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In the United States, sport is always a show. Fans want to be entertained all the time, and franchises spare no effort to give the public what they want. In every match, the breaks are full of gifts, contests, and stellar performances by the cheerleaders, but if there is any character in charge of leading this whole show, these are, without a doubt, the NBA Mascots. With them, show and entertainment are guaranteed.
When fans come to the court, they don’t just want to watch the game where their teams are playing and see their favorite players do their best with the ball. They want more.
The vast majority of NBA teams have a mascot to cheer on the spectators. The funny mascots’ mission is to dance, make jokes, do acrobatics, throw impossible baskets, and many more activities to cheer and entertain the fans on the court. They make sport much more enjoyable and profitable entertainment.
The Mascot and the Team
A mascot is a fun, dynamic symbol of a team. And the energy inside the custom brings luck to the team, getting them closer to their fans. The mascot keeps the team and the fans together.
Inside their funny and large costumes, mascots perform during the games, entertaining the audience, appear at community functions, maintain their mascot costume, and working year-round to keep the fans excited in the offseason.
Over the years, the different NBA mascots have evolved both in their physical appearance and in what they are capable of doing on the court. Therefore, it is not surprising that, in some cases, they can even steal protagonism from the players with some of their tricks, whether they are dances, juggling with the ball, impossible baskets or all kinds of shows. Mascots can create memorable moments on the court.
So that you can get to know the best mascots of the NBA, here we have selected a list of the 12 most famous and funny mascots of the NBA teams.
Most Loved NBA Mascots
1. Benny the Bull, Chicago Bulls
Benny is one of the most beloved mascots in the entire NBA. He has been the official mascot of the Chicago Bulls since 1969, long before the Bulls became the most popular team in the NBA.
2. The Coyote, San Antonio Spurs
The magic Spurs mascot is also known by the friendly scientific name of “Entertainus Carnivorous”. First introduced to the public in 1983, the Coyote became famous in the NBA long before the San Antonio team achieved any major success. Outside of its presence on the court at games, the Coyote makes more than 400 appearances in the community each year, more than any other NBA mascot.
3. Bango, Milwaukee Bucks
Bango is a deer that has been entertaining Bucks fans since 1977 with his high-flying acrobatic dunks, daring stunts and funny antics. He is also busy making over 250 appearances in the Milwaukee community every year. “Fear the Deer” is the slogan of the team.
4. The Raptor, Toronto Raptors
The Raptor is a red velociraptor donning basketball shoes and a jersey numbered 95, the last two digits of the year of the Raptors’ establishment.
5. Slamson the Lion, Sacramento Kings
The name Slamson is a play on the name Samson, in reference to the biblical hero. This lion lives in The Sleep Train Arena (behind the bleachers), in Sacramento, California. He was born in South Africa and because his family was very poor, the Sacramento Kings helped him, and took him to Sacramento. He has been entertaining kids and teens since then, and it is very much loved by all the fans.
6. Rocky The Mountain Lion, Denver Nuggets
Rocky was born in the rocky mountains of the United States. This lion is characteristic for his attitude, daring acrobatics and innovative satire. He is one of the most loved by players and fans alike.
7. Go the Gorilla, Phoenix Suns
The Suns Gorilla is one of the more famous mascots in the NBA. For the first eleven seasons of their existence in the NBA, the Suns had no official mascot. Gorilla arrived in the winter of 1980 quite by accident, when a messenger came to the Coliseum during a home game dressed as a gorilla and they made him entertain the audience.
8. Moon Dog, Cleveland Cavaliers
Moondog was an NBA All-Star selection in 2003 and 2004. He is best known for his behind the back half-court shot and fierce loyalty to his Cavaliers. His first appearance was in November, 2003.
9. Harry the Hawk, Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks mascot, Harry, is one of the most active in the entire NBA. His first appearance was in 1985 and he is known for his 360’s flights and his alley hoops with the cheerleaders are super famous.
10. Stuff the Magic Dragon, Orlando Magic
The name of the official mascot of the NBA franchise, the Orlando Magic is a play on the song, “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “stuff” a slang term for rejecting or “stuffing” a slam dunk or shot. Stuff is the tallest dragon in Orlando’s history, and has been with the franchise since they debuted in the 1989-90 NBA season.
11. Clutch the Bear, Houston Rockets
Clutch the Bear has become one of the sport’s most celebrated mascots. The informal nickname “Clutch City” was given to Houston, Texas after the Rockets won their first NBA championship in the 1993–94 season. And The Rockets introduced their mascot in 1995. Clutch is the team’s number one fan, and anyone can see him cheering on his team at all home games.
12. Grizz, Memphis Grizzlies
Of all the bears in the NBA, this is the best. He was born in Vancouver in 1995 and during 2011 he was named Mascot of the Year. It is characterized by turning on the fans with its exclusive and impressive acts.
The $alary of the NBA Mascots
Being the mascot of a professional sports team in the NBA is a very beneficial job because it is very well paid.
Mascots usually begin to work in minor leagues, where they can earn a starting salary of about $22,000 or can be paid about $50 per game. But once they get to the ranks of an NBA franchise, the average salary can shoot up to $70,000 approx, according to ESPN. An elite group of mascots can earn up to six figures as full-time salaried employees. They receive this good salary for appearing at all home games, typically 41 in the NBA regular season, in addition to appearing at events.
Others can also make big money working as contract employees just for their performances at games, and outside appearances, in addition they can be hired for private parties.
On the other hand, for the NBA mascots that perform more dangerous and risky stunts, which involve the basket and flying through the air, there are higher price tags.
An example is Benny the Bull of the Chicago Bulls, who is earning $200,000 a year for his act. And that’s not even the highest. The title of highest-paid mascot in sports belongs to Rocky the Mountain Lion, the mascot of the Denver Nuggets, with astronomical earnings worth $625,000 per year.
The average American has a median household income of $68,703 as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and some of the top-paid pro mascots are earning much more than this.
The Person Inside the Mascot
Even if being a sports mascot can be funny, it doesn mean it is easy. It requires special abilities. And the human inside the costume is what brings the mascot the real personality.
What all the fans can see is a big costume running around and acting silly, but it is hard to be a spontaneous fun spirit for hours.
Mascots must be great with people of all ages. Must be able to mime and gesture, since mascots don’t speak. They also must have the ability to be solid entertainers. The more entertaining and cutting edge a mascot is, the better.
In addition, mascots have to be in good athletic shape, because being energetic for multiple hours is intense. That is why mascots are also athletes, such as the players.
Mascots do pushups for every point their team scores, making jokes to the audience, leap through burning rings, jump through hoops and on trampolines, play chase with other mascots, throw goodies into the crowds, taking photos or playing with children or adults, even start the human wave, contests with the public, throw impossible baskets, among other things.
And that is why crowds love mascots: because they never know what to expect.