Top 50 Athlete Initials and Acronyms in Sports History
There are 50 athlete initials and acronyms that stand out from the rest as the all-time best.
In the instant-gratification age, more information is processed via thumbs than ever before. Thus, we have simplified wordy expressions like "oh my God," "by the way" and "do I look like I give a sh**," to abridged hieroglyphics OMG, BTW and my personal favorite, DILLIGAS.
On the surface, they are nebulous number and letter combinations, but to someone versed in the language of text, they paint a clear, instantaneous picture.
Along with this new dialect, the age of long-winded nicknames is becoming obsolete.
Charles Barkley’s “Round Mound of Rebound” may have been better known as RMR or FATCB if he began his playing career 20 years later.
Professional athletes come and go, but the truly great ones earn unmistakable monikers that can last decades and some will carry on for a lifetime.
Following is a list of the top 50 athlete initials and acronyms of all time.
Some were created by our Blackberry era and some evolved on their own merit; either way, each of these mélanges are synonymous with the athlete they represent.
50. Derrick Coleman
Congratulations Derrick, you made the list.
The former NBA All-Star who hails from “The D,” Detroit, was at the top of his game in the mid-'90s.
He was well traveled during his career, playing for five different franchises, but his best years came early on while playing for the New Jersey Nets, and ironically enough under the leadership of former Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly.
Injuries plagued DC and his career diminished—similar to the destitute his hometown currently is trying to recover from—and he never became the Karl Malone or Charles Barkley he was once compared to.
49. Jimmie Johnson
The California kid who began racing motorcycles at age five is the most dominant NASCAR driver in the history of going fast and turning left.
With the sponsorship of Lowe’s, Johnson became the only driver to win five consecutive championships from 2006-10.
Plus, in 2009 he became the only drive to ever be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.
Over the years, the definition of athlete has evolved to include the race car driver for the demands it takes on the body to drive 500 miles at nearly 200 mph, and JJ is synonymous with Jimmie Johnson in racing circles.
48. In-Kyung Kim
Most do not follow women’s golf closely, but if you’re familiar with the LPGA, you know who IK Kim is.
The four-time winner is ranked in the Top 10 worldwide and at only 23 years of age, she is sure to break into the Top Five sooner rather than later.
Kim won her fourth professional title and third LPGA title at the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
The day after she won, she announced that she had donated her entire $220,000 winnings to charity; the donation amounted to nearly 20 percent of her total winnings to date for the 2010 season.
Pretty refreshing in this professional sports era of “me, me, me”—selflessness like that is sure to get you on my list.
47. Kyle Vanden Bosch
Kyle Vanden Bosch has been a catalyst for the turnaround in Motown.
When Jim Schwartz camped out on the front porch of Kyle’s house and called him at 12:01 when the 2010 free-agency period began, the bald defensive end with the non-stop motor instantly became a force in Detroit.
Although on the back end of his career, KVB has brought the leadership and work ethic necessary for winning in the NFL.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed as he received the Detroit Lions Joe Schmidt Leadership Award for 2011.
Yes, he is known for the cherry-red contacts, but he also can be hailed from across the room as KVB.
46. Dr. Joshua Pim
When does a doctor not want to be recognized for his academic accomplishments?
Apparently back in the 19th century things were a bit different.
Yes, Dr. Joshua Pim, an Irish doctor, played under the name “Mr. X” in 1893 when he won the Wimbledon men’s singles event.
He was afraid his competition in the event could hurt his medical practice—oh how the times have changed.
Today, he would have been on the front page of USA Today and been given a syndicated talk show.
45. Larry Johnson
If you were into fantasy football back in 2006, you knew exactly who LJ was.
In 2005, Larry Johnson replaced fantasy football mainstay Priest Holmes in the Kansas City backfield and kept the fantasy points rolling.
With nine consecutive 100-yard games to end the year, he was tops on all draft boards for the next year and did not disappoint with a franchise record of 1,789 yards rushing.
That was the pinnacle of his relevance because in 2007, LJ signed a mega deal and was injured halfway through the season; he was never the same.
Then the former Penn State running back got off some homophobic blasts and the Chiefs ultimately released him.
44. Jeremy Roenick
When you think USA hockey, you think Canada’s bitch, but when you think of American hockey players, JR means Jeremy Roenick.
He played for five different NHL teams during his 18-year career and even though he scored over 500 career goals, he was never able to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
What I’ll remember him for though is his outstanding singing voice. It's a shame JR is too old for American Idol.
43. Davis Love III
The PGA tour veteran has 20 career victories in his career of over 25 years as a pro.
He has only broken through once in a major by winning the 1997 PGA Championship but was a bridesmaid three other times with a one-stroke loss at Oakland Hills in the 1996 U.S. Open and twice at Augusta National, in what Hootie Johnson calls the “Mastas Tooonament.”
Not bad for a guy whose first love was hockey. Yes, DL3, beyond being a spokesman for Dove soap, is the original Happy Gilmore.
Although DL3 is a nice handle, it still is not the best on tour. Tim Herron's "Lumpy" is still without rival. Mrs. "Lumpy" must be so proud.
42. Kevin Garnett
Since being drafted fifth in the 1995 NBA draft, without ever playing one minute in college, Kevin Garnett has been an impact player in the Association.
Along with his championship earned in Boston in 2007, KG has been a league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and nine-time All-Star.
Beyond basketball, KG is now a limited shareholder of American-owned Italian Serie A soccer team AS Roma.
Parents tell their kids you have to go to college for a successful life; KG has proven you just need to be 7'0" with a sweet jumper and you too can own a soccer team.
41. Maurice Jones-Drew
The 5’7” tailback was a second-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006 and many questioned if the vertically challenged RB from UCLA was big enough to withstand the rigors of the NFL.
MJD has answered all his doubters.
Jones-Drew is a three-time Pro Bowler and led the NFL in rushing for the 2011 season with 1,606 yards, despite a forgettable season for the Jags.
He also has a memory like an elephant as he chose his number of 32 because all 32 teams passed on him in the first round of the draft.
Let it go, Maurice—how bad could it be? Another Pro Bowl for my man MJD!
40. Annika Sorenstam
The only number to make my list, which technically should not be allowed, but when you sign your scorecard with a 59, an exception can be made.
With 93 professional wins and 10 major championship trophies at her home, Sorenstam is the unquestioned best female golfer ever.
But it’s the 59 she recorded in March of 2001, becoming the first female to ever break 60 in a competitive round, that puts her on my list.
When your scorecard reads 59 and your heading to the 19th hole for a “21” (that’s a Seven and Seven with an extra shot of Seven), as opposed to the 10th tee to start the back nine, that’s special.
39. Anthony Carter
One of the best receivers in college football back in the '80s, AC left the University of Michigan with a degree and a fourth-place finish in the 1982 Heisman Trophy voting, looking for another place to wear the famous No. 1 jersey.
Back then, the big money was in the USFL and Carter signed with the Michigan Panthers and in their first season they beat the Philadelphia Stars for the inaugural USFL Championship.
When he finally hit the NFL, AC had to turn in his No. 1 for the next-closest thing, No. 81. He bounced around the league making little impact and ultimately retired back in Michigan as a Detroit Lion in 1995.
Although he did his best work in the USFL, football fans will remember AC.
38. Saku Koivu
Saku Koivu served as the Montreal Canadiens captain for nine of his 13 seasons with the team, but now, with him skating for Anaheim as an alternate captain, the label is a bit dated.
The Finnish sensation not only held the longest captaincy tenure in C’s history, he was the first European to captain the historic franchise.
37. Tom Brady
From a sixth-round draft pick to a starting quarterback, nothing was given to Tom Brady.
Now with three Super Bowl rings and a supermodel wife, Brady has made the most of his opportunity that came via the demolition of Drew Bledsoe by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis in the second game of the 2001 campaign—and the rest, as they say, is history.
His boyhood idol, Joe Montana, has four Super Bowl rings and Brady has now failed a second time to tie Joe Cool as Eli Manning bested him again.
Montana has pimped LA Gear and Sketchers shoes, while Brady champions Under Armour, Movado, Audi and has his own line of gear.
Montana has more rings; Brady has everything else. Advantage Brady. Yes, it’s good to be TB12.
36. LeBron James
The most hyped high school player in the history of sports is LeBron James.
His unprecedented coverage by ESPN in high school was the precipice of overexposure for high school athletes that led to the overdramatic portrayal of national signing day—where teenagers with little over 12 months of driving experience make middle-aged fans swoon after they put the lid of their collegiate choice on their overinflated domes.
What a country.
LBJ has turned into one of the best in the NBA, without question, but his backseat to Dwyane Wade goes to show that it takes more than hype and muscles to truly be the man.
35. Choi Kyung-Ju Choi
The former power lifter, being able to squat 350 pounds as a 95-pound 13-year-old teenager, is known by South Koreans as “Tank,” but to golf fans around the world he is simply KJ.
He has 19 professional wins, eight on the PGA tour and got the biggest win of his career last year winning THE PLAYERS Championship, which is commonly referred to as “the fifth major.”
Even with the language barrier, he is well liked on tour by his peers and golf fans alike. Along with being Asia’s most successful golfer and currently ranked in the world’s Top 15, KJ is doing things the right way and no Waffle House waitress is coming forward to discuss his putter.
34. Yelberton Abraham Tittle
With seven Pro Bowls in his 17-year career and an ugly yellow blazer hanging in his closet, YA Tittle is an NFL legend.
Tittle was one of the first quarterbacks to really spin it around the yard. He was the first QB to throw for 30 touchdowns in consecutive years and that was back in the early '60s—before there even was a Super Bowl.
Yelberton did it all while in the league, except win the championship. He led the New York Giants to the title game three consecutive years, but always came out on the short end.
There you go, Marino—does that make you feel any better?
33. Ray Rice
Welcome to the gun show.
Those compact arms belong to the No. 1 running back in football, Ray Rice.
With 1,364 yards rushing, 704 yards receiving and a total of 15 touchdowns, R2 was the most productive RB for the 2011 season.
When the Ravens finally let go of Willis McGahee, fantasy football fans flocked to the Baltimore tailback and he did not disappoint with his best season as a pro.
Good thing for Ray, he’s an unrestricted free agent and his college coach Greg Schiano just got the head coaching job in Tampa Bay.
The price just went up for the services of R2.
32. Dennis Johnson
“Now there's a steal by Bird! Underneath to DJ who lays it in! Right at one second left! What a play by Bird! Bird stole the inbound pass, laid it up to DJ, and DJ laid it up and in, and Boston has a one-point lead with one second left! Oh my, this place is going crazy!"
Yes, this famous call by Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most haunted my adolescent summer of 1987.
The last-second heroics of Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson stole the Eastern Conference championship from the Detroit Pistons and branded Johnson public enemy No. 1 for me.
31. Pernell Karl Subban
Originally from Jamaica, PK is the next generation of Cool Runnings.
The Montreal Canadiens defenseman Subban was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, of the 2007 NHL entry draft. He is a two-time gold medal winner with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
More famous for spitting on Michael Del Zotto, PK is the first Canadiens rookie defenseman to score a hat trick.
With the storied history of “Les Habitants” that’s impressive, even if he can’t control his saliva.
30. Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh might have gone "Straight Outta Toronto" for the warm sun in South Beach, but his CB4 label is still solid.
Chris Rock’s movie of the same name gave birth to the nickname while Chris was ballin' with the Raptors, wearing No. 4.
Now he's part of the Miami troika consisting of himself, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and are racking up victories in the Floridian humidity.
29. Anthony Joseph Foyt
With four Indianapolis 500 victories, A.J. Foyt is still the king of the Brickyard.
He is now retired from racing and has made the natural transition to car owner. Along with more time glad-handing and snacking, the waistline of the former champ has become similar to the track he once dominated.
Although it would take a tub of butter and a shoehorn for him to slide back into the cockpit, when gearheads say A.J., they’re talking about Foyt.
28. Dwight Howard
There’s a new Superman in town and he goes by the handle D12.
Dwight Howard is now the most dominant big man in the NBA. After bypassing higher education for higher pay and going pro after high school, Howard is a five-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Beyond ridiculous throwdowns that made him the 2008 Slam Dunk Contest winner, Howard is knocking on the door for his first O’Brien Trophy.
A huge Call of Duty fan, D12 just may kick in the door this year.
27. Xavier McDaniel
Xavier McDaniel spent most of his NBA career with the Seattle SuperSonics before bouncing around the league on four other rosters and a pro team in Greece.
Beyond basketball, The X-Man was also in the movies. Xavier McDaniel made his motion picture debut in 1992 when he made a brief cameo in the film Singles.
In the flick, McDaniel appears in a fantasy sequence in which Steve Dunne begins thinking about Xavier while having "relations" in order to delay gratification.
Even though his performance was unforgettable, I don’t think The X-Man will be a threat for any Oscars in the future.
26. Robert Griffin III
Although not yet a professional athlete, RG3 is sure to hear his name called on the first night of the 2012 NFL draft.
The Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor is an electric athlete drawing comparisons to Michael Vick and last year’s Rookie of the Year Cam Newton.
It has yet to be seen if he can make the transition to the pro game, but with the ever-evolving position of quarterback becoming more dependent upon sheer athleticism, the odds are good that RG3 will be a star at the next level.
25. Chris Johnson
Tennessee fans hope Chris Johnson can once again earn his nickname CJ2K.
The title was earned by Chris after his 2009 season where he rushed for 2,006 yards to become one of only six players in NFL history to join the 2,000 rushing yards club.
CJ2K averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 125.4 yards per game to lead the league while amassing 2,509 total yards from scrimmage, breaking Marshall Faulk's single-season record.
After signing a $53.5 million contract prior to last season, Johnson put up the worst stats of his career with just 1,047 yards rushing and rumors swirled that the Titans might let the running back go.
OK by Johnson. He banked $30 million of the deal guaranteed and if cut, could focus on his recording label Flashy Lifestyle Entertainment—although it's unlikely the Titans do the unthinkable and cut one of the most explosive backs in football.
24. Kobe Bryant
So many are ready to anoint the next great player in basketball, but for me, the best is still Kobe Bryant.
Nobody can put a team on his back like the man accused of sexual assault in the town of Eagle Colorado.
KB24 is the all-time leading scorer in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history. Since his second year in the league, Bryant has started in every NBA All-Star Game and won the All-Star MVP Award four times.
Did I mention his five NBA Championship rings?
However, nobody will ever forget his biggest ring, the boulder he had to give his wife Vanessa that kept him out of the doghouse for eight years until his wife finally kicked him to the curb and squeezed $75 million and four cribs out of KB24.
You go girl! Maybe Vanessa and Elin Nordegren can start a WAG consulting firm.
23. Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal called himself "The Big Aristotle" and "Hobo Master" and others gave O'Neal several nicknames including "Shaq," "The Diesel,” "Shaq Fu" and "Superman."
But what gets him on my list is MDE, "Most Dominant Ever."
Hard to argue with that one; nobody could defend the big fella when he was at the top of his game. The opposition could beat on Shaq and what would have been fouls on most players were merely viewed as self-defense when trying to keep Shaq out of the paint.
His rapping career was never as dominant as his basketball career but I figured I should put Kobe behind Shaq on this list so MDE can finally get the answer to his greatest one-liner, “Hey Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.”
22. David Duval
If you’re with your buddies at a local “ballet,” double-Ds mean one thing, but if you’re at a PGA event, DD stands for David Duval.
The former No. 1 player in the world has had a steady decline since his perch atop the golfing world in 1999.
Duval’s game spiraled out of control, falling to 211th worldwide and in no small part to breaking up with his girlfriend of eight years in 2002 and the passing of his mother in 2007.
Duval may be on his way back though. In 2010 he finished second in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and had a good enough 2010 season to retain his tour card at the end of the year.
As with most things identified by DD, golf fans are hoping Duval busts out in 2012.
21. LaDainian Tomlinson
Because LaDainian Tomlinson is not the original, his status is relegated to LT2.
Drafted with the fifth pick in the 2001 draft, after San Diego traded the No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta, most will see that draft as the year the Chargers traded Michael Vick to the Falcons for Tomlinson.
Looking back, the Chargers got the better of that deal as LT2 dominated the NFL for nearly 10 years while wearing the famed lightning bolt.
With over 12,000 yards rushing and nearly 4,000 yards receiving on the West Coast, LT2 owns dozens of NFL records and put the Chargers in the playoff hunt annually.
Tomlinson could never get his team over the hump and in 2010, he left San Diego to chase a Super Bowl ring with the NY Jets.
More of the same on the East Coast, with the Jets getting to the AFC Championship but never winning; guess things aren’t always greener on the other side.
20. Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar'e Stoudemire’s call sign, STAT—Standing Tall and Talented—is correct. It remains to be seen if it’s enough to finally get the New York Knicks back to the NBA Finals.
STAT has been voted to six NBA All-Star teams in only eight full seasons in the league—not bad for a guy who started playing organized basketball when he was 14.
The nearly seven-footer is the centerpiece of an underachieving Knicks team that also has All-Star Carmelo Anthony.
How is this team still under .500 with two All-Stars?
Maybe Whoopi Goldberg needs to reprise her role as Eddie Franklin and get back on the bench.
19. Henrik Zetterberg
The Swedish sensation Henrik Zetterberg was a steal for the Detroit Red Wings, with the forward being selected in the seventh round with the 210th pick.
As such, he’s the lowest-drafted player in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) when Detroit hoisted their 11th Stanley Cup in 2008.
Beyond the incredible offensive skills Z displays on a nightly basis, Zetterberg is also one of the better two-way players in the league, giving just as much effort in the defensive zone as he does deking goalies.
Henrik is one of the alternate captains for Detroit as well, which goes to show you he’s got the Wings covered from his A to his Z.
18. Oscar Robertson
The Big O
When “The Logo” is having a hard time keeping up with you, you know you're good.
The Big O was not only good—some say he was the greatest point guard ever.
He's the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double with 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game in the 1961-62 season.
The Hall of Famer is an NBA champion, league MVP and 12-time All-Star.
When they talk about the greatest of all time, The Big O is always in the conversation.
17. Derrick Thomas
Dangerous Derrick Thomas struck fear into every quarterback that every lined up across from him.
Building his reputation on taking down the opposition’s field general, Thomas totaled 126.5 sacks in his career, ranking 12th all-time in NFL history and still holds the single-game record of seven quarterback sacks, breaking his own previous NFL record of six.
He entered the Hall of Fame in 2009, but tragically, less than one year later, DDT was in a car crash that left him paralyzed from the chest down and ultimately took his life one month later when a blood clot from his lower body caused a pulmonary embolism.
His life was cut much too short, but Chiefs fans will never forget DDT.
16. Justin Verlander
When you win the Cy Young and MVP award in the same year, JV does not stand for junior varsity; it’s the affectionate term for Justin Verlander.
His 2011 season was his most dominant of his career by winning the Triple Crown of pitching in the American League with 24 wins, 250 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.40.
His job just got a whole lot easier this offseason as Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch signed All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine-year $214 million deal.
With the bats the Tigers have in the lineup, expect JV to continue putting up league-leading numbers.
15. Darren McFadden
When your nickname is one of the greatest rap groups to ever slip on adidas, you have to be on the list.
Darren McFadden has loads of talent and speed to spare, but injuries have plagued him through most of his young NFL career.
Not unfamiliar with hardship, as McFadden was the 10th of 12 children to a mother having addictions to illegal drugs, expect Run DMC to be “King of toting the Rock” sooner, rather than later.
14. Andrei Kirilenko
When your nickname is one of the most recognizable assault rifles ever produced, that means you can fire the pill.
With a career three-point shooting average under the league average, Kirilenko isn't quite a deadeye from downtown, but the moniker is valid for additional reasons.
Andrei was also born in the city of Izhevsk in the former Soviet Union, where the weapon was originally manufactured.
AK47 has to be one of the greatest nicknames ever and a true bull’s-eye for Andrei Kirilenko.
13. Mike Krzyzewski
The only coach to make the list, whether you love him or hate him, Mike Krzyzewski is widely considered one of the greatest basketball coaches ever.
He has two Olympic gold medals along with four NCAA championships with the Duke Blue Devils and now is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history, as he passed his former boss Bobby Knight this year with 903 victories and counting.
Personally, I loathe the rat-faced coach who I know must be the illegitimate brother of Mike Shanahan, but when the world knows you as Coach K, you have to give him his due.
12. Carsten Charles Sabathia
When the Yankees offered $40 million more than the next-best team in December of 2008, CC placed a Frank Sinatra signature fedora atop his head and told the Brewers to start spreadin' the news.
Sabathia was on his way to be a part of it, New York, New York.
The Big Apple was the right move for CC, as he was named ALCS MVP and led the Yankees to another World Series Championship in his first year in pinstripes.
Although his belt is engulfed by his bagel-and-cream-cheese belly, CC was pretty fleet of foot in his younger days.
He was an all-conference tight end in high school and received scholarship offers from UCLA; he actually signed a letter of intent for the University of Hawaii. Aloha, CC.
11. Adrian Peterson
No, that’s not a typo. The most ferocious running back in the NFL does not go by AP for his name—it’s AD for “All Day.”
Peterson gave it to the San Diego Chargers all day in 2007 when he broke the NFL single-game rushing yard record (previously held by Jamal Lewis since 2003) rushing for 296 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns.
Widely regarded as one of the premier backs in the league, when the opposing defensive coordinator is game-planning for the Vikings, he’s up all night worrying about AD.
10. Anna Kournikova
If you’re unfamiliar with Anna Kournikova the tennis player, that’s understandable; she never won a singles WTA event. If her initials still escape you, congratulations—you don’t wear mirrored glasses when you play poker with your buddies.
The AK label comes from the Texas hold’em slang. When a player is holding an ace and a king as his or her two hole cards, they’re said to have an Anna Kournikova.
Most men would probably accept that with a smile on their faces and an ace/king combo is just as pleasing to a gambler.
Although she’s jumped the shark since joining The Biggest Loser, AK is still not too hard on the eyes, which sneaks her into the top 10.
9. Allen Iverson
We know Allen Iverson is not a big fan of practice, but he is a fan of getting paid to shoot hoops.
After being dismissed from the NBA and having no interest from any team as a starter, AI took his ball and headed for the basketball hotbed of Turkey.
Yes, Turkey. One of the most dominant guards in NBA history collected a $2 million roster spot with Besiktas Cola Turka and is now reportedly contemplating playing for a professional team in Puerto Rico.
Maybe he just wanted to get out of town as he is currently in the middle of a nasty divorce from his wife Tawanna or maybe he wanted to see the world on somebody else’s coin. Either way, AI is spreading his nickname worldwide and with the checks still rolling in, nobody’s happier than AI’s tattoo artist.
The lesson here: Divorce costs you more than just a broken heart.
8. Terrell Owens
Get your popcorn ready—here comes Terrell.
Wide receivers are historically the divas of the team, but TO took it to a whole other level.
Burning bridges at every stop on his multi-team career, Owens was the definition of a locker-room cancer.
Wildly entertaining, with tremendous skills on the field, Owens is well within his rights to “love me some me” and football fans will always remember him as TO.
7. Terrell Davis
Are there any better initials for an NFL running back than TD?
I can’t think of any and Terrell Davis, whether it’s highlights from his playing career or his work on the NFL Network, will forever be identified with the most important stat in fantasy football.
One of only a handful of backs to gain 2,000 yards rushing in a season, it’s hard to believe Davis had to start his collegiate career at Long Beach State prior to transferring to Georgia.
With two Super Bowl rings and a Super Bowl MVP to his credit, TD is the reason John Elway finally got to hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy, not vice versa.
6. Dwight Gooden
In the '80s, if you saw KKK at Shea Stadium, it was not to identify where the small-minded Ku Klux Klan members were sitting; it just meant Dwight Gooden had three strikeouts thus far.
Dr. K won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1984, NL Cy Young Award in 1985 and then was a World Series champion in 1986.
After comparisons to Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver seemed valid, Gooden found cocaine and blew his way out of baseball.
Ten years later, he made a comeback with the New York Yankees and posted his only no-hitter of his career, but was never the same dominant pitcher of years prior even though he added two more World Series rings to his jewelry box.
He could have been so much more, but even with unattained potential, he’ll always be known as Dr. K.
5. Lawrence Taylor
You'd think they sold cocaine in roller carts on New York street corners. Why is it that the best players from the Big Apple in the '80s couldn’t stay away from the nose candy?
Lawrence Taylor changed the game of football.
A combination of speed and power that was never seen before, LT made Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick look like Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.
How good was he? LT was the only defensive player, aside from Alan Page, to win the NFL MVP award.
As reckless and crazy as he was on the field, it was no match to his off-the-field antics.
Admittedly a drug user since his rookie season, Taylor hit rock bottom when his wife had to pull him out of a crack house—while he was still playing!
Can you imagine what he could have been if he stuck to the Shannon Sharpe mantra of food and exercise?
He seemed to clean his act up but in 2010 was charged with felony third-degree statutory rape for getting down with a 16-year-old and ultimately pleaded it down to sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute.
What a piece of work. LT: a bad man both on the field and off.
4. Chris Paul
Like the bum from Pretty Woman said:
“Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams...”
Widely considered one of the best guards currently in the NBA, Chris Paul’s dream finally came true.
After getting his bus ticket out of New Orleans, CP3 landed in the shadows of the Hollywood Hills with the upstart Los Angeles Clippers.
A four-time NBA All-Star now put alongside the sophomore sensation Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant may soon have to turn over the keys to La La Land to Paul and Griffin.
I wonder how soon it will be until Star Wars aficionados start calling them B3G2 and C3P0.
3. Orenthal James Simpson
Is there anything that hasn’t been written about Orenthal?
The man who tirelessly spent years tracking down the killer of his former wife by golf cart as he combed every fairway and green near his Florida home, OJ finally got his and now sports a blue jumpsuit in the Lovelock Correctional Facility in Nevada where he is without the possibility of parole until 2017.
The founding member of the 2,000-yard rushing club, OJ was once beloved and admired, but now is nothing more than a shell of his bronze bust enshrined in Canton as one of the best running backs in history.
If the new age of media has taught us anything, it should be that athletes are just that—athletes. Not idols or anyone to hold in high esteem.
I will say this, his role in Naked Gun was unforgettable and the moment where he was pushed down the stairs would have served humanity much better if they had not used a stuffed toy and shot the scene live in one take.
He had already given us the great Hertz commercials, and let’s be honest: Who among us hasn’t wanted to leap a row of seats at the airport like OJ.
2. Michael Jordan
With his likeness as the most identifiable label for athletic apparel in the world, MJ is one of the most recognizable initials in all of sports.
Michael Jordan transcends generations. He’s starred next to Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, been recognized in dozens of songs and was a blue-chip spokesman for everything from t-shirts to Big Macs. Esentially, MJ was Tiger Woods before Tiger was Tiger—pre-Escalade crash, of course.
Now, "His Airness" has traded in his jersey and hghi-tops for an ownership box and wing tips as he is now the majority shareholder of the Charlotte Bobcats.
People will always reference his "45" stint in the minor leagues as a way for David Stern to sweep Jordan’s gambling prowess under the rug for a couple years and protect the Association. But when you have whale-sized scratch to own an NBA franchise, high-stakes gambling is not an addiction—it's nothing more than a hobby.
MJ is widely considered the G.O.A.T. and like his effortless flights through the paint, his initials have reached just as lofty heights.
1. Julius Erving
Nicknames will continue to be developed with every new athletic phenom, but Dr. J comes in at the top of my list.
Blake Griffin can change the metallurgical standards for NBA hoops with his rim-rattlers, but the baseline scoop by Julius Erving in the 1980 NBA Finals is still the play I will always remember.
Dr. J could throw it down as well, so much so that the term “slam” dunk was created because of his defiance of gravity.
But Dr. J was no one-trick pony like Dominique Wilkins. He was an NBA champion, Hall of Famer and a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time team.
With the ball in his hands, Dr. J was surgical
As far as initials and nicknames go, it will never be any smoother than Dr. J; trust him—he's a doctor.
Are there any athletes I left of my list that are more deserving? Let me know.