How NBA teams got their team nicknames

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How NBA teams got their team nicknames

Postby rlee » Fri Jul 23, 2010 5:01 am

How NBA teams got their team nicknames
By ELIOT KLEINBERG
Palm Beach Post
.

Atlanta Hawks

The National Basketball League Tri-City Blackhawks (Moline, Ill, Rock Island, Ill., Davenport, Iowa) were founded in 1946 and named for Sauk chief Black Hawk. The NBA acquired the team in 1949 and the name was shortened to Hawks in 1951. The team moved to Milwaukee in 1951, then St. Louis in 1955 and Atlanta in 1967.

Boston Celtics

The team's founder was inspired by the old New York Celtics basketball team and wanted to appeal to Boston's large Irish population.

Charlotte Bobcats

The expansion Charlotte Hornets, who drafted Kobe Bryant, incidentally, were founded in 1989 and left in 2002. The NBA awarded Charlotte a new franchise in 2003. The owners picked an unusual color of dark orange and wanted a nickname that matched the color and had never been used in pro team. A team naming contest narrowed the field to Bobcats, which are found in North Carolina, as well as Dragons and Flight. Focus groups favored Bobcats, and that's what the team has been called since.

Chicago Bulls

The team's first owner wanted a one-syllable name to match the Bears, Cubs, Sox, Hawks and to honor the city's meatpacking tradition because the team's first home was International Amphitheater, located close to Chicago's stockyards. During a brainstorming session, the owner's son referred to one suggestion as "a lot of bull." It stuck.

Cleveland Cavaliers

When the team was founded in 1970, the local newspaper held a contest to name the club. The winner said Cavaliers "represent a group of daring, fearless men whose life pact was 'Never surrender, no matter what the odds.' "

Dallas Mavericks

The team was founded in 1980. After a local name-the-team contest, a committee narrowed the field to Mavericks, Wranglers and Express. The committee and team owner picked Mavericks. In cowboy lingo, a maverick is a loose or unbranded cow or a rancher who does not brand his cattle. Selection drew outcry from nearby University of Texas at Arlington, whose team name was also Mavericks.

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Rockets were founded in the ABA in 1967. In the same year, the NBA's San Diego (now Houston) Rockets began play. Seven years later, when joining the NBA, team was renamed Nuggets to represent the 19th-century mining boom in Colorado and to honor the NBA's Denver Nuggets of 1949-1950.

Detroit Pistons

Automobile-piston magnate Fred Zollner founded the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in 1941. (National Basketball League teams were mostly owned by corporations). The league merged with another in 1949 to form the NBA and the Pistons moved to Detroit in 1957.

Golden State Warriors

Founded in Philadelphia in 1946, the team was named after former a ABL team once owned by General Manager Eddie Gottlieb. The team moved to San Francisco area in 1962 and played at various arenas before moving permanently to Oakland in 1971 and changing its identification from San Francisco to Golden State. It remains the only active pro sports team with no city, region or state specified in name.

Houston Rockets

The team was founded in 1967 in San Diego and the name was chosen in a contest. It reflected San Diego's motto, "A City in Motion," and fact that the town was manufacturing site of Atlas rockets. The team moved to Houston in 1971 and owners had a ready-made connection to Houston's Johnson Space Center.

Indiana Pacers

The team, which started in 1967, selected a name that combined state's harness racing legacy - one investor was a horse racing enthusiast - with the pace car used in Indianapolis 500. Team used "Indiana" instead of "Indianapolis" because the early plan was for it to play throughout the state.

Los Angeles Clippers

The NBA's Buffalo Braves (1970) moved to San Diego in 1977 and the name honored the town's famed harbor. The team kept the name when it moved to L.A. in 1984.

Los Angeles Lakers

Founded in 1947 in Minneapolis. The name referred to Minnesota, whose motto is "Land of 10,000 Lakes." The team kept the name when it moved to Los Angeles in 1960.

Memphis Grizzlies

Founded in Vancouver in 1995, the team was named for the grizzly bear, common in the Pacific Northwest. Team officials originally wanted to be called the Mounties, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police objected. The team kept the name when it moved to Memphis in 2001.

Miami Heat

In 1986, a team naming contest that produced 20,000 entries was reduced to Heat, Flamingos, Waves, Palms, Sharks and Manatees. The team owners picked "Heat" because it was short, fit Miami's image and had potential for exciting color themes.

Milwaukee Bucks

The name was picked in a contest. The winning entry said male deer common in Wisconsin "are spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile."

Minnesota Timberwolves

In naming contest after the team was founded in 1987, the finalists were Polars and Timberwolves. The name then was picked by a vote of state's 842 city councils. Minnesota is home to the largest population of the wolf breed in the lower 48 states.

New Jersey Nets

The New York Americans were the charter ABA team (1967). The name changed in 1968 after a reporter jokingly suggested it should rhyme with New York's Jets and Mets. The team moved to New Jersey in 1977 and is set to move to Brooklyn in 2011.

New Orleans Hornets

The team started in 1989 in Charlotte, which had used the name for minor-league baseball and a World Football League team. The team kept the name when it moved to New Orleans in 2002.

New York Knicks

"Knickerbockers" refers to knee-high pants of original Dutch settlers. It became a symbol of the city and was used for first baseball team as well.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The team was founded in 1967 and played as the Seattle SuperSonics as a nod to the Seattle-based Boeing company that had planned supersonic Concorde-style jets in the 1960s. The team moved in 2008, following two years of a messy lawsuit between the owner and Seattle's arena. The owner picked Thunder partly as a reference to Oklahoma City's location in Tornado Alley and partly to honor the city's 45th Infantry Division, which goes by the nickname of Thunderbirds. In an effort to stop people from registering websites with the team's name before it was formally announced, the team also applied for trademarks for Wild, Barons, Marshalls, Energy and Bison.

Orlando Magic

In a contest, the finalists were Heat, Tropics, Juice and Magic. The team eliminated the first three names and the team's vice president was inspired by his 7-year-old daughter's reference to area as "magic." Walt Disney World officials had no problem with the potential connection.

Philadelphia 76ers

The team known as the Syracuse Nationals (1937, National Basketball League) moved to Philadelphia in 1963, and the name honors the birth of United States in 1776.

Phoenix Suns

The name reflected the "Valley of the Sun." Also, owners, thinking of newspaper headlines, liked that it was short. Other suggestions: Dust Devils, Gems, Scorpions, Rattlers, Thunderbirds, Salts, Warriors, Silver Wings, Cactus Cowboys, Apollos, Clippers, Charros, Titans, Miners, Deserettes, C's, Lizards, Unicorns, Desert Cats, Frontiers, Hardrocks, Camelbacks, Gunfighters, Sun Demons, Lancers, Sand Hawks and Eldorados.

Portland Trail Blazers

The name, selected in a fan contest, honors the Oregon Trail, which ended near Portland. Pioneers would mark the trail for others by hacking a white mark, or by "blazing" on trees.

Sacramento Kings

The Rochester (N.Y.) Royals were a charter NBA team in 1949. The team moved to Cincinnati in 1957 and moved again in 1972, playing in Kansas City and Omaha. It did not want to conflict with the Royals' Major League Baseball team, in town since 1969, so it was renamed Kings. The team became the Kansas City Kings in 1976 and moved to Sacramento in 1985.

San Antonio Spurs

When the ABA's Dallas Chapparals moved in 1973, the team held a naming contest. The committee picked "Spurs" because a cowboy's spur is a popular icon of region's cowboy industry. The Spurs moved to the NBA in 1976.

Toronto Raptors

The team was founded in 1995 and the name played off popularity of "Jurassic Park" films.

Utah Jazz

Founded in 1974 in New Orleans, the "birthplace of jazz," then moved to Salt Lake City in 1979.

Washington Wizards

The team started as the Chicago Packers in 1961, then became the Chicago Zephyrs in 1962, before moving and becoming the Baltimore Bullets in 1963. The Bullets name was a link to a 1940s NBL team named for a nearby munitions factory. The team played in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as the Capitol Bullets in 1973-74. From that point, they became the Washington Bullets until 1997, when the owner threw out "bullets" for its violent connotation. A fan vote renamed the team "Washington Wizards" and the owner cited a wizard's "energy and omnipresent power."
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Postby D.Highmore » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:26 pm

Charlotte Bobcats

The expansion Charlotte Hornets, who drafted Kobe Bryant, incidentally, were founded in 1989 and left in 2002. The NBA awarded Charlotte a new franchise in 2003. The owners picked an unusual color of dark orange and wanted a nickname that matched the color and had never been used in pro team. A team naming contest narrowed the field to Bobcats, which are found in North Carolina, as well as Dragons and Flight. Focus groups favored Bobcats, and that's what the team has been called since.


For starters, the Hornets started play in 1988. Secondly, although the team held a naming competition, I thought the name "Bobcats" was chosen due to then-owner Bob Johnson.

Los Angeles Clippers

The NBA's Buffalo Braves (1970) moved to San Diego in 1977 and the name honored the town's famed harbor. The team kept the name when it moved to L.A. in 1984.


The Braves moved west in 1978, not 1977.

Miami Heat

In 1986, a team naming contest that produced 20,000 entries was reduced to Heat, Flamingos, Waves, Palms, Sharks and Manatees. The team owners picked "Heat" because it was short, fit Miami's image and had potential for exciting color themes.


Originally named the "Florida Heat" during the expansion selection process, back when it looked like there would be only 1 team in Florida.

New Orleans Hornets

The team started in 1989 in Charlotte, which had used the name for minor-league baseball and a World Football League team. The team kept the name when it moved to New Orleans in 2002.


Again, team started play in 1988. Originally named the "Charlotte Spirit", but changed to "Hornets" (I seem to recall that there were legal/trademark reasons behind this, but I'm not 100%). The Hornets name was chosen (aside from the history of teams in that city using the name) because of General Cornwallis' quote regarding the American Revolution that the city was "a hornet's nest of rebellion".
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Postby rlee » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:27 pm

Thanks for the corrections - much appreciated
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Postby Jay » Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:20 am

Two different write-ups on how the 76ers got their name.

"No athletic team has ever paid tribute to the gallant men who forged this country's independence, and certainly Philadelphia, Shrine of Liberty, should do so," said Walter Stalberg (4/1914- 1/1980) after successfully renaming the NBA's recently shifted Syracuse Nationals the Philadelphia 76ers, to win the name-the-club contest over more than 4,000 entries. His reward: An all-expense trip for two to San Francisco and perhaps a chance to see the old Philadelphia club in action.

Once again there is a team in Philadelphia. This time it is the transferred Syracuse Nationals. It will be called the 76ers. A contest was conducted to find the name. One of 4,000 entries, it was submitted by a quality-control statistician. His reasoning for 76ers was properly Philadelphian: "No athletic team has ever paid tribute to the gallant men who forged this country's independence, and certainly Philadelphia, Shrine of Liberty, should do so." Philadelphia has done so.
Seeking any and all info on Wilmeth Sidat-Singh.

Syracuse Basketball History Facebook page:
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Nets

Postby luckyshow » Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:05 am

Nets were Americans in New Jersey, then moved to Long Island (isn't that when they became Nets?), then back to New Jersey, now plan is back to Long Island (Brooklyn is technically a part of Long Island)


The Spirits of St. Louis were another team named after an aircraft.
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Royals

Postby luckyshow » Sat Jul 24, 2010 3:09 pm

I thought I wrote this already, but I can't see it.

Seagram's Crown Royal Whiskey

Seagram distillers, from Rochester, owned the Royals and named them after the whiskey.

Maybe this was an upstate New York thing. There was also the Schenectady Schaefer Brewers (A beer company)
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Postby Robert Bradley » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:20 am

A complete list for the BAA, NBA & ABA teams (updated from the APBR web site) -

MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM CHRONOLOGIES
>"Phantom team" which disbanded or relocated before playing any games

ANDERSON PACKERS
1945-46 Anderson Chiefs [Semi-pro]
1946-49 Anderson Duffey Packers [NBL]
1949-50 Anderson Packers [NBA]
1950-51 Anderson Packers [NPBL]

ATLANTA HAWKS
1946-47 Buffalo Bisons [NBL]
1947-49 Tri-City Blackhawks [NBL]
1949-50 Tri-City Blackhawks [NBA]
1950-51 Tri-Cities Blackhawks [NBA]
1951-55 Milwaukee Hawks [NBA]
1955-68 St. Louis Hawks [NBA]
1968- Atlanta Hawks [NBA]

BALTIMORE BULLETS
1944-47 Baltimore Bullets [ABL]
1947-49 Baltimore Bullets [BAA]
1949-55 Baltimore Bullets [NBA]

BOSTON CELTICS
1946-49 Boston Celtics [BAA]
1949- Boston Celtics [NBA]

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
2004- Charlotte Bobcats [NBA]

CHICAGO BULLS
1966- Chicago Bulls [NBA]

CHICAGO STAGS
1946-49 Chicago Stags [BAA]
1949-50 Chicago Stags [NBA]
1950 >Chicago Bruins [NBA]

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
1970- Cleveland Cavaliers [NBA]

CLEVELAND REBELS
1946-47 Cleveland Rebels [BAA]

DALLAS MAVERICKS
1980- Dallas Mavericks [NBA]

DENVER NUGGETS
1935 Denver Safeway-Piggly Wigglys [Amateur Athletic Union]
1936-38 Denver Safeway Stores [Amateur Athletic Union]
1939-40 Denver Nuggets [Amateur Athletic Union]
1941-44 Denver American Legion [Amateur Athletic Union]
1945-46 Denver Ambrose Jellymakers [American Basketball League]
1946-48 Denver Nuggets [American Basketball League]
1948-49 Denver Nuggets [NBL]
1949-50 Denver Nuggets [NBA]
1950-51 Denver Frontier Refiners [NPBL]

DENVER NUGGETS
1967 >Kansas City [ABA]
1967 >Denver Larks [ABA]
1967-74 Denver Rockets [ABA]
1974-76 Denver Nuggets [ABA]
1976- Denver Nuggets [NBA]

DETROIT FALCONS
1946 >Indianapolis [BAA]
1946-47 Detroit Falcons [BAA]

DETROIT PISTONS
1939-41 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons [Independent]
1941-48 Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons [NBL]
1948-49 Fort Wayne Pistons [BAA]
1949-57 Fort Wayne Pistons [NBA]
1957- Detroit Pistons [NBA]

FLORIDIANS
1967-68 Minnesota Muskies [ABA]
1968-70 Miami Floridians [ABA]
1970-72 Floridians [ABA]

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
1946-49 Philadelphia Warriors [BAA]
1949-62 Philadelphia Warriors [NBA]
1962-71 San Francisco Warriors [NBA]
1971- Golden State Warriors [NBA]

HOUSTON ROCKETS
1967-71 San Diego Rockets [NBA]
1971- Houston Rockets [NBA]

KENTUCKY COLONELS
1967-76 Kentucky Colonels [ABA]

INDIANA PACERS
1967-76 Indiana Pacers [ABA]
1976- Indiana Pacers [NBA]

INDIANAPOLIS JETS
1928-29 Indianapolis Kautskys [Independent]
1929-32 Indianapolis Kautsky A.C.s [Independent]
1932-33 Indianapolis Kautskys [National Basketball League]
1933-35 Indianapolis Kautskys [Independent]
1935-37 Indianapolis Kautskys [Midwest Basketball Conference]
1937-38 Indianapolis Kautskys [NBL]
1940-41 Indianapolis Kautskys [Independent]
1941-42 Indianapolis Kautskys [NBL]
1942-45 Suspended operations
1945-48 Indianapolis Kautskys [NBL]
1948-49 Indianapolis Jets [NBA]

INDIANAPOLIS OLYMPIANS
1949-53 Indianapolis Olympians [NBA]

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
1970-78 Buffalo Braves [NBA]
1978-84 San Diego Clippers [NBA]
1984- Los Angeles Clippers [NBA]

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
1946-47 Detroit Gems [NBL]
1947-48 Minneapolis Lakers [NBL]
1948-49 Minneapolis Lakers [BAA]
1949-60 Minneapolis Lakers [NBA]
1960- Los Angeles Lakers [NBA]

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
1995-01 Vancouver Grizzlies [NBA]
2001- Memphis Grizzlies [NBA]

MEMPHIS SOUNDS
1967-70 New Orleans Buccaneers [ABA]
1970 >Louisiana Buccaneers [ABA]
1970-72 Memphis Pros [ABA]
1972-74 Memphis Tams [ABA]
1974-75 Memphis Sounds [ABA]
1975 >Baltimore Claws [ABA]

MIAMI HEAT
1988- Miami Heat [NBA]

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
1968- Milwaukee Bucks [NBA]

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
1989- Minnesota Timberwolves [NBA]

NEW JERSEY NETS
1967 >New Jersey Freighters [ABA]
1967-68 New Jersey Americans [ABA]
1968-76 New York Nets [ABA]
1976-77 New York Nets [NBA]
1977- New Jersey Nets [NBA]

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
1988-02 Charlotte Hornets [NBA]
2002-05 New Orleans Hornets [NBA]
2005-07 New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets [NBA]
2007- New Orleans Hornets [NBA]

NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS
1946-49 New York Knickerbockers [BAA]
1949- New York Knickerbockers [NBA]

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
1967-08 Seattle SuperSonics [NBA]
2008- Oklahoma City Thunder [NBA]

ORLANDO MAGIC
1989- Orlando Magic [NBA]

OSHKOSH ALL-STARS
1929-37 Oshkosh All-Stars [Independent]
1937-49 Oshkosh All-Stars [NBL]
1949 >Milwaukee All-Stars [NBA]

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
1943-44 Cleveland Chase Brassmen [NBL]
1944-46 Cleveland Allmen Transfers [NBL]
1946-49 Syracuse Nationals [NBL]
1949-63 Syracuse Nationals [NBA]
1963- Philadelphia 76ers [NBA]

PHOENIX SUNS
1968- Phoenix Suns [NBA]

PITTSBURGH CONDORS
1967-68 Pittsburgh Pipers [ABA]
1968-69 Minnesota Pipers [ABA]
1969-70 Pittsburgh Pipers [ABA]
1970 >Pittsburgh Pioneers [ABA]
1970-72 Pittsburgh Condors [ABA]

PITTSBURGH IRONMEN
1946-47 Pittsburgh Ironmen [BAA]

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
1970- Portland Trail Blazers [NBA]

PROVIDENCE STEAM ROLLERS
1946-49 Providence Steam Rollers [BAA]

SACRAMENTO KINGS
1923-32 Rochester Seagrams [Independent]
1932-33 Rochester Seagrams [District Basketball Association]
1933-36 Rochester Seagrams [District Basketball League]
1936-42 Rochester Seagrams [Independent]
1942-43 Rochester Eber Seagrams [Independent]
1943-45 Rochester Pros [Independent]
1945-48 Rochester Royals [NBL]
1948-49 Rochester Royals [BAA]
1949-57 Rochester Royals [NBA]
1957-72 Cincinnati Royals [NBA]
1972-75 Kansas City-Omaha Kings [NBA]
1975-85 Kansas City Kings [NBA]
1985- Sacramento Kings [NBA]

ST. LOUIS BOMBERS
1946-49 St. Louis Bombers [BAA]
1949-50 St. Louis Bombers [NBA]

SPIRITS OF ST. LOUIS
1967-69 Houston Mavericks [ABA]
1969-74 Carolina Cougars [ABA]
1974-76 Spirits of St. Louis [ABA]
1976 >Utah Rockies [ABA]

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
1967-70 Dallas Chaparrals [ABA]
1970-71 Texas Chaparrals [ABA]
1971-73 Dallas Chaparrals [ABA]
1973 >San Antonio Gunslingers [ABA]
1973-76 San Antonio Spurs [ABA]
1976- San Antonio Spurs [NBA]

SHEBOYGAN RED SKINS
1933-35 Sheboygan Ballhorns [Independent]
1935-37 Sheboygan Art Imigs [Independent]
1937-38 Sheboygan Enzo Jels [Independent]
1938-49 Sheboygan Red Skins [NBL]
1949-50 Sheboygan Red Skins [NBA]
1950-51 Sheboygan Red Skins [NPBL]
1951-52 Sheboygan Redskins [Independent]

TORONTO HUSKIES
1946-47 Toronto Huskies [BAA]

TORONTO RAPTORS
1995- Toronto Raptors [NBA]

UTAH JAZZ
1974-79 New Orleans Jazz [NBA]
1979- Utah Jazz [NBA]

UTAH STARS
1967-68 Anaheim Amigos [ABA]
1968-70 Los Angeles Stars [ABA]
1970-76 Utah Stars [ABA]

VIRGINIA SQUIRES
1967 >Oakland Americans [ABA]
1967-69 Oakland Oaks [ABA]
1969-70 Washington Capitols [ABA]
1970-76 Virginia Squires [ABA]

WASHINGTON CAPITOLS
1946-52 Washington Capitols [NBA]

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
1961-62 Chicago Packers [NBA]
1962-63 Chicago Zephyrs [NBA]
1963-73 Baltimore Bullets [NBA]
1973-74 Capital Bullets [NBA]
1974-97 Washington Bullets [NBA]
1997- Washington Wizards [NBA]

WATERLOO HAWKS
1948-49 Waterloo Hawks [NBL]
1949-50 Waterloo Hawks [NBA]
1950-51 Waterloo Hawks [NPBL]
Last edited by Robert Bradley on Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Author of THE BASKETBALL DRAFT FACT BOOK: A HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL'S COLLEGE DRAFTS
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Re: Royals

Postby Robert Bradley » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:26 am

luckyshow wrote:I thought I wrote this already, but I can't see it.

Seagram's Crown Royal Whiskey

Seagram distillers, from Rochester, owned the Royals and named them after the whiskey.

Maybe this was an upstate New York thing. There was also the Schenectady Schaefer Brewers (A beer company)


as you can see, they started out as the 'Seagrams' before a couple of seasons as the 'Pros' before settling on 'Royals'.

my favorites? the Denver Safeway-Piggly Wigglys (originally sponsored by the grocery store)
Author of THE BASKETBALL DRAFT FACT BOOK: A HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL'S COLLEGE DRAFTS
Available at https://Rowman.com

Robert Bradley's Pro Basketball History Revisited Blog
http://apbrbasketball.blogspot.com/
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Postby D.Highmore » Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:59 pm

Shouldn't the Baltimore Claws be marked as a "phantom" team? They played 3 preseason games, but disbanded before ever playing in the regular season.
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Postby Robert Bradley » Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:13 pm

D.Highmore wrote:Shouldn't the Baltimore Claws be marked as a "phantom" team? They played 3 preseason games, but disbanded before ever playing in the regular season.


yes, thanks for the correction, i went ahead and marked them as such.
Author of THE BASKETBALL DRAFT FACT BOOK: A HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL'S COLLEGE DRAFTS
Available at https://Rowman.com

Robert Bradley's Pro Basketball History Revisited Blog
http://apbrbasketball.blogspot.com/
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