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Reviewing the NBA’s playoff slogans

The slogans are out for every team’s playoff run, and the Warriors are “Gold-Blooded.” The Clippers aren’t anything yet, because if they get bounced by the Pelicans those shirts will be collectors items for the haters.

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Steph Curry sits with stuffing in his nose because his gold blood was getting everywhere.
Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The playoffs are about to start, and you know what that means? Yes, it’s time to get your playoff merchandise! That is, if you enjoy terrible puns and celebrating simple making the playoffs. I think often of my childhood “1988 NFC West Champions” 49ers sweatshirt, from a year where the Niners actually won the Super Bowl. I wore the sweatshirt proudly, telling the world that I loved my team and had very little faith that this 10-6 squad would go all the way.

But now that the crop of slogans is out - you can see them on t-shirts, but also hashtagged on thousands of tweets complaining about Scott Foster’s officiating in the next two months. We’re going team by team to rate, review, celebrate, and condemn the 2022 playoff slogans, and suggest some for teams that can’t release their slogans yet, because people would buy San Antonio Spurs Playoffs 2022 gear just to make fun of them. Trust me, I own a t-shirt that celebrates the 2007 New England Patriots’ 19-0 season.

Golden State Warriors - Gold-Blooded: It’s a play on the term “cold-blooded,” but what it really implies is the team’s blood is rich. The Golden State Warriors have the highest payroll in the NBA this season, with three players on maximum-salary deals, and Draymond Green making 20+. And it’s only a rumor, but it seems likely that a lot of season ticket holders probably have blood boys, that is, young people whose blood is pumped into the bodies of older rich tech millionaires. Come to think of it, Andre Iguodala might even have one. How else does he look so good at age 38?

The Dubs’ other color is blue, but “blue-blooded” refers to anyone who can afford lower bowl seats at the Chase Center and their own on-site wine cellars.

Phoenix Suns - Rally The Valley: This is just a solid slogan. It’s not an obvious pun about the sun, it doesn’t try to force a rhyme for “Phoenix” (it would turn into a dirty limerick), and “Rally” is an underused word in basketball parlance. Phoenix is in the Valley of the Sun, which is also the Salt River Valley, perfect for Chris Paul, the NBA’s saltiest player. And by defeating the Lakers last year in the first round, they’ve claimed naming rights to all NBA Valleys. Sorry Burbank!

Memphis Grizzlies - #MEMTHIS: It doesn’t show in this formatting, but the “THIS” is also underlined. Look, these slogans are all going to be used as hashtags eventually, but do they have to put it on the merch? Don’t say “hashtag” out loud, and there’s no need to put it on a shirt. It already looks outdated, like someone is trying way too hard to relate to the Gen-Z Grizzlies. Also, why is “this” underlined? The style guide clearly calls for italics! All in all, it’s some serious “Hello fellow kids!” energy from the Memphis marketing department this season. Why you would ever wear a shirt that says “Memthis” when there’s perfectly good Grit N’ Grind shirts out there?

Dallas Mavericks - Dallas In: Apparently Dallas is IN search of a new marketing person, because this slogan is INsanely weak. Frankly, given the Mavericks’ history of sexually-inappropriate behavior, I’m not sure you want to make anyone think of the word “In.” Dallas In…dependent Prosecutor. Dallas In…decent Exposure. Dallas In…tervention from the NBA due to corrosive workplace culture. Dallas In…litigation with Donn Nelson over Nelson’s firing for reporting sexual assault. And Dallas is In…a lot of trouble if Luka Doncic is limping.

Utah Jazz - Take Note: In 2020, the Jazz’s playoff slogan was “Take Note” and they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in a collapse that was only forgotten when the Clippers also blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the next round. Last year, they had a 2-0 lead on the Clippers and lost four straight, blowing a 25-point lead in Game Six. Despite all of that, they’re sticking with “Take Note” for one more year, just like they’re sticking with Quin Snyder, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert. For one more year.

It’s basically “Let me speak to your manager” with a pun attached. It’s actually been their slogan since the 2016-17 regular season, and it’s a very Utah Jazz move to keep the regular season slogan as the playoff slogan, since the Jazz are the NBA’s kings of regular season success that doesn’t translate at all to the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets - 5280 Relentless: 5,280 feet is the elevation of Denver. With Jamal Murray out, that altitude is their second-best playoff weapon, behind Nikola Jokic. But “5,280 Relentless” sounds like there’s 5,280 relentless people. Which is a lot of people for a mob, but a little small for a playoff crowd or a fan base. I guess it would sound even worse if they catered to Jokic’s European heritage and made it the slogan “1609 Meters Relentless.”

Minnesota Timberwolves - We’re All Raised By Wolves: Easily the most insane playoff slogan and I appreciate how hard it goes. It says, we’re a pack of goddamn maniacs, who are going to lose our minds and throw our clothes into the stands if we win a play-in game. They probably could have gone with “Raised By Wolves” to save some design space, but it feels like the “We’re All” includes the fans. You know who else was raised by wolves? Romulus and Remus, and they founded Rome, dammit. For the last two decades, the Timberwolves would have been better off with an actual wolf running the team instead of Kevin McHale or David Kahn.

Miami Heat - White Hot Playoffs: The Miami Heat slogan invokes the least-intimidating playoff tradition that the NBA has - the White-Out, when all the fans wear the color white to create a sea of white. Like the stands at a Utah Jazz game. It also describes two of the Heat’s promising young role players - White (Duncan Robinson) and Hot (Tyler Herro). I guess it’s better than celebrating some of Miami’s other playoff traditions: “Leaving Early Playoffs,” “Jimmy Buffet Gets Overserved Playoffs” or “Flo Rida’s Manager Gets Ejected Playoffs”.

Boston Celtics - Celtic Pride: Celtic Pride is a 1999 film starring Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern as two passionate Celtics fans who kidnap the Utah Jazz’s All-Star guard, Damon Wayans, during the NBA Finals. This plot is pretty unbelievable - the Jazz playing in the Finals? - though the plot does involve a Jazz guard’s refusal to pass to his teammates. Anyway, the movie is about how insane Boston fans are and it ends with the Celtics losing the biggest game of the year. Celtic Pride!

Milwaukee Bucks - Fear The Deer: This isn’t a new slogan, but it’s a classic. When you win your first NBA title in half a century, you don’t need a new playoff slogan the next season. And a deer will mess you up! Antlers, hooves, insatiable hunger for backyard vegetable gardens - it’s dangerous! Just look at Bucks mascot Bango - he’s absolutely insane.

Philadelphia 76ers - Phila Unite: This slogan is fine, albeit one that feels very soccer-esque. But here’s the problem: Why isn’t this Philly Unite? It reads like “phyla,” that is, a group of taxonomic divisions below kingdom and above class. I guess that’s because Philadelphia fans act like animals? To be honest, I’m not sure you actually want Sixers fans to unite, because the potential result of that is terrifying. Imagine: Organized militias throwing batteries at Ben Simmons’ car, pulling down the statue of William Penn and replacing with a sculpture of Sam Hinkie, marching on the homes of any MVP voter who put Nikola Jokic above Joel Embiid on their ballot, and lecturing Wawa employees about how drafting centers in the lottery for three straight seasons was actually brilliant.

Toronto Raptors - We The North: True for the Raptors as well as the Bucks: If you win the NBA title, go ahead and keep your playoff slogan forever. And if fans are showing up in the thousands to watch your playoff games outdoors, you really don’t need the marketing boost of a new phrase. It also extends an olive branch to the Francophone community of Quebec, who can take this slogan as “Oui! The North!”

Chicago Bulls - See Red: Good solid slogan. Uses the team colors, avoids a cringey pun, makes reference to something that makes an actual bull go wild. The only downside is it might make people think about Seeing Red Auerbach puffing on an obnoxious cigar at a game, but luckily he’s been dead for quite some time.

Brooklyn Nets - Nets Level: This isn’t great, but at least it’s not an offensive pun, just a boring and somewhat confusing one. Honestly, it evokes a speech impediment more than anything else, or a white person trying to speak Ebonics. I won’t say anything more about this because I don’t want Kevin Durant to get mad at me on Twitter.

Cleveland Cavaliers/Atlanta Hawks/LA Clippers/New Orleans Pelicans - Nothing: Any potential playoff merch was pulled from the NBA store due to the teams due to losing the first play-in, so they don’t end up in Eastern European thrift stores along with Buffalo Bills Super Bowl Champions merchandise. For the Cavs, we’d suggest “Flamin’ Hot Playoffs” as a shout-out to Cheetos and the Cuyahoga River catching on fire so much.

The Atlanta Hawks used #BelieveAtlanta on their way to the conference finals last season, but it sounds less like an inspirational slogan and more like a cousin of the #MeToo movement. Believe Atlanta when it reports inappropriate behavior! We’re guessing they bring this one back, but if not, how about a tribute to early-90s hip-hop and their young ginger star with “Please Hammer Don’t Huerter”?

Last year the Clippers had “Playoffs, Our Way” an extension of “LA, Our Way.” Historically, the Clipper Way is not the way to pursue, but considering how the other LA team has been going, we’ll allow it. Probably want to wait until Kawhi is back and they’re not in danger of losing to the Pelicans to bust out the “Clipper ‘Ship” designs.

He hasn’t played all season, but the Pelicans’ biggest draw is still Zion Williamson. So they could take a page from the Timberwolves’ book and go after the fan market - and a certain political demographic - with “We Are All Zionists.” Or, as a tribute to Williamson’s endless rehabilitation process, “Ramping Up!”