Though the NBA regular season is in full swing, the off-the-court action has been just as intriguing over these last few weeks. Recently, the New Orleans Hornets announced that they will be changing their name to the Pelicans for next season. With the Hornets name becoming available, the Charlotte Bobcats are doing preliminary research into becoming the second incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets. In addition, the deal to send the Sacramento Kings to Seattle and bring back the SuperSonics is pending league approval. The 2013-14 season could, theoretically, see three newly-named teams making their debuts.
Renamings and relocations are a more common occurrence in the NBA than in the other major sports leagues, and in recent history such changes have had positive impacts on teams. Here are some of the most successful team changes of the century so far:
Brooklyn Nets (formerly New Jersey Nets/New York Nets)
History as New Jersey Nets/New York Nets: 36 seasons, 1208 – 1696 (.416) – 16 playoff appearances
History as Brooklyn Nets (as of 1/25/2013): Inaugural season, 26 – 16 (.619)
The Nets’ offseason move to Brooklyn has been a financial boon for the team. According to Forbes, their value increased by 48% from last year, making them the ninth-most valuable franchise in the NBA, aided by increased merchandise sales and ownership of the Barclays Center, their new arena. As for the team’s success on the court, the sample size is too small to project any level of long-term success (the Nets have only spent a little over half a season in Brooklyn thusfar), but with the core of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez, and a willingness to spend money on talented players, the team has emerged as a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly Seattle SuperSonics)
History as Seattle SuperSonics: 41 seasons, 1745 – 1585 (.524) – 22 playoff appearances, 1 NBA Championship
History as Oklahoma City Thunder: 5 seasons, 208 – 147 (.586) – 3 playoff appearances
The Seattle SuperSonics were one of the most beloved franchises in the NBA, featuring players like Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, and Dennis Johnson, and winning the NBA title in 1979. When they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder, they continued their traditions of quality play and playing in front of a vocal fanbase. Their roster is full of young, talented players like Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and perennial MVP candidate Kevin Durant. In three of their first four seasons, they have been a playoff team, losing to the Miami Heat in the Finals last year, and they have the best record in the West to this point in the 2012-13 season. Though the Thunder haven’t yet won a title, they have preserved and continued the success that the team enjoyed in Seattle, and show no signs of fading any time soon.
Memphis Grizzlies (formerly Vancouver Grizzlies)
History as Vancouver Grizzlies: 6 seasons, 101 – 359 (.220) – no playoff appearances
History as Memphis Grizzlies: 12 seasons, 417 – 510 (.450) – 5 playoff appearances
The Grizzlies relocated much earlier on in their franchise history than these other teams, but their post-move success has been just as impressive. They have made the playoffs in five of their twelve seasons since moving to Tennessee, and are well on their way to the postseason again this year. While they never won more than 23 games in a season in Vancouver, they have turned their team around in Memphis with All-Stars Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph. One of the best defensive teams in the league, they have proven that they can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the extremely competitive Western Conference.