Zach Lowe of Grantland.com ranks all 30 NBA teams based on their names, and "Portland Trail Blazers" emerges at the very top of the heap. Here's part one (16-30) and here's part two (1-15).
What a wonderful name for a team, even if it wasn't close to the most popular choice in the "name the team" contest Portland held upon the birth of the franchise as part of the NBA's 1970 expansion. Fans overwhelmingly voted for "Pioneers," which evokes the settlement of the region, the Oregon Trail, and the brave struggles of those who staked early claim to the land.
But a local college, Lewis & Clark, was already using "Pioneers," and the new Portland franchise was aiming for something both original and without potential intellectual property baggage. They settled upon "Trail Blazers," a suggestion nearly 200 fans sent in during the contest, and, holy cow, did they make the right call. 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 rest of the top five: Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and New York Knickerbockers.
PS Thanks to BlazerDavid and Game.Blouses in the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter