Lone Rangers, Mad Horses, or Wild Horses? On Wednesday night, one of them will be selected as the new Chinese name for the Dallas Mavericks.
The product of an intense five-month rebranding campaign, the team will make the announcement Wednesday at halftime while hosting the Golden State Warriors, effectively ending a decade-long misperception of the Mavericks' brand in the NBA's biggest global market.
The name change won't affect how the Mavericks are branded or recognized in English. It primarily serves to correct a long-standing Chinese misterpretation 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 if 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 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," Mavs forward Harrison Barnes said. "In China, we want that to reflect the same way and to have the same prestige."
The Mavericks teamed up with ESPN and 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 as easy.
The complexity of the Chinese language and cultural distinctions, along with legals hurdles, all raised the campaign's overall degree of difficulty. In the months-long process, Tencent and ESPN 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 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 the 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."