If you have listened to many of our episodes, you know that I am a big baseball fan (see English Café #50, for example). However, I know there are some of you who are fans of other popular American sports, including professional basketball. Since fall and winter are the seasons when basketball is typically played in the US, I thought I would answer a question from Renzo in Italy about the meaning of the names of some of the professional sports teams in the National Basketball Association, or NBA, as it is known here.
We’ll start with the Los Angeles Lakers. What, you may be asking, is a “Laker”? The name of the team is even more confusing if you know that Los Angeles is located in a very dry area with very few natural lakes. So why the Lakers? Well, as has happened with many US professional sports teams over the past 100 years or so, the Los Angeles Lakers moved from a different city to Southern California several years ago. Before they were in Los Angeles, they were in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which is the city next to where I grew up (in St. Paul). Minneapolis is known as the “City of Lakes,” because it has so many lakes. (In fact, the state of Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” because there are so many lakes in Minnesota. There are actually more than 15,000 lakes, but Minnesotans are known for their modesty (not bragging or being too proud).) So the word “Laker” referred to all of the lakes in Minneapolis. When the team moved to Los Angeles, it simply kept the old name and changed the city.
Here are some other sports teams and the meanings of their names in the NBA:
New York Knicks: The word “Knicks” is short for “knickerbockers” which is actually the official name of the team, the New York Knickerbockers. Knickerbockers are a type of pants that were worn by the people who settled New York many years ago, the Dutch (people from the European country of The Netherlands). During the 19th century, the word knickerbocker was closely associated with New York City, and so it was used when the team was first formed back in the mid-1940s. The Knicks are one of only two teams in the NBA that have not moved cities. The other one is the…
Boston Celtics: The word Celtic refers generally to a certain ethnic group in Europe, the Celts. The Celts lived in different parts of Europe, including Ireland. During the 19th century, there were many Irish immigrants who moved to Boston, and even to this day Boston has a very large and influential Irish-American population. It is no coincidence (it is to be expected) that the most famous Irish-American politician, our late President John F. Kennedy, was elected first as a senator from the state of Massachusetts, where Boston is located.
I’ll talk about some more teams next week.