July 22, 2016

NBA Mascot Rank 2016 Update

If you had told me back in 2013 when I first ranked every mascot in the NBA that I'd have to update the list each year for the subsequent three years, I would have said you were crazy. But...here we are in 2016 and I've updated this list every summer since I first published those pixels three years ago. First, the Hornets moved back to Charlotte; the Nets killed off their knight in shining armor; and the New Orleans franchise got themselves a pelican as a mascot. Last year the waters calmed a bit; the only movement was the Philadelphia 76ers introducing a new mascot. This year...well, read on.

Just like last year and the year before, we'll be covering this topic in one post starting at 30 and ending at number 1 and I'm not even going to hold you in too much suspense about the top spot: once again, our Washington Wizards mascot, G Wiz, owns the top spot. There's still nobody who can touch this guy. Perfect name, look and team association which is the holy trinity of mascot-ness as defined by me. Yes, it's a homer pick; no, I don't care. LeBron gets away with fouls and travels all the time so my mascot post has G Wiz at the top every year. Let's get right to it.

30. Los Angeles Lakers
29. Brooklyn Nets
28. New York Knicks
27. Golden State Warriors

What do these four teams have in common? One thing: no mascot. So...no effort from them means no effort from me. They get stuck at the bottom no matter how bad the mascot name, mascot appearance or team relevance of any other actual mascot in the NBA is. You get points for trying in this listing, which I get is sort of like getting a participation trophy but not really, right? 

The four teams occupying spots 27 through 30 are once again listed in reverse order of finish from the prior season. In the sequence they are listed...the Lakers once again set a franchise record for losses in a season (two years in a row - woo hoo!) and failed to make the playoffs for three straight years for the first time in their history; the Nets are just bad; the Knicks are perennial underperformers (you wanted to go there, right, 'Melo?); and the Warriors just set an NBA record for regular season wins buuuuut...failed to win a second straight NBA title ("Thanks, Keke" - LeBron). Despite the Dubs' greatness, they ain't moving ahead of another team making some sort of attempt. Collectively, these teams dropped an average of one spot this year because some other team DID make an attempt.

26. Boston Celtics
It's still a dude in a leprechaun costume, Boston fans. And it's still no damn good. I don't care if you have won 17 NBA titles, your "mascot", if you can even call it that, still sucks.

25. Miami Heat
Burnie, I still have no idea what you are. Are you supposed to be a flame or something? Don't get it at all. Just don't. Not sure how you get a better mascot to represent Heat, although you could use the sun since Phoenix refuses to. Might be an idea there. I've pitched hiring the Jimmy Dean sun last year to the Suns. Maybe I was talking to the wrong team. Jimmy Dean's toll free number is 1-800-925-3326. Tell them I sent you.

24. Houston Bears / Rockets
23. Indiana Cats / Pacers
22. Portland Cats / Trail Blazers
21. Phoenix Gorillas / Suns
20. Memphis Pig-Bears / Grizzlies
19. Utah Bears / Jazz
18. Philadelphia Dogs / 76ers

Want to pick a mascot that in no way represents your franchise? Meet these seven teams, a group of folks so befuddled by their own nicknames that they picked an animal that has pretty much nothing to do with their team name. I don't think "bear" when someone says "rocket" or "jazz" nor do I think "gorilla" when I hear the word "sun". It's a game of word association gone horribly wrong. For six of these teams, there's just one way out: change the name of the team or get an appropriate mascot (I guess that's two ways out actually). For the Memphis Grizzlies, there's a simpler solution: just build a better bear, one that doesn't look like a pig mated with a bear. There's a Build-A-Bear Workshop at the nearby Wolfchase Galleria Mall at 2760 North Germantown Parkway. Tell them you need a new mascot and that I sent you.

17. Toronto Raptors
I felt like a hypocrite last year sticking the Raptor, who looks very much like a dinosaur, the exact thing that Toronto's franchise is named for, in with a bunch of impostors. As much as I hate the Toronto franchise's name, I can't fault their choice of mascots. It's perfect except for the generic name. This year, Toronto makes a three spot jump up to 20. If you are grateful, Toronto Raptors, feel free to drop some poutine or perhaps more appropriately a couple of bags of Ruffles Poutine flavored potato chips in the mail. And yes, this is pretty much a gratuitous effort just to show everyone a picture of Poutine flavored Ruffles. News flash: they pair surprisingly well with a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thanks, Larry. These things were pretty good if you can't get the real thing.
16. Cleveland Cavaliers
I hate the Cleveland Cavaliers. More than ever. Putting them at the 16 spot proves I'm a bigger person. At least I like to think so anyway.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves
It's a wolf! That's as excited as I will ever get about the current T-Wolves mascot. I think Ricky Rubio would be better in the role. It would for sure be an upgrade for me.

14. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs' mascot, Champ, stars in the absolute best basketball commercial ever. produced by an NBA team. His effort in the Mavs gameday commercial with Dirk Nowitzki puts to shame the Kwame Brown / Steve Blake "Wizards group seats. Now on sale!" commercial from years ago. Dirk and Champ are way better. And not just in the commercials. Yep, I'm in a ditch here. But watch the commercial. Champ still finishes 14th.

13. Sacramento Kings
The Kings upgraded their branding significantly in the offseason. So far no sign of ditching the ugly stick that they hit Slamson the lion with each season. I think it's amazing that as ugly as this mascot is, there's still are still 12 teams with worse mascots. And yes, I'm counting the Cs in this one despite it really being just a dude dressed up as a leprechaun. Don't worry, I'll get to the Kings' rebrand soon enough.

12. Detroit Pistons
I still have a soft spot for Hooper but that only gets him to number 12 in this countdown, which is (shock!) a drop of one spot. If I were a Pistons fan, there's a possibility I'd put Hooper higher. Of course, if I was a Pistons fan, I'd have been celebrating a championship in this century and wouldn't need to put him any higher to make myself feel better about being a fan. See number 1 below for more on that.

11. Los Angeles Clippers
The huge news on the NBA mascot front in 2016 is the Clippers' introduction of their new mascot, Chuck. I like Chuck a lot. I think his name is great (Chuck Taylor's anyone?) and he's a well designed mascot. Not crazy about the 213 number (Los Angeles' area code) but it's better than the star that our own G Wiz has worn for a number some years. But honestly, my first reaction when I saw Chuck was "the Clips picked a dodo for a mascot?" 

Turns out he's not a dodo but actually a California condor, which makes way more sense than a dodo, which were native to Madagascar and nowhere else. There are a number of things to like about Chuck's mascot-ness: (1) he looks good and he actually looks like a bird; (2) I love the basketball sneaker-rooted name reinforced by the fact that he's actually wearing some Chuck Taylor high tops; and (3) he's place relevant; California condors are obviously named for the Clippers' current home state, even though they also live in Utah, Arizona and Mexico. Last year the Clips came in at number 30 based on their horrible re-brand. Chuck saves them a bit. Now about those unis and that logo...

The dodo from Walt Disney's Alice In Wonderland; tell me this isn't a dead ringer for Chuck.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Laissez les bon temps roulez, Pierre! I still love the Pels' name, mascot and mascot name. And pelicans can be fierce!

9. Atlanta Hawks
Harry the Hawk drops a spot this year as I suspected he might last year. The Atlanta Hawks new unis, as cool as the embossed diamond pattern on them is, are just awful with that neon yellow color. So until Harry ditches the current unis, he's unlikely to get higher than 9th anytime soon.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder
If Rumble the Bison moving up a notch in my mascot rank lessens the sting of Kevin Durant taking his talents the bay, then I'm happy for them. Of course, if it does, then the entire Thunder organization is missing the point. I'm sure they don't care where Rumble ends up on this list. Great look, great name and perfect embodiment of this franchise when it's oh so difficult to represent a noise as a team name.

7. San Antonio Spurs
6. Denver Nuggets
5. Milwaukee Bucks
4. Chicago Bulls

This Gang of Four is what I consider the NBA's classic mascots. Solid. Steady. Good looking. Repping their teams and/or cities legitimately. And those names: Benny. Bango (named after longtime play by play man Eddie Doucette's signature phrase). Rocky. And then there's The Coyote. Come on, San Antonio!! Really? Maybe the Raptors were just following your lead with their generic name hoping they would be as good. If there are mascot role models out there for aspiring NBA mascots, these guys are the nuts. After all that, there are still better mascots. Well, just three. But still. Better.

3. Orlando Magic
Top three time and this year's top three are exactly the same as last year's and the previous years. These three teams ain't messing with success and I'm not moving them down until they do or until someone comes up with a better mascot from teams four through 30.

Stuff the Magic Dragon continues to amaze me with how many layers of complexity this mascot boasts. It's mascot-ness is just simply genius. And I don't mean just that the name is awesome, the appearance is sound and it fits the team nickname. This is just an amazing mascot in the tradition of the Philadelphia Phillies' Philly Phanatic. It looks chaotic and does crazy stuff but it still manages to hold it's grace under pressure. Well done. Solid number three!

2. Charlotte Hornets
Hugo the Hornet down in Charlotte is sort of the anti-Stuff the Magic Dragon but he's got as much if not more going on. Where Stuff is crazy and out of control, Hugo is composed and never shaken. He's got it together at all times.

If there's a more successful re-brand of a sports team than Michael Jordan bringing the Hornets name back to Charlotte, I can't think of it. It was good before the team split for New Orleans more than a decade ago but the logo re-design and court re-design are spectacular. Hugo didn't get a lot of upgrades but they made him less cuddly which is OK. He's sort of a badass and he knows it.

1. Washington Wizards
So after all that, what can I say about G Wiz? He's simply the best again and likely always will be. I'll concede the team name, the team's logo and any sort of success year after pathetic year on the court, but I'm not giving up G Wiz's number on spot on this countdown. For me, G is the consummate team mascot for a team with the name Wizards. And his case is only made stronger by the (apparent) death of G Man, who I can't remember showing up at VC in a while and who I panned in my initial ranking.

Four years, four number one homer picks on this blog. In 2016, G Wiz takes the trophy again. Bring it on, rest of the NBA!

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