How did the Kansas City Chiefs get their nickname? Full history & timeline

Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Michael Owens/GettyImages

It's safe to say the Kansas City Chiefs fan base is slightly bigger and younger than it was, say, a decade ago.

Gone are the days of the Chiefs hoping and praying for a single primetime showing in a given season or angling for an ounce of respect from the national media. It's almost funny to consider such notions today, given the ubiquitous nature of the team and its players, but alas, it wasn't so long ago that Chiefs Kingdom itself was embarrassed at what the franchise had become (2012).

These days, of course, the Chiefs are the topic du jour even among casual sports fans with a globally recognized quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and a household name for sports and entertainment in tight end Travis Kelce. When you throw in a head coaching legend like Andy Reid, a game-wrecking pass rusher on a Hall of Fame trajectory in Chris Jones, and a front office that keeps the roster full of youth and depth, you have a recipe for sustained success.

That's exactly what the Chiefs have been doing in recent years: establishing the NFL's new dynasty with four Super Bowl appearances and three victories in the last five years. In fact, the Chiefs are on the verge of chasing the NFL's first-ever three-peat. Life is good in the spotlight.

For those new(er) to the team, however, you might not know about the origins of it all—the importance of Lamar Hunt to the NFL and this franchise, the beginnings in the state of Texas, the merger with the AFL. Let's take a look back at some important franchise history and how the Chiefs got their name in the first place.

1960-1962: The Dallas Texans Era

The Chiefs have a storied history that dates back to the franchise's founding in 1960. Originally established as the Dallas Texans, the team was one of the eight original members of the American Football League (AFL)—a rival league to the National Football League—founded by Lamar Hunt.

Hunt was instrumental in the creation of the AFL after failing to secure an NFL expansion team. The Texans played their home games at the Cotton Bowl and quickly became competitive under head coach Hank Stram. In 1962, the Texans won the AFL Championship, defeating the Houston Oilers in double overtime in what was then the longest professional football game ever played.

1963: A New City & Name

Despite their success on the field, the Texans struggled to compete with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys for fans and media attention. Recognizing the need for a new market, Hunt decided to relocate the team to Kansas City for the 1963 season.

The move was supported by Kansas City mayor H. Roe Bartle, who had lobbied extensively to bring an AFL team to the city. Bartle, nicknamed "Chief" due to his involvement with the Boy Scouts and other civic organizations, inspired the new team name.

1963-71: Establishing Early Success

The Chiefs quickly established themselves as a premier AFL team with two more AFL Championships (1966 and 1969) and an appearance in the first-ever Super Bowl, where they were defeated by the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl in 1970 and won their first title against the Minnesota Vikings.

While there have been glimpses of hope since those early days, the Chiefs haven't been nationally relevant for anything longer than the occasional random season or two (or the trade for Joe Montana)—until now. These days, the Chiefs are doing Lamar Hunt proud with the sort of sustained run of success that eludes most franchises. As the favorites coming into 2024, the Chiefs are bound to add plenty more hardware.