Can You Unscramble the Names of All 30 NBA Teams?


By: Beth Hendricks

6 Min Quiz

Image: NBA

About This Quiz

When the Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, they took their team name with them. Two years later, the city that lost that franchise — Charlotte — started a new one and named it the Bobcats. Fast-forward to 2019 and the Hornets are now the Pelicans, and the former Hornets turned Bobcats ... are now Hornets again! Phew!

Luckily, name changes are a rarity in the National Basketball Association, but with expansion teams joining the league occasionally, new names pop up from time to time. Dating back to the 1950s, you had the Celtics, Warriors, Knicks and Cavaliers. All team names you recognize that are still hanging around today. Then came the Rochester Royals, who are now the Sacramento Kings, and the Syracuse Nationals, who became the Philadelphia 76ers.

Today, there are 30 NBA teams whose names range from types of birds to historical references. So, don’t be alarmed when you hear that the Trailblazers are duking it out with the Cavaliers! 

How basketball savvy are you? Can you name all 30 NBA teams if their letters are mixed up? Unscramble these franchise names, but don’t be “Cavalier.” We want you to be an NBA quiz “Maverick.” Give it your best shot!

The “kwahs’” history can be traced to Buffalo, Illinois and Milwaukee before it finally settled in the Peach State. Which of these is it?

The Atlanta Hawks’ history goes all the way back (and north) to New York when the team was known as the Buffalo Bisons. It picked up the Hawks nickname when the club moved to Milwaukee in the 1950s.


NASA probably likes this team, which is scrambled as “cetsork.” What team is it?

The Houston Rockets come by their name honestly. Originally based in San Diego, the Rockets are now at home in Houston, which is also the home of NASA’s Mission Control. Houston, we (don’t) have a problem!


Michael Jordan made this red-and-black team world-famous. Which team is scrambled in “lulbs?”

Michael Jordan, who some would argue is the best basketball player of all time, made the Chicago Bulls a household name after he was drafted by the franchise in 1984. Jordan retired for the final time in 2003.


Following the 2018-19 season, the “ents” picked up Kevin Durant, but an injury has sidelined him since. What team is it?

The Nets, of Brooklyn fame, struck a deal with Kevin Durant after the conclusion of the 2018-19 season that moved the small forward to New York City. Durant previously played for Golden State.


This Detroit-based NBA team is appropriately named for a car part. What is the unscrambled form of “stipons?”

The Detroit Pistons come by their name honestly. The team’s original owner was also the owner of a piston manufacturing company. The Pistons have been in existence since 1941 when they started in Indiana.


The “kcbsu” team name is easier to unscramble than its star player’s — Antetokounmpo. What team are we talking about?

The Milwaukee Bucks hit the draft lottery when they picked up Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round of the 2013 draft. The Bucks became part of the NBA as an expansion team added in 1968.


The “nedrhut” left behind rainy Seattle for the Sooner State in 2008. But can you detangle its name?

Oklahoma City inherited the Seattle SuperSonics in the late 2000s, changing its name to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The “Thunder” nickname is shared between Oklahoma’s wild weather and its distinction as the site of the military’s Thunderbirds.


You have to dig into history, specifically July 4 history, to unscramble the “xrsies” name. Do you know what it is?

The Philadelphia 76ers, also known as the Sixers, are named in honor of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, all the way back on July 4, 1776. Philadelphia is home to numerous historic sites important in U.S. history.


The “nascliep” are named for the official bird of the team’s home state. Which of these is it?

New Orleans is known as the Pelican State, thanks to the large number of those birds that frequent the area. That makes it a logical choice for an NBA franchise name, which the team adopted at the end of the 2012-13 season.


This team earned its name for its location near the end of a historic 2,170-mile wagon route. How do you unscramble “ibasertrlalz?”

The Portland Trailblazers have a historical meaning to their name. Situated near the end of the Oregon Trail, a 2,170-mile route across the United States that started in Missouri, the team is named for individuals who helped keep the route clear for travelers.


Of the four professional sports leagues out there, San Antonio has only an NBA team. What team is scrambled as the “ssurp?”

The Spurs are San Antonio’s only major professional sports team from among the four pro leagues: NBA, NFL, MLB and MLS. The team actually got its start in Dallas as the Chaparrals.


There’s no Harry Potter here, but the “dzsiwra” are a real team. What franchise is it if you unscramble it?

The Washington Wizards, led by point guard John Wall, have represented the nation’s capital since 1974 when they relocated as the Bullets from Chicago. Even Michael Jordan enjoyed a stint as a Washington Wizard!


Luka Dončić was the NBA’s “Rookie of the Year” in 2019, as a member of the “ceikmsavr.” What team are we referencing?

Dončić joined the Mavericks in 2018, after originally being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks. He promptly went on to earn “Rookie of the Year” honors, finishing that season with a 22-points-per-game average.


You probably don’t associate “zajz” with this team’s current location, but you might with its original spot. What is it?

The Utah Jazz, once the New Orleans Jazz, held onto its team name even after it relocated in 1979. The name was originally selected as an homage to the jazz music culture of the Big Easy.


The “rtapros” earned their first NBA title in 2019, but what is the team’s actual name?

The Raptors earned their franchise’s first-ever NBA title in 2019 — and the first NBA title awarded to a team outside of the United States. Toronto was led by Kawhi Leonard, who played one season with the team and helped lead them to a title.


Memphis is only home to one pro sports team, the NBA franchise known as the “zsliezrig.” What is it?

The Memphis Grizzlies were originally the Vancouver Grizzlies when the team joined the NBA as an expansion franchise in the mid-1990s. Just a few short years later, the team relocated to Tennessee.


Here comes the “unss!” What team is based in a perennially cloud-free community?

You’ve heard of people moving or retiring to Phoenix, and for a good reason — the weather there is on point nearly year-round. While you’re there, you can enjoy the play of the Phoenix Suns, the city’s official NBA franchise.


Disney probably played a role in the naming of this Florida franchise — the “amcig.” What is it?

The Orlando Magic are just down the road from the “Happiest Place on Earth,” otherwise known as the Magic Kingdom. Magic officials also considered “Juice” and “Tropics,” before settling on the current name.


The “Big 3” of James, Wade and Bosh played together for a short time on this team. Can you unscramble “thea?”

That was a pretty simple one, huh? Not only because it’s a relatively short nickname, but because of the presence of the “Big 3” on the same team for a short stint: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.


Seagrams, Royals and then ... “sngki.” What team kept with its regal nicknames?

From Royals to Kings, the Sacramento Kings may have changed nicknames, but kept with their “monarchs” category. They weren’t always in Sacramento, though; the team has been in Rochester, Cincinnati and Kansas City in its history.


The “kkcins” are more formally known as the “osrcbkiernkeck,” but we’re not that mean. Can you unscramble the first?

The New York Knicks are, indeed, known more formally as the Knickerbockers, a name derived from a type of clothing once worn by immigrants to the United States. The Knicks play at Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City.


They got their start playing at state fairgrounds. Which team is behind the “rseacp?”

The Pacers played the first few years of their existence at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, before moving into its downtown arena. The team is named for its association with the Indianapolis 500.


This team earned its name for having the largest population of “ismowlerbtev” in the contiguous United States. What is its name?

The Minnesota Timberwolves handily beat out the Minnesota Polars for officially team nickname. Makes sense, since Minnesota is home to the largest population of the species in the contiguous United States.


Gold rush! This NBA franchise’s name is inspired by “gutsgne” of gold. What is their proper name?

The Denver Nuggets are named after the Colorado gold rush of the 1850s, but they weren’t the first NBA Nuggets. An original version of the Denver Nuggets was formed as part of the National Basketball League.


Worth an estimated $3.5 billion, the “rrrawios” are famous for having the Splash Brothers on their team. Which squad are we talking about?

The Golden State Warriors, which play in San Francisco, have been the home team of the duo known as the Splash Brothers for several years. Together, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have teamed up to win multiple NBA titles.


The “krlaes” nickname doesn’t really fit this team’s current location, but it does fit its history. What team is it?

You surely guessed “Lakers,” right? And, no, it doesn’t make sense for the arid Los Angeles climate ... until you remember that the Lakers were once hosted in Minneapolis, inside the state known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”


Before they were the “ntsrohe,” they were the Bobcats. But now they’re the “ntsrohe” again. Which answer choice below is it?

The Charlotte Hornets lost their team — and their nickname — when the franchise was relocated to New Orleans. But after New Orleans adopted the “Pelicans” moniker, they returned the “Hornets” name to Charlotte. Isn’t that nice?


You could say that this team has the luck of the Irish. What team is behind this scrambled word: “lticecs?”

The Boston Celtics’ name and mascot (Lucky the Leprechaun) are a nod to the Irish population that lives in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. The Celtics, which were birthed in the late 1940s, are one of the league’s original teams.


At home in a port city, this team’s name makes total sense. Can you unscramble the team name “plicerps?”

The Clippers’ history dates back to its founding in New York in the 1970s. When the team moved to the port city of San Diego, it adopted a more water-friendly name — the Clippers, the name for a type of boat.


In 2003, the “vecaaslir” drafted a nearby high school student with the No. 1 pick. Which team is it?

The team in question is the Cleveland Cavaliers and that No. 1 draft pick turned out to be none other than LeBron James, who attended nearby St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. James is from Akron.


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