Over the years, many pro sports mascots have come and gone. For whatever reason, some have managed to make more of an impression than others. Here, you’ll find some of the most delightfully bizarre mascots in pro sports history. While some are still around, others have been retired — but they certainly haven’t been forgotten.
Thunder | Golden State Warriors (NBA)
Thunder is certainly one of pro sports’ most human-looking mascots. The Golden State Warriors now-retired mascot, who entertained fans with slick trick shots from 1997 to 2007, looks a bit like a Space Jam (1996) character or the result of a Marvel/NBA mashup.
After a decade of tireless dedication to the Warriors, Thunder ran into a bit of trouble. When the Seattle SuperSonics moved and became the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Bay Area-based team was forced to rename their long-standing mascot. While Thunder’s look was supposedly being revamped, the Warriors never actually debuted a new mascot and, to this day, the team remains mascot-less.
Crazy Crab | San Francisco Giants (MLB)
Unlike most other mascots on our list, Crazy Crab was meant to be hated. This San Francisco Giants’ “anti-mascot” is now the stuff of legend — and kind of the mascot equivalent of a cult classic — but he was born for a particular, burdensome purpose in 1984. That year, the Giants weren’t playing too well, which upset fans. The franchise, however, didn’t want their supporters hating on the team, so they gave them a new target for their anger and frustration: Crazy Crab.
In fact, fans were encouraged by the team to boo the crustacean. Sadly, this encouragement worked a little too well; fans threw beer bottles and other objects at the mascot, whose suit had to be reinforced with fiberglass for extra protection. Even players — on both the Giants and the opposing teams — would join in on bullying Crazy Crab. The crab’s run as the team’s mascot ended in disaster when he was attacked by two players on the San Diego Padres. Wayne Doba, the actor playing Crazy Crab, sustained injuries and ended up suing. Now, Crazy Crab is the stuff of team lore — an inside joke of sorts.
Gritty | Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
As legend has it, the recent construction of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center disturbed the hidden lair of a large, orange, googly-eyed creature who had laid dormant for years. Upon surfacing, the monster didn’t unleash a reign of terror. Instead, he declared himself an avid Philadelphia Flyers fan.
You know him. You love him. You’ve probably meme’d him. It’s none other than Gritty, the deeply unhinged (but incredibly beloved) NHL mascot who made waves during his debut in the 2018–19 season. At first, Gritty wasn’t met with acceptance from Flyers fans — or anyone, really. He was feared and mocked. Of course, as Gritty leaned further into his self-aware, absurdist antics, he quickly became a fan favorite — and an internet sensation.
As Bleacher Report put it, “He might look like a drunk uncle come to life in muppet form, but he was their drunk uncle muppet.” This seven-foot-tall mascot, however, is more than just a passionate NHL persona. In fact, he became an enemy of Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential race and, for many, became a kind of leftist avatar in online circles. Since then, this little anarchist-that-could has appeared on protest signs and in memes. With his global reach and headline-making moments, Gritty has become a political symbol, a cultural icon — and, without a doubt, has transcended being a pro sports mascot.
Doppler | Seattle Storm (WNBA)
When you hear the name “Doppler,” odds are you think of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Doppler radar — or, if you’re a science lover, the Doppler effect. It’s unlikely, however, that you imagine a big maroon creature wearing a basketball uniform. Unless you’re a Seattle Storm fan.
The Storm may have won four WNBA championships, but one of the team’s lesser-discussed achievements might just be making Doppler, with his maroon fur and tuft of yellow hair, work. While physics buffs might protest our use of the phrase “Doppler effect” in a basketball context, we think it’s a fun mantra — and a true one, too. After all, Dopps really knows how to get a crowd going, and, in his free time, this winning mascot captains an all-kid dance squad.
Phillie Phanatic | Philadelphia Phillies (MLB)
Before Gritty came to be (or, you know, awoke from his slumber), Philadelphia flexed its creative mascot muscles elsewhere. The city’s MLB team, the Phillies, debuted an updated version of their iconic Phillie Phanatic mascot in 2020, but, for decades, fans have been clamoring for this… large… green… flightless bird?
According to his official bio, the Phanatic weighs in at 300 pounds and features “clumsy feet, [an] extra-long beak, [an] extra-long curled up tongue, [a] gawking neck and [a] ‘slight’ case of body odor.” Not all mascots are sleek. And they shouldn’t have to be, either. They just need a lot of heart. Said to have originated somewhere on the Galápagos Islands, the Phanatic enjoys pretzels, Tastykakes, and, of course, cheering on the Phillies.
Burnie | Miami Heat (NBA)
Long before Bernie Sanders’ supporters popularized the “Feel the Bern” slogan, the Miami Heat’s 7’6″ mascot, Burnie, was encouraging fans to feel the burn. In fact, he’s been bringing the heat for three decades now. While he may initially appear to be a chicken whose design went terribly wrong, Burnie is meant to be a flame. Maybe all that orange fur and the green, nose-like basketball threw you off, but among Heat fans Burnie is beloved.
In an accidentally hilarious twist of fate, Burnie was once sued in 1994 for encouraging a fan to dance a bit too enthusiastically. And she fell, mid-dance. Later, she was discovered to be the wife of a federal judge. (Talk about getting burned!) Thankfully, Burnie was ultimately spared the 20 years in prison he was facing; instead, the case was settled for $50,000. That’s what happens when you play with fire — or, erm, when you are fire.
Dandy | New York Yankees (MLB)
If you don’t remember Dandy, the creature that served as the ill-fated Yankees mascot from 1979 to 1981, you’re not alone. The pear-shaped, pinstriped bird (or so they say…) sported a Yankees cap, furry uniform, and a mustache inspired by Yankee catcher Thurman Munson. If Dandy looks like something out of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock to you, you’re not too far off; the mascot was designed by Bonnie Erickson, whose résumé includes The Muppet Show.
Unfortunately, George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees, felt that mascots had no place on the ball field, an opinion he voiced just two weeks before Dandy’s big debut. Reportedly, there’d been an incident between ballplayer Lou Piniella and a rival team’s mascot, and this prompted Steinbrenner to make his anti-Dandy remarks. With little support, Dandy retired after just three seasons. Talk about a Bronx bummer.
Boomer the Cannon | Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Boomer the Cannon is yet another mascot who didn’t quite capture the hearts of fans. The second mascot of the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Hockey team, Boomer was a large, grey cannon — complete with wheels and, um, a white mustache. You know, the standard look all anthropomorphic cannons boast.
While he was intended to represent the Blue Jacket’s celebratory cannon, which fired whenever the team scored, Boomer’s somewhat-phallic resemblance couldn’t be ignored. In the end, the team quietly ousted Boomer, forcing him to retire before the end of his first NHL season.
Wally the Green Monster | Boston Red Sox (MLB)
Although Wally made his official debut in 1997, team lore insists that the “Green Monster” has been sneaking into Red Sox games (thanks to some clever disguises) since 1912. Why a green monster, you ask?
As any MLB fan will tell you, “Green Monster” has long been the popular nickname for Fenway Park’s 37-foot-2-inch-high left-field wall, which, as you may have guessed, is painted a bright shade of green. That said, the term was the perfect jumping-off point when it came to brainstorming a mascot. These days, Wally and sister, Tessie, cheer on the Red Sox without sneaking into Fenway.
Sparky | New York Islanders (NHL)
Sparky the Dragon made a name for himself by being among the few mascots in sports history to root for two different teams simultaneously. Back in the day, the New York Islanders hockey team shared the Nassau Coliseum with a football team, the New York Dragons.
Until the Dragons folded in 2008, Sparky would show up in a red ensemble and football jersey at every Dragons home game. For Islanders games, however, he’d rock the blue-and-orange Isles jersey and accompanying ensemble. These days, Sparky can often be found taking part in various community outreach programs.