The French came up with the word “mascot” 150 years ago. It means “lucky charm,” so it’s meant to bring luck to whoever – or whatever – it represents. Now, when it comes to NBA mascots, you’ll know that some have done their job while others have been a furry or feathery flop.
Let’s take a look at the worst to best mascots. And after you’re done checking out these colorful characters, feel free to check out our NBA Playoff odds for all of your NBA betting spreads, over/unders, parlays, specials, and more.
#26 – Dallas Mavericks: Champ/Mavs Man
Do you know what they say about trying to please all the people all the time? For some, it might be tough enough to figure out why a “maverick” (an independent-minded person) is represented by Champ the horse … but it gets worse. The Mavericks’ second mascot – Mavs Man – has been described as “the Frankenstein lovechild of a basketball and Dolph Lundgren”!
But love him or hate him, at least fans don’t take Mavs Man too seriously. In a D Magazine article “Mavs Man’s Missed Connection,” Zach Crain writes of Mavs Man missing a connection with his one and only love! Here’s hoping Mavs Man can get in touch with his long-lost soul mate.
#25 – Philadelphia 76ers: Franklin
The 76ers’ marketing team obviously had their eye on the merchandise when they set the designers loose on what was meant to be their talisman. The first thing that slipped from fans’ lips was: “A dog? Really! And why a blue dog? I don’t get it.” And it’s been like that ever since. Franklin the dog is meant to represent Philadelphia’s favorite son – no, not Rocky, Benjamin Franklin of course. The blue color came out of a kiddies’ marketing research group. Fans will probably be divided over whether Franklin is an improvement over Hip Hop, the 76ers’ previous mascot, who was also less than pleasing to the eye.
#24 – Miami Heat: Burnie
We’ll give Burnie credit for his dance moves. After all, performing in a costume like that calls for the prowess of an Olympic athlete, but what is he? We get the play on words – Heat and Burn-ie – but the rest is lost on us. We’re told: “Burnie is a rough, anthropomorphic depiction of the fireball featured on the team’s logo,” but the Heat should have known “anthropomorphic” was never going to be a catchy marketing hook or fan phrase.
If nothing else, Burnie has probably come up in many discussions by drunken Heat fans, who likely debate whether he was a rejected Muppets character or the result of a horrible experiment to cross a bird with a basketball.
#23 – Houston Rockets: Clutch
One motorcycle-riding bear in the NBA is enough! And that’s the good part; it’s all downhill from there. First, “Clutch the Bear” has absolutely nothing to do with rockets; that much is obvious. Next, he doesn’t even look like a bear, and actually bears more resemblance to a mouse. And second, his name – “Clutch” the Bear, really? He looks cute enough, so why give him a name that’s just plain odd? Who knows what was going through (Game of Thrones actress) Emilia Clarke’s head when this unusual mascot recognized her in the front row of the crowd during a game, dropped his coffee, and went on bended knee in front of the “Mother of Dragons!”
#22 – Washington Wizards: G-Man/G-Wiz
The Wizards are another team with multiple mascots, but both of theirs are equally strange. The first is G-Man: we think the Wizards could’ve done better than a full skinsuit that’s bulging with huge fake muscles. The other, G-Wiz, at least has a red wizard’s hat and looks a bit more like a magical creature than a steroid-enhanced mutant. And there’s no doubt G-Wiz bears a striking resemblance to Gonzo, another bird-like Muppet from the hit TV and movie series. Either way, we wouldn’t be surprised if Wizards fans have nightmares about either of these mascots!
#21 – Cleveland Cavaliers: Sir CC/Moondog
C is for “confusion” in this case. The reason for coming in at 21st in the standings is that Cleveland fans have to really go far to get the meaning behind “Sir CC and Moondog,” the team’s current mascots. We understand that Sir CC is a “cavalier” (a soldier from the 17th-century English Civil War), but we don’t think a cavalier back then would have had a loyal hound named “Moondog.” As it turns out, the original Moondog was named after the famous Cleveland rock DJ, Alan Freed, but why? Surely it would have made more sense to pick another name? These two mascots might have made more sense as characters on the front of a cereal box, rather than the faces of a professional basketball team.
#20 – LA Clippers: Chuck
Chuck was introduced to Clippers’ fans in February 2016. The pink and blue bird is loosely based on the California condor – North America’s biggest land bird with an almost 10-foot wingspan, which can reach speeds of 56 mph and fly as high as 15,100 feet. But Chuck’s gone down like a lead balloon with fans, who have flipped it the bird. Kanye West had offered – in 2016 – to redesign the NBA mascot… but so far the team has yet to take him up on his offer.
But ask yourself which you would prefer: an odd-looking cartoon vulture, or a cartoon man called Sam Dunk, the now-retired mascot who looked like he had the face of a 90-year-old? Poor Sam looked like he might have struggled to pick the ball up, let alone go for a dunk.
#19 – Indiana Pacers: Boomer
“Who’s keeping an eye on the Pacers’ merchandising team in Indianapolis” is what we want to know. If your good-luck charm is meant to be a noble, hard-working horse, why would you use a big cat to represent your team? We’re still waiting for answers, but at least Boomer, the new mascot, looks better than Bowser, their previous dog mascot, did. And fans had a good time laughing when Boomer tried to do a flip off a trampoline and lost his head!
#18 – Utah Jazz: Jazz Bear
Nothing personal, Jazz Bear: you have our respect for the sheer commitment you’ve shown over the years. All those hours of community service since you came into the league in 1994, and the torn bicep and ruptured tendon you picked up while performing for fans. But March Madness is nothing compared to all the confusion this mascot’s caused. There are blackbears in Utah, but Jazz Bear isn’t black – and we don’t get the jazz connection, either! Maybe Jazz Bear likes to listen to some tuneful jazz when he’s relaxing after a hard day’s work? Also, are we the only ones who think it wouldn’t be weird to see him hanging out with Chewbacca?
#17 – Atlanta Hawks: Harry
This started so well when Atlanta got the animal right. A hawk to represent the Hawks… but then they lost the plot and made Harry the Hawk red. We don’t know why, because hawks don’t come in that color. This means Harry looks too angry to appeal to kids, and too – well – red to appeal to basketball fans. This new mascot could have been a slam-dunk, but it missed by a mile. At the very least, Harry can stand up to his critics and say: “It’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts” – after he nailed a half-court shot while facing backward in March 2020.
#16 – Portland Trail Blazers: Blaze
This mascot was always going to need some creativity. There isn’t an animal that exactly jumps out at you when you say “Trail Blazers.” But there are professionals out there who can help, and we don’t think Blaze, a “trail cat,” is what they would have come up with. For one thing, the cat-mascot angle has been done to death, and the shiny red bodysuit and silver underpants would look better on the Rockets’ Clutch the Bear! But some might say that something’s better than nothing, and prior to Blaze, the Trail Blazers didn’t even have a mascot!
#15 – Milwaukee Bucks: Bango
“Bango the Buck” gets points for being community-minded (he pulls off around 250 local public appearances every year), and we know it isn’t easy doing high-flying dunks and daring stunts when you’re that cute and cuddly. What’s more, he’s not short of dedication to the team: Bango’s been getting the job done since 1977! He’s even been an NBA Mascot of the Year and was voted first “Most Awesome Mascot” by Cartoon Network. That being said, we do think it’s time for an update – it’s been 10 years since the last makeover, and a bit of an image refresh could help our aging antlered friend last even longer!
#14 – Memphis Grizzlies: Grizz
It turns out the only grizzlies in Memphis are basketballers, and in Tennessee, the only bears are black bears. So somebody got their bears muddled up here, but at least the grizzlies stuck to their name. “Grizz” jumps through fiery hoops, but hasn’t yet ridden a motorcycle. When he’s not seen wearing his Memphis Grizzlies uniform, he can be spotted with his superhero-influenced blue and yellow suit. This is clearly one of the better attempts at spicing up a mascot – Grizz could probably be the star of his own Saturday-morning cartoon!
#13 – Detroit Pistons: Hooper
We understand why certain decisions were made when it came to the mascot for the Detroit Pistons. A talking motorcycle or car would’ve been weird, and the costume logistics a total nightmare. The next best thing? A horse with piston-pumping legs! Oh yes. “Hooper the Horse” is a sensible choice, and one that undoubtedly spared some poor person from strapping on one of those over-the-shoulder toy-car outfits that kids seem to love.
#12 – Minnesota Timberwolves: Crunch
“Crunch the Wolf” is one of the best-looking basketball mascots out there and he has a cool backstory. He was “born” in a Minnesota forest and grew up loving basketball. When Minnesota’s Timberwolves came to town, Crunch said goodbye to all he’d known and migrated south to the Twin Cities. It’s said he now has a den somewhere deep inside the Target Center and is lured out on game days by the deafening howl of Wolves fans. Crunch has the face, has the body, and almost has the appeal to make it into our top 10. Just a little more magic and maybe he could have climbed up two spots!
#11 – OKC Thunder: Rumble
Oklahoma City Thunder’s “Rumble the Bison” ticks most of the boxes on our mascot checklist. He’s fierce, athletic, and actually looks like a bison. But some of you might be wondering what a bison has to do with thunder? Sure, these beasts may not seem that thunderous on their own, but bison have always been a symbol of the North American prairies, and when they stampede, they create a sound that some say is similar to thunder. Maybe the one thing going against Rumble is that he might look a bit too much like the creatures from the movie Where The Wild Things Are, but at least he’s not as creepy.
#10 – Charlotte Hornets: Hugo
With all the cats and bears around, “Hugo the Hornet” is a breath of fresh air. We like Hugo because of his cool, Jordan-clad feet, and the fact he is a four-time winner of the NBA Mascot Slam Dunk Championship. He’s a mascot of some pedigree, too, having been created in 1988 by Cheryl Henson, daughter of the late, great Jim Henson of The Muppets and Yoda fame. With such an impressive creator behind his design, it’s no surprise that Hugo cracks the top 10 on our list.
#9 – Sacramento Kings: Slamson
The Sacramento Kings’ “Slamson the Lion” is a lot more realistic than he was back in 1997, and we like him for his name too. But one can’t help but notice that Sacramento has plenty of raccoons, possums, skunks, birds, deer, and coyotes… but no lions. And Slamson looks like he might be more at home on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Still, this powerful-looking lion definitely has more of a presence than many other NBA mascots.
#8 – Phoenix Suns: Go
It’s the same with the Phoenix Suns, with gorillas never calling Phoenix, AZ, home. But one does and that’s “The Gorilla,” or just “Go” once you’re acquainted. He’s the Lady Gaga of NBA mascots: one of a kind and a trendsetter. Nobody messes with the pioneer of trampoline dunks, not even those he pulls his legendary pranks on. What’s incredibly unique about this mascot is his origin, with an article from NBA.com sharing that a messenger for a singing-telegram service appeared during a Phoenix Suns game to do his job, but that people convinced him to share a few dance moves before he left. He did, and the rest is history!
#7 – Boston Celtics: Lucky
This is another mascot that makes sense. “Lucky the Leprechaun” is a real half-man, half-mascot that every Celtics fan can identify with. The pipe-smoking, green-waistcoated, shamrock-adorned leprechaun is the perfect symbol for his team, given the obvious Celtic cultural connection. He’s undoubtedly adored by fans, who believe little men in sugarloaf hats really do exist at the end of the rainbow, along with a pot of gold, and even just as a fun mascot, he’s highly entertaining.
#6 – San Antonio Spurs: The Coyote
You’ll find plenty of coyotes in Texas and, as far as coyotes go, “The Coyote” is a snazzy dresser. His main claim to fame is that he’s the only NBA mascot to dunk both a basketball and a donut in a single game. We just wish the San Antonio Spurs would do something about those eyes, which look like he’s either been using green eye drops or has been cursed by the Celtics’ mascot!
#5 – Orlando Magic: Stuff
“Stuff the Magic Dragon” should be at the “worst” end of this list, but what could the Magic do with a name like theirs? Not much, so they did the only thing they could do. They went way over the top with a fluffy, green magical creature with floppy pink ears and a blue unibrow that can shoot “fire” out of his nostrils! Cute and colorful, Stuff is undoubtedly a mascot that could make a regular appearance on a number of children’s shows. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also got some serious skills on the court, having scored a backward half-court shot when Magic went up against the Spurs.
#4 – Toronto Raptors: The Raptor
The Raptors get points for not shying away from the obvious dinosaur connection, even though it would’ve been “safer” to go for a horse, bear, or bird instead. Thankfully they decided on a red velociraptor in basketball shoes and jersey, and gave us “The Raptor.” He’s given us a lot of entertainment over the years, but our favorite “Raptor” moment is undoubtedly the Little Girl vs Mascot Dance Battle!
#3 – Denver Nuggets: Rocky
A mountain lion is hardly a “nugget,” but what were the Denver Nuggets meant to do? The only shiny gold nugget that’s appealing in any way is a real one, and a nugget costume on legs is a definite no. With gold nuggets out, what else could they do? Talk to McDonald’s about a sponsorship deal and go with a chicken nugget? That seems a little far-fetched, even with some of the crazy mascots we’ve already seen, so the Nuggets went with “Rocky the Mountain Lion” in 1990, a lion mascot that looks like he’s related to Tony the Tiger. Rocky has such a cute and fun look that appeals to younger fans; he’s also heavily involved with various community programs, and he’s performed at an All-Star Game and other international events — it’s no surprise you’ll find him at number three on our list!
#2 – New Orleans Pelicans: Pierre/King Cake Baby
Pelicans’ opponents were told, “Fear the birds!” and fans cautioned never to “stare into his eyes for more than a few seconds.” “Pierre the Pelican” had an unsettling reputation for scaring kids and making fans cry… before he got a facelift in 2013. Now he’s all about giving fans the Pierre-fect game experience.
We wish the same could be said for the team’s other mascot. The Pelicans need to think about doing the same for King Cake Baby, who still looks incredibly creepy! We’re not kidding about this character: he really looks like he escaped from the set of a horror movie!
#1 – Chicago Bulls: Benny
The best thing about “Benny the Bull” is his horns and unibrow! We know Benny can dunk, and he’s a fearsome entertainer, so the orange-and-pink hairdo keeps it on the lighter side for the kids. Benny’s also top of the league when it comes to stamina – he’s been doing it for fans for almost 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down. He certainly earned his recent NBA Mascot of the Year honor, without a doubt. Benny’s got the perfect balance of cute, with the horns hinting at a more menacing side, so “don’t mess with this bull or you’ll get the horns”.
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