch of dead bears, you jerk.
Did you know this season was the first 50-win season for the Clippers? Ever! The Charlotte Hornets reached that in their seventh year of existence. That team's been miserable for so long that Clippers fans must have grown armor on their backs, like the nodosaur. Unfortunately, the nodosaur didn't have the benefit of a club on their tails. Perhaps that will come soon with some deeper playoff runs, Clippers fans.
Often called the saber-toothed tiger, smilodons are actually machirodonts and not tigers. Regardless, the smilodon was a terrifying enormous predator that weighed in around 500 pounds. And how would it attack? "Smilodon would leap on its prey suddenly from the high branches of trees, digging its huge incisors into the unfortunate animal's neck and then withdrawing to a safe distance while its dinner bled to death." Opportunist and often victorious, huh? Yeah, that's the Lakers.
What, y'all expected that bum dinosaur you saw in Jurassic Park? Well, hate to break it to you, Punky Brewster, but their depiction of the Dilophosaurus was far from accurate, and also there's no theme park full of living, breathing dinosaurs in real life. But the Dilophosaurus was vicious and had two crests on its head. And now I just realized Chris Andersen should change his hairstyle to two Mohawks to look like a Dilophosaurus.
Kings Dire Wolves
Like other ancient animals and dinosaurs, remnants of the long-gone dire wolf have been discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in California. Though slightly larger than the modern grey wolf, the dire wolf had a broader noggin and more stout legs. More importantly, it also had much larger teeth. Sorry, Minnesota. Maybe if your state had a big tar pit full of old bones like California, you'd get to keep a similar name to what you have now.
There has been much heated debate over whether the torosaurus is indeed a separate species from the much more famous triceratops. I'm firmly on #TeamTorosaurus. The species had the similar skull shape, though it was much longer, had frilled edges and had large holes in the bone. The 30-foot long beast is thought to have weighed about 6.6 tons and could probably lead a fast break as well as Chris Kaman.
Everything's bigger in Texas, as the saying goes, and the second Texas team's mascot isn't a small fry, either. It's even got ‘mega' in its name! The name is a combination of Greek words that means "great beast." So what was it? Well, it was a giant sloth. The megatherium often walked on all four legs but could rise upon its two feet, which must have been an impressive sight as it has been measured at 20 feet in length. And if you think this mostly herbivorous colossus isn't that threatening, experts think the megatherium might have taken over kills executed by smilodons (saber-toothed tigers) with sheer brute force.
Hadrosaurs weren't big on physical attacks, which makes this probably one of the worst matches for a Zach Randolph team. However, they were very aware creatures with keen senses of sight and smell. Hadrosaurs had thick tails, which helped them balance, that extended their total length up to 40 feet. Perceptive, bulky, balanced, quick bipeds? There we go, that sounds much more like the Grizzlies.
Basilosaurus means "king lizard" in Greek, which is rather unflattering and blatantly false. It's actually not a lizard at all, but a whale, rather. Regardless, a new name never caught on and the wrong one stuck, which reminds me a lot of the name situation the franchise had until it settled on becoming the "Pelicans," come to think of it.
As you may have noticed, sometimes the city and prehistoric animal/dinosaur match up perfectly. San Antonio and the Alamosaurus were destined to be together, even if it wasn't named after the Alamo. It's even more perfect because the 60-foot-long herbivore continues in line with the "bigger in Texas" thing.
I know a lot of these dinosaurs have been very obscure, but you probably have heard of the Stegosaurus. Four legs, small head, huge plates running down its spine and spikes on its tail. You don't want to mess with this thing. However, the Stegosaurus' brain was about the size of a walnut, so it might have been more JaVale McGee than Andre Iguodala.
I know Minnesota's probably pretty bummed it didn't get to stay in the wolf family, but the Brontotherium (also known as the Megacerops) isn't a bad consolation prize, OK? It was kind of like a deformed rhinoceros, with two blunt horns on its nose. I'd still put my money on Nikola Pekovic in a fight.
Sure, Russell Westbrook is injured now, but he'll be back someday before you know it. And Kevin Durant is still a daggone dynamo. And now they get one of the most fearsome carnivorous dinosaurs to represent their team. In return for this, David Stern will make them take on another year of Kendrick Perkins.
Trail Blazers Plesiosaurs
There have been plenty of plesiosaur fossil fragments discovered in Oregon, though not yet a full one. Whatever. Someone must lay claim to the sea reptiles with necks that stretch longer than Pippen's arms, to borrow a line from Jay-Z. Such length! Such size and with a low center of gravity! Clearly an NBA body if I've seen one. Just think of the potential! /Wizards draft a plesiosaur third overall
Now that Toronto is the Gorgosauruses, Raptors has been vacated, which is PERFECT for Utah. Though no velociraptors have ever been discovered in North America, Utah has been home to the discovery of the largest raptor, which was about 23 feet long and 1,500 pounds with huge claws on its feet. Its name? Of course it's the Utahraptor! I love how the universe solves itself sometimes.