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Pro sports teams that changed their name without changing cities

Pro sports teams that changed their name without changing cities

If the Washington football team ultimately decides to change their name from the Redskins, they wouldn't be the first pro sports team to change names without changing cities. 

Heck, they wouldn't even be the first DC sports team to do so. 

As ESPN's Adam Schefter points out, six teams in the last 25 years have switched their name without moving to a new location, including when the Washington Bullets became the Wizards. 

1997: Washington Bullets --> Washington Wizards

Bullets/Wizards owner Abe Pollin decided to change his team's name in 1995 after his team's name had become associated with violent overtones and the rising crime in Washington DC at the time. 

Pollin held a contest for fans to vote on the team's new name. The options were Wizards, Express, Stallions, Sea Dogs and Dragons. Wizards eventually won out and the rest is history.

1999: Tennessee Oilers --> Tennessee Titans

When the Oilers moved to Tennessee after nearly 40 years in Houston, they kept the Oilers name going. However, they quickly changed over to the Titans after two seasons and it's been that way ever since.

2006: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim --> Anaheim Ducks

Not a huge change, but the Anaheim Ducks completely rebranded their look and won a Stanley Cup right after. Not too bad a move, even though we all miss the iconic Mighty Ducks look.


2008: Tampa Bay Devil Rays --> Tampa Bay Rays

In an attempt to reinvent themselves, the Rays dropped the "Devil" portion of their name and immediately won a pennant. The mid-to-late 2000s weren't a bad time to make a brand change. 

2013: New Orleans Hornets --> New Orleans Pelicans

Under new ownership, the Hornets changed their name to the Pelicans as they embarked on a new era led by Anthony Davis. It also freed up our next franchise to reclaim its rightful name. 

2014: Charlotte Bobcats --> Charlotte Hornets

When the Hornets moved to New Orleans and Charlotte started another team named the Bobcats, it just didn't feel right. So when the Pelicans rebranded themselves, the Hornets name was up for grabs and Charlotte wasted no time taking it back. 

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Checking in with Jeff Malone, the most underrated star in Bullets history

Checking in with Jeff Malone, the most underrated star in Bullets history

If you grew up in the D.C. area and root for the Wizards, you have likely heard plenty about the dominant Bullets teams of the 1970s with Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Phil Chenier. You probably also know about the Chris Webber-led Bullets of the 90s and how they were broken up far too soon.

You definitely know of the Michael Jordan years, and how fun the Gilbert Arenas era was when he was at his peak. And you of course know about John Wall and Bradley Beal.

But what about the 80s? Nobody seems to talk about the Bullets in the 1980s. And because of that, Jeff Malone never seems to get his due.

Malone was the Bullets star of the 80s. He made two All-Star teams, led the franchise in scoring for the decade and left Washington as the second-leading scorer in franchise history, only behind Hayes.

NBC Sports Washington caught up with Malone this week to find out what he's up to these days and also reflect on his tenure with the Bullets. Turns out Malone is living in Chandler, AZ and is still active in basketball, working camps regularly to teach kids the game and pay it forward. He has also helped run mens leagues and basketball clinics at his local church.

"I'm always around basketball," Malone told NBC Sports Washington. "I enjoy watching the sport, I enjoy teaching the sport when it comes to camps and anything to help out with kids. I like being around people."


Malone spent years as a coach, some in the International Basketball League, some in what is now known as the G-League and some in the high school ranks. He is not an active coach anymore, and misses it, but still passes on his basketball knowledge at camps and when playing with his grandchildren.

Malone, now 58, played 13 years in the NBA. He was drafted by the Bullets 10th overall in 1983 and by 1986 was an All-Star. He played seven years in Washington before moving on to the Utah Jazz. He also spent time with the Sixers and Heat before calling it a career.

His best years, though, were with the Bullets. He helped lead them to the playoffs in each of his first five years with the team. They just never made it out of the first round, which Malone believes is the primary reason the 80s have become an overshadowed decade for the franchise. History tends to only remember the winners.

"I think when you win that gives you a little bit more notoriety. But it was fun, I loved the city, I really loved playing in the city," Malone said. "We just couldn't get through that gauntlet of the Boston Celtics, the Sixers, the Detroit Pistons. It was tough over there. We always ended up playing one of those teams in the first round."

Indeed, all five of the Bullets' playoff losses with Malone were against those teams. All three teams won championships in the 1980s and they featured all-time greats like Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Isiah Thomas.

The Bullets just couldn't get over that hump, always playing second fiddle to teams that are still remembered today for their greatness. But Malone's Bullets still provided their share of moments.

There was Malone's absurdly difficult game-winning three in 1984 against the Pistons, when he leapt out of bounds while launching a shot from the corner. You still see it on countdowns of the best buzzer-beaters in NBA history.

It's a shot Malone still thinks about today, especially when his young grandson tries to recreate it.

"He tries. He's so little, he acts like he can get it up to the rim. I've had a lot of fun with that," Malone said.

Malone said when he coached in high school his players would often try the shot after practice, but "they never made it." Granted, the degree of difficulty is very high.

"I just had to plant and throw it. When I shot it, I fell and I didn't see it go in. I heard the crowd roar then I got up and saw Jeff Ruland had his hand in the air. That's when I thought 'ooh, I made that,'" Malone said.

Malone recalls fondly his time in Washington; how he played with Moses Malone and Bernard King, how he played for Unseld when he was the team's head coach. Malone remembers sitting down with Unseld at hotels on the road and just listening to his stories.

"Great guy. Tough guy," Malone said of Unseld, who passed away earlier this month. "Wes was a good family guy."

The biggest highlight of his Bullets career, Malone said, was making the All-Star team back-to-back years in 1985-86 and 1986-87. He was teammates with all-time greats like Bird and Michael Jordan in those games.

"I felt like a little kid, man," Malone said. "I wanted to get their autographs, but I was scared to ask the guys."

There are quite a few parallels between Malone and the Wizards' best player now, Bradley Beal. Both are 6-foot-4 shooting guards, two-time All-Stars and known for their scoring. Beal passed Malone for second on the franchise all-time scoring list this season, and Malone took notice.

"I like Brad a lot. I think he's a great two-guard in the league," Malone said. "If he does stay there, he's a piece to a championship puzzle. He seems like a class guy. I don't know him personally, but he seems like he's a class guy. I know you guys are proud to have him on your team."

Malone has kept some connections to his time in Washington. His son, Josh, worked for the Wizards' G-League affiliate last season. And he still keeps up with many of his former Bullets teammates including Harvey Grant, Jeff Ruland, Gus Williams, Darrell Walker and Charles Jones.

Just the other day, he said he watched Game 1 of the 1986 playoff series between the Bullets and Sixers, the game where Dudley Bradley beat the buzzer with a miracle three. 

"I wish we could have at least gotten to an Eastern Conference Finals," he said. "There were some great guys there. We just didn't win enough... We did the best we could."

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What if the Bullets kept the 12th pick in 1996 NBA Draft with Kobe Bryant on the board?

What if the Bullets kept the 12th pick in 1996 NBA Draft with Kobe Bryant on the board?

Exactly 24 years ago today, Kobe Bryant headlined one of the best NBA Draft classes in history, and he was picked 13th. 

The teams that passed on him? Glad you asked.

The Sixers, Raptors, Grizzlies, Bucks, Timberwolves, Celtics, Clippers, Nets, Mavericks, Pacers, Warriors and Cavaliers all went a different direction until the Hornets took Bryant at 13 and later traded him to the Lakers. 

Now, there's a perfectly good reason those 12 teams passed. Some of them ended up with stars and even a few Hall of Famers. Though it's widely understood that Bryant threatened to play overseas if he didn't end up on the Lakers, so the 12 aforementioned squads reasonably didn't want to risk their lottery pick on a high school kid who wanted to go to LA.


But what if there was a different team picking 12th? What if the Bullets didn't trade that selection to the Cavs?

Washington sent their first-round pick in 1996 to Cleveland in exchange for four-time All-Star Mark Price. Even though Price was 31 at the time and had injury concerns, his skill set and track record represented everything the young Bullets needed. 

They required playmaking, shooting and veteran savvy to go along with a talented young frontcourt consisting of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Rasheed Wallace. Even though Price only played seven games for the Bullets in 1995-96 and later left in free agency, it was a defensible move. 


But man, what if Washington was on the clock when Kobe was still on the board. Do they get scared away by the Lakers noise too or do they roll the dice on an uber-talented wing poised to become one of the game's all-time greats? 

And then if they did roll the dice, what does a core of Webber and Bryant do for the franchise? How many Finals appearances do they make in a weakened East post-Michael Jordan?

It's impossible to know. The Bullets didn't have the pick and it's hard to forecast Bryant's career trajectory on another team given he spent 20 years with the Lakers. But still, it's one of those things that makes hoops fans shake their fist at the basketball gods. 

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