Bye, Little Cow. Hello, Lone Ranger Heroes.
After an intense five-month rebranding campaign, the Dallas Mavericks now officially have a new Chinese name, effectively ending a decadelong misperception of the Mavericks’ brand in the NBA’s biggest global market.
The franchise made the announcement Wednesday night as Dallas hosted the Golden State Warriors.
The name change won’t affect how the Mavericks are branded or recognized in English. It primarily serves to correct a long-standing Chinese misinterpretation of “Mavericks” — a distinct American term symbolizing a free-spirited individual.
In China, the Mavericks are currently called “Xiao Niu,” meaning “little cow,” by broadcasters, journalists, experts and fans. The term first appeared in Chinese state-run media and was subsequently picked up by others. Recently, some began to question whether the name was misrepresenting the horse in the team’s logo.
Last year, the Mavericks became aware of the situation in China. “I wasn’t happy,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN, laughing, at the beginning of the rebranding campaign. “Obviously, no one wants to be a little cow, so I’m glad we’re going to get an opportunity to change it.”
“I think it’s very important. You know, a lot of times in sports, you develop such an identity with that team, and you want to make sure that the title being used in front of your name accurately matches that,” Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes said. “In China, we want that to reflect the same way and to have the same prestige.”
While the name Lone Ranger Heroes may not be a direct interpretation of the Mavericks’ name, players said the new name is definitely an improvement.
“It’s better than the other one,” guard J.J. Barea said. “That’s awful. Little cows?”
“Obviously, I’d rather be a lone ranger than be a cow,” added guard Devin Harris. “I come from Wisconsin. We don’t really treat cows that well, so much better.”
The Mavericks teamed up with Tencent — ESPN’s exclusive digital partner in China — for a name-changing campaign. The campaign has since brought wide attention and discussion within the Chinese basketball community. However, choosing and officially changing a Chinese name is not easy.
The complexity of the Chinese language and cultural distinctions, along with legal hurdles, raised the campaign’s overall degree of difficulty. In the monthslong process, Tencent also consulted current and former Mavericks players, Chinese sports experts, legal analysts and linguists.
In total, the campaign received more than 60,000 proposed name submissions, and three candidates — Lone Ranger Heroes, Mad Horses and Wild Horses — became the finalists.
“Making the Mavericks’ Chinese name accurate means a lot. The inaccurate name has been called for about three decades; it’s a historical change in NBA’s development in China,” said Shi Yankui, Director of Tencent Sports. “It also shows that the Chinese fans have begun to embrace and take ownership of the NBA in new ways.”
Shi said more NBA teams will have opportunities to further involve Chinese fans to reach their marketing goals.
“This is just the beginning,” Shi said. “We’re going to try to help more teams fix and perfect their Chinese names in the future.”
Information from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.