The NBA world was buzzing this week. News circulated, following an episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, that there is real traction to expand the NBA into the cities of Seattle and Las Vegas. 

Seattle was home to the SuperSonics for forty years between 1968 and 2008 before moving to Oklahoma City. It stands to reason that they would choose the same moniker, given the history of the NBA in that market. But Vegas? That feels wide open, and the potential mascots are endless.

We have documented mascot changes in the past. Well before they changed their mascot, we looked at new names for who are now the Washington Commanders and Cleveland Guardians. We looked at teams that should change their names, like the Kansas City Chiefs, Oklahoma Sooners, and Rhode Island School of Design Balls. (Yes, that last one is real). But a team that doesn’t exist yet? 

There is no more perfect a canvas to paint a mascot on than Las Vegas. The city is simultaneously the most American city in America and the city people stop through for long weekends. It’s a city full of fine dining where people go a whole night eating only the maraschino cherries with complimentary drinks as they tip the waitress. In Vegas, you can literally feel like a million bucks and an absolute zero within the same breath. You can do nearly anything in Las Vegas, but you can’t talk about it. 

But there’s one thing the Las Vegas pro basketball team absolutely should be called? The Flamingos.

The Origin of “Flamingos”

Yes, in a previous iteration of Mascot Madness, this was argued to be the new UNLV mascot. But if Virginia and Cleveland can be the Cavaliers, Hawaii and Golden State can be the Warriors, and Toledo and Houston are both the Rockets… Why can’t the new Vegas basketball team also be the Flamingos? 

In Las Vegas, The Flamingo (formerly The Fabulous Flamingo) is a casino and hotel on the Vegas Strip. It’s the oldest hotel on the Strip that is still standing and was the first foray into legitimate business for mobster Bugsy Siegel. Siegel was a New York mafia leader, and after fleeing to California saw gambling in Nevada as a way to legitimize his operation. His experience in gambling in and around New York City paired well with legalized casinos in Nevada. Las Vegas, and The Flamingo, were a perfect fit.

The Flamingo has changed ownership several times but remains a staple on the Vegas Strip. The iconic pink and orange terrace is impossible to miss, and even those that don’t enjoy gambling enjoy the palm trees, the pool, and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. The pink lights fill the sky and attract people from all over the world to come to watch acts from RuPaul’s Drag Race Live to Paula Abdul. Much like the NBA, The Flamingo is an international entertainment entity.

The Mascot

The Las Vegas Flamingos have a built-in color scheme, can utilize the current T-Mobile Arena the Golden Knights do, and can play off of the history of the city. A flamingo with a mobster hat and branding in the same iconic script? Boom. You can have “The Hot Corner” and you can call your rowdy fan section “the mob.” The cheer squad? The “Go ‘Gos.” Much like the script font of the hotel, simple cursive lettering that conveys quick handwriting is important here. The game of basketball is fast. You get your bets in fast. The words need to look fast.

The mascot itself? Well, it’s a giant pink bird. And while the pink bird would wear a mafia-style fedora and tie, it also would need some basketball sneakers, no? Luckily for Las Vegas, the bird itself can create an “L” as it stands perfectly still. Flamingos balance. While it may not feel like it after spending 72 hours on the strip, Las Vegas is a city where visitors need balance. So while the font is fast, the bird must be sturdy. Hence, the logo above.

Pierre the Pelican is in New Orleans. Burnie represents the Heat in Miami. Harry the Hawk is in Atlanta. Frankie the (mobster) Flamingo fits right in. And birds of a feather flock together. (Frankie: “Or else.”)

The City

Las Vegas is an up-and-coming sports city. Once the capital of sports betting, Vegas appeared to be off-limits. Now? As sports betting becomes mainstream the city boasts a professional NFL, NHL, and WNBA team. It’s one of the last major American cities without an NBA team, but it isn’t without fans. 

The 2007 NBA All-Star Game was in Las Vegas and remains the only time the game has been played in a city that didn’t presently have an NBA team. While the game appeared hungover (because it was) the stadium was electric. Vegas also hosts annual Team USA basketball events and the most prominent NBA Summer League tournaments. Vegas is a city for basketball but has no men’s pro team. And since 2017, the city has become a major pro sports town. As all three teams continue to have strong attendance, and as we see Las Vegas regularly have big turnouts for boxing, UFC, and other athletic events, adding an NBA team makes some sense. 

In 2005, the Sacramento Kings nearly moved to Las Vegas over a dispute for a new stadium, but eventually, the Maloofs sold the team to a group determined to keep them in Sacramento. Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts, said in 2016 that he was determined to bring a team to Las Vegas… but hinted he wasn’t looking at expansion. 

It’s fair to question if Bill Simmons is really as connected to this situation as he used to be. Since launching The Ringer in 2016, Simmons has run his own shows and produced great content, but has been much more focused on being the CEO than writing (for good reason). Being unable to name his source is both understandable and unpersuasive. Does Las Vegas (after Seattle) make sense? Absolutely. Is there money in Las Vegas to support it? Definitely. The stadium is already set up. 

And flock it, they’ve got a great potential name. Here we go, Flamingos. Go, go, go Flamingos. Stand tall. Wear pink. Flamin-Go Vegas. 


For more on sports, sneakers, and fandom, follow me @painsworth512 for more. Give our podcast “F” In Sports a listen wherever you listen to podcasts! Be sure to check our NEW weekly basketball show, The Midweek Midrange, on YouTube,Twitter, and Instagram!

About Author

Parker Ainsworth

Senior NBA Writer, Co-Host of "F" In Sports and The Midweek Midrange. Parker is a hoops head, "retired" football player, and sneaker aficionado. Austinite born in Houston, located in Dallas after a brief stint in LA... Parker is a well-traveled Texan, teacher, and coach. Feel free to contact Parker- https://linktr.ee/PAinsworth512

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