When it comes to the NBA, you can never forget about the mascots because they add a lot of color and excitement to the identity of an entire NBA team. Many NBA mascots have become popular in their own right because of their looks and the antics that they play to entertain the home crowd and make the games a bit more exciting.
But while there may be mascots that usually stand out more than the others, how many NBA mascots are there? And does every team in the NBA have a mascot? Those are the questions we are here to tackle.
Does Every NBA Team Have a Mascot?
No matter how you look at it, the NBA is still an entertainment business, first and foremost. That means that this is a league that focuses on entertaining its fans in the building and those watching from their screens in any way possible. One such factor that has allowed NBA teams to boost the entertainment factor of their games is through their mascots.
NBA mascots are what they are, and that means that they are simply mascots that resemble the chosen creature or thing that the respective organization thought best represents the team’s identity. And these mascots have helped boost the entertainment factor of the games by doing all sorts of antics during games and by hyping up the crowd.
But you may be wondering if all of the teams in the NBA have mascots of their own. And is every NBA team even required to have a mascot?
For starters, not all NBA teams have a mascot. In fact, out of all of the 30 teams in the league, only four do not have mascots of their own. And these four teams do not have mascots for various reasons that may vary, depending on the situation and the team’s identity.
An example of a team that does not have a mascot is the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers do not need a mascot because people all over California go to LA to watch the Lakers play regardless of whether or not there is a mascot entertaining them. And there are jokes about Jack Nicholson, a long-time courtside presence in Laker games, being the Lakers’ mascot.
On the other hand, the same situation does not apply to the Clippers, who have a mascot that allows them to have a separate identity of their own. That is because the Clippers have been living in the shadow of the Lakers since their move to LA. As such, they need to have a mascot that would allow them to have a unique identity separate and distinct from the Lakers.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets are in the same boat as the Lakers regarding mascots. Being in New York already sells tickets, which means that the Knicks and Nets no longer need to do anything extra to convince people to watch their games or get the crowd excited.
On the other hand, the Golden State Warriors mascot named Thunder used to exist. However, when the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder in 2008, the Warriors retired their mascot after the 2007-08 season to ensure that people do not get confused. The Warriors became the fourth team in the NBA to not have a mascot.
So, with that said, all NBA teams except the Lakers, Knicks, Nets, and Warriors do not have mascots of their own. And it just so happens that all four of those teams play in three of the largest markets in the NBA, as New York, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area rank first, second, and sixth, respectively, in terms of basketball market size. The size of the markets they play in is probably one of the reasons why these teams do not need a mascot. Meanwhile, only the Lakers and the Knicks have never had a mascot at any point in the history of the NBA.
5 Best NBA Mascots
Given that we have already set aside the four NBA teams that do not have mascots, let us now look at the five best NBA mascots the league has to offer.
1. Benny the Bull – Chicago Bulls
There is no doubt that Benny the Bull is one of the most popular mascots in the association. He is also one of the most recognizable mascots of all time because he can do all kinds of acrobatic stunts and is known for being a good dancer. He was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2019.
2. Lucky the Leprechaun – Boston Celtics
Lucky the Leprechaun has only been a mascot since 2003, even though he has been the Celtics’ logo for over five decades already. The unique part about Lucky is that he is not an animal mascot and does not wear a full-body suit. Instead, he is a human dressed as a leprechaun. Lucky deserves a high spot on this list because he pays tribute to Boston’s large Irish immigrant population.
3. The Raptor – Toronto Raptors
The only mascot with no name is The Raptor of the Toronto Raptors. The Raptor is popular all over Canada and is known to entertain different people with acrobatic stunts. He is also one of the most over-the-top mascots in the NBA and once tried eating a cheerleader. The Raptor also has a rivalry with NBA player Robin Lopez, who once said he is the most annoying mascot in the entire NBA.
4. Go the Gorilla – Phoenix Suns
Go the Gorilla is probably the only mascot not directly connected to the Suns’ logo or team identity. Nevertheless, he has been a part of the organization since 1980 and has been one of the most popular mascots in the entire NBA because of his brand of slapstick comedy. Go was also named fourth on AskMen.com’s top 10 sports mascots. On top of that, Go is an endorser for an athletic clothing line.
5. Rocky the Mountain Lion – Denver Nuggets
Rocky the Mountain Lion also finished in AskMen.com’s top 10 sports mascot, as he was ranked ninth on that list. Of course, there is a good reason why he is on that list. He was named the 2019 Mascot of the Year and is very popular across Denver. Rocky also made cameo appearances for other Denver-based professional sports teams, proving that he is more than just a member of the Nuggets.
How Much Do NBA Mascots Make on Average?
One of the things that you should know about NBA mascots is that they are well-paid for their services. We are not even talking about a median salary or an above-average pay here because some NBA mascots make a lot of money annually. And while their salaries pale in comparison to an NBA player’s minimum salary, NBA mascots are still earning a lot more than the average employee.
An NBA mascot can earn somewhere close to $60,000 annually. However, some mascots tend to have different wages, depending on the organization that hired them. Nevertheless, they are paid well enough, as they make appearances in NBA games and different team-related marketing, promotional, and charity events.
Rocky the Mountain Lion is the highest-paid among all of the NBA mascots. He commands a hefty yearly salary of $650,000 from the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile, the next highest-paid mascot is Benny the Bull, who earns as much as $200,000 per year. On the other hand, some of the other mascots are closer to the $60,000 median salary. It is just that Rocky and even Benny are outliers.
How to Become an NBA Mascot
Now that you know how much NBA mascots are making, you are probably thinking of trying out as a mascot in the future when one of the mascot jobs opens up. However, how do you become an NBA mascot?
The truth is that there is no hard and fast rule or procedure when it comes to becoming an NBA mascot. The NBA does not have standards in hiring mascots because mascots are not even requirements to begin with. That is why the hiring process depends almost entirely on the organization looking for a mascot. Every NBA team has a different procedure when hiring a mascot.
But the general rule is that you need to become trained in the profession before becoming a mascot. What an NBA mascot does is not easy, especially when you look at the degree of difficulty in their acrobatic stunts. And you need to understand that it is a lot more difficult to perform stunts while wearing a stuffy and heavy mascot costume.
So, in that sense, due to how difficult and risky an NBA mascot’s job is, it is easy to understand why they make good money.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many NBA Mascots are There?
All in all, there are 26 mascots in the NBA. NBA mascots may not be necessary, but they add a lot of fun and excitement to the association because of their stunts, antics, and services to the local community. These mascots were specifically chosen for skills and training. As such, it is easy to understand why NBA mascots have become beloved not only by their teams and fans but also by the entire league.
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Cover photo by Adam Lazzarato is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / modified from original