Ubuntu pride--on the basketball court

If the Boston Celtics can now be associated with Linux, what team might want to claim Windows as its inspiration? Hmm...

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
3 min read

The Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association and the Linux community now have more in common than you might have thought.

In the NBA, most of the established talent is out west, on teams like San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas. The Eastern Conference is a wide-open race in which there's no clear favorite, and any team's chances of winning can change very quickly with the addition or subtraction of a few key players.

Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce will shout 'Ubuntu' before every game this year, in a free marketing opportunity for Canonical. Boston Celtics

With that in mind, the Boston Celtics engineered the most dramatic off-season overhaul in the league, trading for superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Paul Pierce in hopes of bringing that elusive 17th championship back to Boston after more than 20 years of futility. Now word comes, via The Boston Herald, that Linux fans may want to throw their support to Gang Green because of the team's new rallying cry, "ubuntu."

As far as we can tell, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth, the developer of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, has not signed a sponsorship deal to make Ubuntu The Official Linux Distribution of The Boston Celtics. Coach Doc Rivers apparently chose that word after learning of it while reading about Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "Ubuntu" has its roots in the Bantu languages of southern Africa as meaning "a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success," according to The Herald.

Canonical has a slightly different take on its Web page, but evokes the same spirit: "Ubuntu is an African word meaning 'Humanity to others', or 'I am what I am because of who we all are.'" That's certainly an inspirational message for any team, whether you're trying to develop a cohesive starting five or attempting to gain a foothold as a PC operating system fighting against giants.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls his shot at Macworld in January, having broken the curse of the soda water. Declan McCullagh/CNET News.com

But it got me thinking: if other sports organizations had to choose an operating system as their mascot, what would they choose?

WINDOWS: The New York Yankees. A sustained record of dominance across generations, more money than God, and bombastic leaders prone to making controversial statements brought on by a bit of a temper. The team everyone loves to hate, but they just keep winning.

MAC OS: The Boston Red Sox. (Bet you didn't see that one coming.) Founders and prominent winners at the beginning of each of their eras that were doomed to long periods of futility by baffling trades (Babe Ruth for $125,000, Steve Jobs for John Sculley). Rabidly loyal fans that do not tolerate dissension and see themselves as counterweights to all that is evil in the universe (see above). Recent successes that have some wondering if the scrappy underdog has now become the dominating overlord.

PALM OS: The Montreal Canadiens. One of hockey's Original Six, the Canadiens are the most successful franchise in the history of the National Hockey League, much the same way Palm OS was a pioneering mobile operating system and enjoyed a long run at the top. But times change, and deep-pocketed rivals have left the two proud organizations struggling for direction.

RED HAT: The St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, they both have red hats. But the Cardinals are the all-time winners among National League teams, and Red Hat is the unquestioned leader in the Linux League. The Cardinals are proud of their team's history and are perhaps even more proud to retain some Midwestern sensibility amid the craziness on either coast, much the same way Red Hat quietly goes about its business while Windows and Mac OS users bash each other to no end.

OS/2: The USFL. For three years in the 1980s, there were actually some who thought the United States Football League could make a dent in the National Football League's dominance of the sport, much as both IBM and Microsoft thought OS/2 could be a successor to Windows. But Windows shipped with all the new PCs that didn't have an IBM logo, and the NFL shipped with all the television channels not owned by Donald Trump (that would have been all of them). The high-profile backers found other things to do, and both quickly faded from the public's mind.

SOLARIS: The Oakland Raiders. Led by brash, iconic generals, both Sun's Solaris and the Raiders' offense helped new industries (client-server computing and the American Football League) flourish. However, hubris eroded both Scott McNealy and Al Davis' chances of duplicating that success into new eras, and both are now reorganizing their core around concepts (x86 servers and defense) that were once anathemas to each organization.