Grantland.com's Zach Lowe
Lowe: 'Trail Blazers' Is The Best Team Name In The NBA
pays a lot of attention to basketball. And not just the game itself, but everything associated with the game. When not detailing the various intricacies of a particular teams' offensive or defensive scheme, he's acting as one of the NBA's foremost authorities when it comes to mascots, particularly their inflatable versions
So it makes sense that Lowe would rank the team names of all 30 NBA franchises today over at Grantland.com. Lowe's rankings for the bottom half of the NBA
released this morning, with the Trail Blazers no where to be found, which should come as no surprise seeing as how "Trail Blazers" has long been regarded as one of the finest names in the NBA.
But according to Lowe, "Trail Blazers" isn't just one of the best team names in the NBA, it's THE best team name in the NBA
. "Trail Blazers" beat out the likes of the Celtics, 76ers, Pistons and Knicks, all great names in their own respects, to take the top spot in Lowe's rankings.
Lowe begins by noting that "Pioneers" was the name that won the most votes from fans when the team was initially being named, but since it was already taken by Lewis & Clark College, the team went with the next highest vote-getter ...
The name serves as a historical callback in the fashion of "Pioneers," but it's unique within the major sports landscape, it's fun to say, it carries an easy shorthand in "Blazers," and it recalls basketball and sports more readily than "Pioneers."
"Blazers" implies speed, perfect for a fast sport, and the full name pegs the franchise as one seeking both stylistic originality on the court and a trailblazing impact (along with the Seattle SuperSonics, founded three years earlier) in spreading NBA hoops to a new region. The 1977 title team famously played with a progressive unselfishness, using big man Bill Walton as its passing fulcrum, and the use of a "Knickerbocker"-style collective term works especially well for this franchise. The Blazers were long the only major pro sport in town, and there is a unique closeness here among fans, players, and team.
The Trail Blazers name also inspired the team's pinwheel logo, one of the rare abstract logos in all of sports. The red and white stripes (five of each) blazing in opposite directions, but coming together at the center, are meant to represent the blur of two opposing basketball teams working against each other while moving back and forth across center court. That's beautiful.
The full name is a bit of a mouthful, and the team's choice of mascot — Blaze the Trail Cat — is a clunky fit. But everything else is poetic. Portland wins.
Extra respect to Lowe for for singing the praises of the woefully undervalued pinwheel, which, as Lowe accurately describes, is one of the few logos that isn't simply a graphical rendering of the team name. The fact that it was designed by one of Harry Glickman's cousins only adds to the mystic. Now if they'd just return the pinwheel to it's vertical orientation ...