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Ranking the Top 10 Nicknames in the NBA

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2017

Ranking the Top 10 Nicknames in the NBA

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    Some NBA players go through their entire careers without ever having a nickname that sticks, but not these guys. 

    Each of these 10 players either chose an incredible nickname on their own or had a great one bestowed upon them.

    And it stuck. 

    You won't see any of the boring monikers here. It takes absolutely zero creativity to use initials or shorten a first name. 

    These nicknames are significantly better. They have to be if they're going to be in the top-10 in the entire league. 

10. Josh Smith: "J-Smoove"

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    Once deemed "The Guilty Pleasure" by announcer Bob Neal—thank goodness that nickname didn't stick—Josh Smith has come to be known affectionately by Atlanta Hawks fans as "J-Smoove."

    It's the perfect nickname for a player in a city so grounded in hip-hop culture. Come on, it's not hard to imagine a rapper named "J-Smoove" releasing a hit single. 

    Atlanta fans yell out "Josh" in frustration whenever he makes a bad decision, but "Smoove" is the word of choice when Smith makes a highlight-reel play.  

9. Joel Przybilla: "The Vanilla Gorilla"

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    Joel Przybilla would rank significantly higher on this list if he was actually good at basketball. Unfortunately, he's not a key contributor on the Milwaukee Bucks, so his nickname has to be viewed as more of a novelty act than anything else. 

    Sure, he would torch me in a friendly game of one-on-one, but the guy hasn't averaged more than five points per game in half a decade.

    That said, how can you not love "The Vanilla Gorilla?" 

    The nickname is amazing, and it's pretty accurate as well. This is the type of creativity that earns plenty of brownie points in a world filled with nicknames like "D-Wade," "D-Rose" and "D-Will."

8. Shawn Marion: "The Matrix"

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    Kenny Smith gave Shawn Marion his "The Matrix" nickname during the versatile forward's rookie season with the Phoenix Suns. 

    It fit perfectly for quite a few reasons. Smith originally intended it to compliment Marion's ridiculous athleticism, but it has come to represent his ability to contribute in all areas of the game as well. 

    Plus, it just sounds cool. 

    When you say "Matrix" in an NBA conversation, informed fans immediately know exactly who you're talking bout. 

7. Anthony Davis: "The Brow"

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    Anthony Davis's singular eyebrow caught on so much during his freshman season with the Kentucky Wildcats that he ended up trademarking some phrases associated with his excess follicular growth. 

    Most people around the country decide to rid themselves of unibrows. They shave or pluck the extra hair in between their two eyebrows in an effort to fit in with the cultural norm. 

    "The Brow" doesn't care about cultural norms. He is his own man, despite only being a rookie in the NBA right now. 

6. Serge Ibaka: "Air Congo", "Serge I-Block-A"

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    Leave it to Serge Ibaka to provide us with a two-for-one nickname special. 

    "Air Congo" refers to both his ability to take flight, leaving the ground way further below his feet than most of us can imagine, and his home country of Congo. It's not quite "Air Jordan," but it's not too far behind. 

    Then there's "Serge I-block-a." 

    Any time you watch a Thunder game, the power forward is guaranteed to swat away several attempts around the basket with authority.  

    When he does so, feel free to scream out "I-block-a!" 

5. Andrei Kirilenko: "AK47"

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    As I mentioned before, I'm not a fan of nicknames that don't involve creativity. Shortening names, for example, is pretty lame. 

    However, there are some exceptions to the current trend of using initials and jersey numbers. "AK47" is a prominent example, as AK-47s actually exist in the real world.

    CP3s (Chris Paul) and CB4s (Chris Bosh) aren't real things, but instead serve as amalgamations of letters and numbers. 

    Andrei Kirilenko's nickname makes perfect sense, seeing as he was born in Russia, the country that manufactures the weapon in question. 

4. Jason Terry: "JET"

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    Jason Eugene Terry's nickname, "JET," is also derived from his initials, but his ability to embody the moniker elevated him on the list. 

    How many times have you seen Terry knock down a three-pointer in a crucial situation and then sprint down the court with his arms outstretched and parallel to the floor? Once the basketball swishes through the net, the court becomes his own personal runway. 

    This is how you own a nickname, and that trumps the lack of creativity. 

3. Marcin Gortat: "The Polish Hammer"

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    Let's break down Marcin Gortat's nickname, "The Polish Hammer."

    The first word is pretty obvious. Articles tend to precede nouns in many situations, so the inclusion of "The" in the nickname is a necessary addition.

    "Polish" is another fairly obvious choice here. Gortat is from Poland, so he's Polish. Duh.

    However, it's the third word that makes this nickname epitomize awesomeness. The Phoenix Suns' big man is a powerful finisher, especially rolling to the basket in a pick-and-roll set, and he tends to throw down the ball with authority.

    You could even say that he hammers it home.

    Put it all together and you have the third-best nickname in the league.  

2. Nick Young: "Swaggy P"

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    If you're not following @NIckSwagyPYoung on Twitter, you're using Twitter incorrectly.

    This is a guy who will make bets with fans about NFL games and tell them that they'll need to wear cheetah snuggies if they lose: 

    Bears win u wear cheetah snuggie front row at the game RT @krustabuhl5: @nickswagypyoung texans win you get me floorside sixers tickets,

    — Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) November 12, 2012

    Nick Young's self-proclaimed alter ego, "Swaggy P," is one of the most interesting characters in the NBA. Between his unbelievable afro, flamboyant shirts, ever-changing shoe selections, playing style and personality, the man lives with some serious swag.

1. Kobe Bryant: "The Black Mamba"

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    No disrespect to "Swaggy P," "The Polish Hammer" and the rest of the great nicknames in the NBA, but Kobe Bryant's moniker reigns supreme for the time being. 

    "The Black Mamba" is the perfect nickname for the sharp-shooting 2 who has become a legend for the purple and gold. 

    As the deadliest snake in Africa, black mambas are obviously very potent when they choose to strike. They move quickly and never hesitate to do away with their opposition, much like the basketball player who chose the animal as his moniker. 

    Not everyone could get away with picking the fastest snake in the world—and one of the most venomous—but Kobe isn't just anyone. 

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