NBA Team Mascots: Bracket Challenge

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In 2016, the NBA hardwood was graced with the presence of Chuck The Condor. The new mascot for the Los Angeles Clippers floated down on court in Converse Chucks (of course) with tiny wings (on his arms?) and a helmet (safety first). This occasion marked the 26th official mascot joining the NBA ranks and left only four teams without an entertainment figurehead on gameday. Although since 2005 a ‘Mascot Of The Year’ has been announced (more on that later), one question has remained on millions of fans lips (not really); Who is the WORLD CHAMPION of mascots in the NBA?


Make no mistake, I very much intend on finding out who the best current mascot is but first I’d like to address the lack of mascots in New York City, Laker Nation and further up the California coast in Oakland. As of right now the Knicks, Nets, Lakers and Warriors are without a mascot, which is just depressing and needs changing. Below are my suggestions to rectify this sad state of affairs.

BROOKLYN NETS – “NJ” The Swamp Dragon

The Brooklyn Nets aren’t too far away from saying goodbye to their Knight (RIP Knight, RIP Grantland, thank you Zach Lowe), who was more Power Ranger than the fun loving goofy mascot all NBA teams should have. One could argue it was one of very few branding mistakes the Nets made when moving to Brooklyn. I am going to lean pretty heavily on Zach Lowe (again) for this suggestion and revisit his awesome article on the Dragon that never happened. It may be far too late to revive the VERY 90’s re-branding but is it too late to still have the Dragon? There are plenty of NBA mascots that aren’t reflective of their names and a dragon may be the best “Net” replacement you can get. Why not go all the way and celebrate the franchise’s past and create “NJ” The Swamp Dragon, which makes the once possibility a reality and tips the cap to the New Jersey days.

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GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – “Oak” The Rainbow Warrior

Firstly I have to pay tribute and pour a little out for the old Warriors mascot, “Thunder”, who died when OKC decided to steal his name. Now that’s out of the way, I need you to pay attention cause this might get a little wild. The “Warriors” is a perfectly fine name to create a mascot, so we don’t need to think too outside the box here. Golden State are moving to San Francisco from Oakland by 2019 and will be in need of some extra marketing when this occurs. San Fran is also likely the LGBT capital of America. Another “Warriors” team that comes to mind is the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, who are sponsored by Under Armour. Under Armour also sponsors GSW’s franchise player (and soon to be free agent) Stephen Curry. So how have I added one and one and one and come up with five? I present to you; “Oak” (shouts back to Oakland) the Rainbow Warrior. Now the “Rainbow” in Hawaii has an entirely different meaning but it feels like a neat community idea for San Fran. It’s probably not even allowed for “Oak” to be sponsored by Under Armour but if it is and it somehow helps with Curry, bonus! An “Ultimate Warrior” looking mascot patrolling the sidelines would be super-cool!

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LOS ANGELES LAKERS – “Woody” The Sabertooth

How does a team with a nickname referring to a body of water that was inherited and isn’t even known for said bodies of water, create a mascot? Well…did you know the state symbol of California is a GRIZZLY BEAR?! Oh, not going to work is it? But…did you also know the state fossil is the Saber-Toothed Tiger?! Why you ask? Turns out the largest collections of Smilodon fossils were found in none other than Los Angeles, California. A Saber-Tooth Tiger is a pretty cool mascot right? I think so but it needs a name too. I’m not a fan of much related to Laker-Land but I do like the “Hollywood Nights” theme they occasionally run with. That’s where “Woody” comes in and I refuse to be told that a giant yellow tiger wearing the black-out getup wouldn’t look UBER cool.

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NEW YORK KNICKS – “Bocker” The Bluebird

When your team originates from a name such as the “Knickerbockers”, it is hardly a surprise as to why you go mascot-less. But as has been outlined above and is common place in today’s NBA, mascots are no longer intrinsically attached to the name of a team. But where do you start in coming up with a mascot that still makes sense? Well, the Eastern Bluebird is the State bird of New York and just so happens to be blue and orange in colour. Bingo! It may not be the scariest or coolest animal to start with but birds are SO in vogue (Hi, Chuck!) right now. “Bocker” would add to the weirdness of this idea but brings a more official capacity to the slowly fading out of reference to the old-time name of this historic franchise. Knicks fans, if you don’t like this…how about we just go all-in on the Porzingis hype train and create a 7 foot plus Unicorn with blonde hair and wirey frame?

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Now onto the serious business of the bracket and assessing what each conference has to offer from top to bottom. There are 13 seeds in each conference to account for the 4 missing above and the top 3 get first round passes. Each mascot has had their legacy, longevity and Lopez Beefery assessed (according to my opinion) to at least begin their bracket journey in the appropriate position. From here we vote, one matchup at a time (via Facebook & Twitter) until only 1 mascot remains. The last man (or woman?) in a suit standing becomes the winner of #TFPPMascotBracket and crowned the  WORLD CHAMPION  best mascot in the NBA.


The East:

#1 “Benny” The Bull – Chicago Bulls6x3xjdkpnehqy
@bennythebull
Debut: 1969 (Current Version 2004)
Mascot Of The Year: ’15
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: “Benny” has had a recent change inside the suit with longtime inhabitor Barry Anderson calling it a day. The legend still lives on though and the popcorn throwing antics aren’t going anywhere.

#2 “Stuff” The Magic Dragon – Orlando Magichvrtxq8swlbbe
@STUFFMagic
Debut: 1989
Mascot Of The Year: ’16
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fan Fact: “Stuff” was created by the same people who came up with the Philly Phanatic, which is hardly a surprise with his appearance and party blowers that appear out of his nose.

#3 “Harry” The Hawk – Atlanta Hawksscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-7-48-51-pm
@ATLHarryTheHawk
Debut: 1986
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: Atlanta rolled with two mascots side by side up until recently, where “Skyhawk” doubled as the high flying sexier option. I can’t stand the secondary NBA options and perhaps he was retired after incidents like this.

#4 “Bango” The Buck – Milwaukee Bucksscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-7-49-56-pm
@BucksBango
Debut: 1977
Mascot Of The Year: ’10
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: The Bucks mascot has been around since ’77 but has thankfully come a long way in that time. Various changes over the years have had the mascot looking a little odd but “Bango” now thankfully looks a better product.

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#5 “Hugo” The Hornet – Charlotte Hornet
@HugoTheHornet
Debut: 1988
Mascot Of The Year: ’07
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: “Hugo” was the original CHA mascot and returned when the Bobcats changed back to the Hornets name. He nearly had a name change after Hurricane Hugo devastated areas surrounding where the team is located in 1989.

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#6 The Raptor – Toronto Raptor
@the_raptor
Debut: 1995
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: In 2013, the “Raptor” suffered a real life injury whilst attempting a backflip. Rather than just replace the man in the suit, Toronto inserted an entirely new mascot called “Stripes” to fill in while the original mascot recovered.

#7 MoonDog – Cleveland Cavaliersplay_g_cavsmascot_576
@CavsMoonDog
Debut: 2003
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: Current Warrior, David West, punched Moondog in the face back in 2012 as a Pacer. The blow caused the man inside to go to hospital with facial injuries. Moondog also has an offsider, Sir CC, which goes against my stance on 2 mascots.

#8  “Boomer” – Indiana Pacersscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-7-54-29-pm
@PacersBoomer
Debut: 1991
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: In 2010, Indiana did the right thing and ended the career of Bowser who worked in tandem with Boomer. The duo was broken up when Bowser was retired after 8 years in the business. The mascot business is only big enough for 1!

#9 “Hooper” – Detroit Pistonsscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-7-53-04-pm
@PistonsHooper
Debut: 1996
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: Hooper came about during the Pistons’ 90’s re-brand with their new logo and colour scheme, taking over from Sir-Slam-A-Lot. Despite the horse reference disappearing when the Pistons returned back to their old logo, “Hooper” has remained.

#10 “G-Wiz” – Washington Wizardsb18hklf8vayzs
@the_real_Gwiz
Debut: 1997
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: Up until very recently, “G-Wiz”had a running mate “G-Man”and by now, I think you already know my feelings on an athletic “cool” partner in crime. You never saw them together though because they were played by the same person.

#11 “Franklin” – Philadelphia 76ersmaxresdefault
@SixersFranklin
Debut: 2015
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: “Franklin” took over mascot duties in Philadelphia when the Sixers killed off the ridiculous idea that was the “Hip Hop Rabbit”. Further proof that mascot success lies in the fluffier large than life characters than the slimmed down almost human versions.

#12 “Burnie” – Miami Heat5daf1rlfnranw
@BurnieTheMascot
Debut: 1991
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: I can’t be 100% certain of this but I believe “Burnie” is the only mascot to be sued in or out of costume. Certainly the only to be sued TWICE! In 1994 he faced 20 years jail for an incident in Puerto Rico and was sued again for an incident in 2013.

#13 “Lucky” The Leprechaun – Boston Celticsscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-7-52-38-pm
@CelticsLucky18
Debut: 2003
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: Damon Blust was the original “Lucky” for the Celtics but parted ways in Boston in 2009 during the season. Nothing official ever came of it but the franchise confirmed he wasn’t fired and it was rumoured he began missing public appearances in his schedule.



The West:

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#1 “Clutch” The Bear – Houston Rockets
@clutchthebear
Debut: 1995
Mascot Of The Year: ’05, ’13
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: After winning Mascot Of The Year in 2005, “Clutch” was recognised as the 5th most recognised mascot in US Sports by USA Today and then also inducted into the Mascot Hall Of Fame in 2006. 100% top seed worthy.

#2 Jazz Bear – Utah Jazz3orinxdcxtxtitssrm
@utahjazzbear
Debut: 1994
Mascot Of The Year: ’06, ’08
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: Also a two-time MOTY winner and Hall Of Fame Inductee, “Jazz Bear” used to slide down onto the court as seen above. The NBA has since banned this practise which is hardly a surprise.

#3 “Crunch” The Wolf – Minnesota Timberwolvespg2_a_twolfts_576
@WolvesCrunch
Debut: 1989
Mascot Of The Year: ’12
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: Crunch, as well as three other NBA mascots (Benny the Bull, Hugo The Hornet and The Suns Gorilla), appears as a hidden player in the video game NBA Jam Tournament Edition.

#4 The Coyote – San Antonio Spurs4qet5cvwp5afw
@SpursCoyote
Debut: 1983
Mascot Of The Year: ’14
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: The pants losing and eye dropping mascot is a Hall Of Famer & MOTY winner. The original in-suit mascot suffered a stroke after 21 years as the “Coyote” and the Spurs gave him a job after retiring. San Antonio just know how to look after their’s, don’t they?


#5 “Rumble” The Bison – OKC ThunderScreen Shot 2016-12-26 at 8.04.06 pm.png
@rumblethebison
Debut: 2009
Mascot Of The Year: ’09
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: Bison was one of six names that OKC trademarked before settling on the Thunder name for the new franchise. So, “Rumble” may shed some light on what was perhaps OKC’s second choice should Thunder not be chosen.

#6 “Grizz” – Memphis Grizzliesscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-04-50-pm
@grizz
Debut: 1995
Mascot Of The Year: ’11
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: The Grizzlies franchise started in Vancouver and “Grizz” has taken many scary forms before the latest incarnation. He also has an alter-ego “Super Grizz” who first appeared back in 2006 when they first made the playoffs and randomly re-appears since.

#7 “Rocky” The Mountain Lion – Denver Nuggetsqcyqjrpovw78q
@RockyTheLion
Debut: 1990
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: In 2014, “Rocky” got in trouble with his own franchise after appearing at an unsanctioned Republican rally for Bob Beauprez. The team was unaware of the appearance until after it occurred.

#8 “Go ” The Gorilla – Phoenix Sunsscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-03-47-pm
@SunsGorilla
Debut: 1980
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: The gorilla idea was created by accident in Phoenix, with the first appearance occurring as a singing telegram service. “Go” also put on a fat-suit in ’98 with an Oliver Miller Kings jersey to mock him. Miller played for the Suns the following season.

#9 “Slamson” The Lion – Sacramento Kingsscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-04-39-pm
@SlamsonTheLion
Debut: 1997
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: Being a mascot is SERIOUS business. “Slamson” is one of many who have assistants. The suit he wears is also worth around $6000 and $4000 just for the head, which is custom made for the wearer so they have very good vision.

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#10 “Blaze” The Trail Cat – Portland Trailblazers
@BlazeRipCity
Debut: 2002
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: “Blaze” is the first official mascot for Portland. Before that Portland went without an official mascot pre 2002, although they did have the services of Bill “The Beerman” Scott from 1981-1985.

#11 “Champ” – Dallas Mavericksscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-02-36-pm
@MavsChamp
Debut: 2011
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: Unfortunately “Champ” still shares the limelight with “MavsMan”, yet another dual mascot partnership. This explains the low seeding and although “MavsMan” came first, it’s time for him to step aside.

#12 “Chuck ” The Condor –  LA Clippersfy5bd2fxiz960
@ChuckTheCondor
Debut: 2016
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: Yes

Fun Fact: Chuck has no history yet, so I will leave it to Steve Ballmer; “Chuck is my wingman …. Like me, Chuck loves the Clippers, and I want Clipper Nation to follow Chuck, wear shoes like Chuck, and cheer like crazy, JUST LIKE CHUCK!”

#13 “Pierre” The Pelican – New Orleans Pelicansscreen-shot-2016-12-26-at-8-05-05-pm
@PierreTPelican
Debut: 2013
Mascot Of The Year: N/A
Lopez Beef: No

Fun Fact: Although one of the newer mascots on the scene, “Pierre” first appeared a lot different to how he does now. This failure still haunts me and perhaps explains his lowly seed despite the change.


In Memoriam: 

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