Professional Sports Team Names I

BasketballIf 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.


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10 Responses to Professional Sports Team Names I

  1. daniele says:

    Thank you, that’s interesting.

    Ciao! all of you from Italy.

  2. Julio says:

    As for its name Los Angeles Lakers have a very interesting history I have just known now. Thank you Jeff. By the way, It is a fantastic team that plays a marvellous basketball, the only bad thing is that last year they didn´t manage to beat Boston Celtics in the NBA final. Perhaps this year is going to be its victory, as long as Celtics or another team are not on a better fitness.
    However, I cannot understand the baseball game. I am sorry for that, but it is certain that Europeans and Americans have some distinct favourite sports such as baseball for Europeans and maybe European football (soccer) for Americans even though more and more Americans are currently playing football as a sport.
    Have a nice day,
    Julio, Spain

  3. elcomandant says:

    This that you say is interesting enough, because it’s curious to know a bit of history whichever it is. But I’m afraid I don’t like sports. Actually I’m boring all of them.

    If I had to say some sport which I like it more of all them, it was cycling. But I don’t like enough.

    However, I like whatever games between two teams which have rivalry, per exemple, If we’re talking about soccer at Spain, it’s interesting to me it watch the match Valencia (this is my favorite team because it’s my city) against Barcelona, or against Madrid. Of course, I want it win Valencia, and if it is posible, I want the Valencia’s team win many goals (the more scored goals the better) to zero. In addition, If my favorite team lose, I don’t like but I don’t mind either.

    On the other hand, when my children were kids they played soccer at team of school. I gave my children and some teammate a lift to play all Saturdays. Then I was happy if they won, and if my son scored a goal this it was gorgeous.

    By the way, 25 years later, both still playing soccer.”

  4. Sports Blog says:

    New names for them:

    Los Angeles Lurkers

    New York Knickers

    Boston Cultic

  5. Rafaela says:

    Hi ….

    I`m live in Chicago and I would like know about the basketball team Chicago Bulls…

    Thank you for help me to improve my english

    Rafaela , Brazil

  6. emiliano says:

    I know that you Jeff are a fan of baseball match and that you watch the tv. screen to see the champions, but Just last week I have listen again the eng.caf. 50 (may be the six or seven time I listened to them all in a round of two by day) and I have to confess that at the end of it I don’t understand anything about the game, I am always lost and it seems to me very complicated to play it.
    Sports are not my big interest, but I would like to clarify my mind about this one that I see to play in so many pictures and that it seems so fine to many people over there your country.
    I don’t understand ruby either, I have a very hard head, sorry about the matter.

  7. Elisângelo/ the brazilian guy says:


    pretty interesting the subject about team’s name, but what I’ve considered most amazing comes from the Minnesota’s lakes…. it’s simply unbelieveble that number of 15.000 lakes in just one state.

    I’m such a shocked with so many lakes… and I was woundering if those people from there live on a boat, in a ship or something else…

  8. bert says:

    I would like to make my own contribution on this topic.

    So if anybody wants to know why a famous soccer Spanish team is called “Real Madrid” , just tell me 😉

    At your dispossal

  9. Elisângelo says:

    Speak up, bert …. now I got very curious for your version about Real Madrid team’s name….

  10. emiliano says:

    Bert I don’t like too much football either, but I would like to know why the team is called so, as I was born in Madrid and I don’t know it despite it is the most famous football team here and also out of Spain.
    My head is very hard about sports in general, only like individual sports like tenis, swim, ski, or similar. In a team I like basketball the best.

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