Johnny Football and the 25 Best Nicknames in Sports History
The freshman quarterback of the Texas A&M Aggies, Johnny Manziel, is the odds-on favorite to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy. That means if there are no big surprises, Manziel will be the first freshman to ever win the award, making his nickname "Johnny Football" all the more appropriate.
Over the course of sports history, there have been thousands of nicknames for athletes. Some have been better and more memorable than others, and we all have our favorites. The best nicknames aren't just catchy and memorable, they also tell a story.
I could nickname myself "Cheese," and people would probably remember the white girl with the ridiculous nickname. But they wouldn't know anything else about me, because "Cheese" doesn't define me in any way—thankfully.
However, I went to school with a kid nicknamed "Booger" for 12 years. More than a decade later, I still remember Booger because he used to pick his nose in kindergarten. We all called him Booger until we graduated. Actually, Booger didn't graduate, but most of the rest of us did. But I digress.
All I'm saying is that all nicknames are not created equal. "Matty Ice," "The Law Firm" and "Money" are all fine and good, but they really don't tell you much about the athletes themselves. So Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is cool under pressure, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a lot of names and Floyd Mayweather Jr. likes money.
Meh. So what?
The best nicknames in history have a history themselves. They tell a story about the athlete, they make them more memorable and they look good in lights. Obviously this is a subjective...subject, but here are my 25 best nicknames in sports history.
25. Captain Canada
The Man: Steve Nash
The Sport: Nash has been playing point guard in the NBA since 1996 and currently plays for the Lakers.
The Nickname: Captain Canada
The Details: Well, it basically makes Nash a Canadian superhero on par with Captain America. But instead of being a government propaganda tool created to fight and protect the United States against enemies both foreign and domestic, he plays a lot of basketball.
24. Kung Fu Panda
The Man: Pablo Sandoval
The Sport: Sandoval has been playing MLB since 2008, having played all of his seasons with the 2012 World Series-winning Giants.
The Nickname: Kung Fu Panda
The Details: According to the man himself, Sandoval was bestowed his nickname by teammate Barry Zito after a particularly athletic play. And yes, it's ripped off from the cartoon, but it's still amusing enough to make the list.
23. Blade Runner
The Man: Oscar Pistorius
The Sport: South African Olympic sprinter who became the first amputee runner in history to compete at the Games during the 2012 Olympics in London.
The Nickname: Blade Runner
The Details: This one is pretty self-explanatory. You see, he has blades for legs...and he runs. What it lacks in creativity, it makes up in pure bad-assery.
22. Broadway Joe
The Man: Joe Namath
The Sport: Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the NFL's New York Jets—still the only quarterback to earn a Lombardi Trophy for Gang Green.
The Nickname: Broadway Joe
The Details: In what can be a tough transition for a small-town boy, Namath took to New York City like a duck to water. It was his teammate Sherman Plunkett that dubbed him "Broadway Joe" after seeing him on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1965.
21. The Truth
The Man: Paul Pierce
The Sport: Pierce was drafted by the the NBA's Celtics in 1998 and has played in Boston ever since.
The Nickname: The Truth
The Details: His nickname came courtesy of an NBA giant, then-Laker Shaquille O'Neal in March 2001. Pierce scored 42 points in what ended up being a losing effort, but Shaq was impressed with the Celtics' young gun.
20. Hebrew Hammer
The Man: Ryan Braun
The Sport: MLB's NL MVP of 2011 has played for the Brewers since 2007.
The Nickname: Hebrew Hammer
The Details: Braun's nickname, obviously, comes from his Jewish heritage. A number of Jewish athletes have shared the nickname, which is apparently based on a movie.
The Man: Quinton Jackson
The Sport: MMA fighter and the former UFC lightweight heavyweight champion.
The Nickname: Rampage
The Details: Aside from his actual tendency to go on ill-advised rampages, in September 2012, Jackson told TMZ that his nickname came from the 1980s video game of the same name. Rampage, the game, involved monsters destroying cities and eating people.
18. Donnie Baseball
The Man: Don Mattingly
The Sport: Mattingly is a baseball legend, having played all 14 years of his career with the Yankees. He went on to coach for the Yanks and Dodgers before taking over as the manager in Los Angeles in 2011.
The Nickname: Donnie Baseball
The Details: I did some research on this one, and here's what I came up with: I have no idea of the when/why/what/where origins of this nickname. Gold star to anyone who can tell me. In the meantime..."Matttttttttingly! I thought I told you to trim those sideburns!" Watch this.
17. He Hate Me
The Man: Rod Smart
The Sport: Football. Smart did time in the CFL, NFL and even the XFL over the course of his eight-year career.
The Nickname: He Hate Me
The Details: Apparently in the XFL, players were allowed to have nicknames on their jerseys instead of their actual names. When Smart signed with the Las Vegas Outlaws in 2001, he chose "He Hate Me" because "They Hate Me" was too long to fit on a jersey.
To catch up on what "He Hate Me" is doing these days, check out this profile.
The Man: Curtis Joseph
The Sport: Joseph is a retired NHL goaltender whose most famous stints came in net for the Blues and the Maple Leafs.
The Nickname: CuJo
The Details: His nickname comes from the first two letters of his first and last name, and it just so happens to be the name of Stephen King's canine killer, Cujo. Joseph was known to don a mask featuring an angry dog during his career in the league.
The Man: Calvin Johnson
The Sport: A standout wide receiver at Georgia Tech, Johnson was selected second overall by the Lions in the 2007 NFL draft. He's since become one of the most dominating offensive players in the league.
The Nickname: "Megatron"
The Details: Johnson was given his nickname by former teammate Roy Williams, the one great accomplishment of his terrible career. Williams was asked about the Lions' rookie wideout in 2007 and replied, "I've never seen anything like him. He's a big, strong, physical, fast guy. We call him Megatron."
The Man: Jon Jones
The Sport: MMA fighter. Jones is the UFC's current lightweight heavyweight champion and was ranked by ESPN as the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world in August 2012.
The Nickname: Bones
The Details: He actually earned his nickname as a high school wrestler, not in MMA. According to an interview with the New York Post, Jones said his friends called him "Bones" because he was too tall and skinny to play football.
13. The Freak
The Man: Tim Lincecum
The Sport: MLB pitcher who has been hurling for the Giants since 2007.
The Nickname: The Freak
In high school he played quarterback and cornerback on the football team and point guard on the basketball team. Apparently he's also quite the golfer and gymnast.
12. Black Mamba
The Man: Kobe Bryant
The Sport: Bryant was drafted 13th overall by the Lakers in the 1996 draft and has been playing in Los Angeles ever since, earning five NBA championships with the team.
The Nickname: Black Mamba
The Details: Kobe did what only Kobe can do—he gave himself the "Black Mamba" nickname early in his career, explaining: "The mamba can strike with 99 percent accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession. That's the kind of basketball precision I want to have."
11. Polish Powderkeg
The Man: Sebastian Janikowski
The Sport: Janikowski is one of just four kickers in NFL history to be drafted in the first round; he was selected by the Raiders 17th overall in the 2000 draft and has been in Oakland ever since.
The Nickname: Polish Powderkeg
The Details: Janikowski isn't your average kicker, and his nickname stems from his penchant for some of life's ingested vices (see: drugs and alcohol) and his occasional run-ins with law enforcement. If there was ever a kicker's bio worth reading, it's his.
10. Le Magnifique
The Man: Mario Lemieux
The Sport: Lemieux was selected first overall by the Penguins in the 1984 NHL entry draft. He played every season of his career in Pittsburgh and is now a co-owner of the club.
The Nickname: Le Magnifique
The Details: Some people have actually called Lemieux "Super Mario" over the years, which I'll admit is cool. But his better nickname literally translates to "the magnificent." Both are self-explanatory if you've been lucky enough to see him play in his prime.
9. The Flying Squirrel
The Woman: Gabby Douglas
The Sport: U.S. women's gymnastics.
The Nickname: The Flying Squirrel
The Details: After all-around favorite Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the all-around competition at the 2012 Olympics in London, her teammate, Douglas, got her time to shine—and she did. She captured the all-around gold and earned her "Flying Squirrel" nickname in the process.
8. Satan's Wallpaper
The Man: Martin Brodeur
The Sport: The man, the myth, the Martin has been in net for the NHL's Devils since 1991.
The Nickname: Satan's Wallpaper
The Details: I have no clue who bestowed this demonic nickname on Mr. Brodeur—I suspect it was someone awesome. There's not much written regarding the origin, but (I think) it's pretty easy to decipher.
Satan's: He plays for the Devils. Wallpaper: He has been one of the most impenetrable forces in net for more than two decades.
The Man: Earvin Johnson
The Sport: NBA living legend who played all of his nearly two-decade career with the Lakers.
The Nickname: Magic
The Details: Johnson earned his magical nickname way back in his high school days. A local sports reporter dubbed him "Magic" after witnessing a ridiculously dominant performance by the future Hall of Famer.
6. Bear Bryant
The Man: Paul Bryant
The Sport: The late Paul Bryant is the legendary head coach of the University of Alabama's football team. He coached in Tuscaloosa for almost 25 years.
The Nickname: Bear
The Details: On the surface, "Bear" isn't all that impressive of a nickname, but it all depends on how you earn it.
Bryant earned it at the tender age of 13 at a local carnival. Someone challenged him to fight a bear for one dollar. He accepted the challenge, was bitten by the bear and the guy that challenged him never coughed up the dough.
5. The Bambino
The Man: Babe Ruth
The Sport: MLB's most legendary legend. Ruth famously played for the Red Sox before being sold to the Yankees by their greedy pig of an owner, thereby cursing the Sox for nearly a century.
The Nickname: The Bambino
The Details: Ruth has also been called the "Sultan of Swat" and "The Babe," both of which you should be able to figure out—just remember his first name is Babe, and he was known to hit some home runs in his day. And "bambino" is just Italian for "baby."
4. Homicide Hank
The Man: Henry Armstrong
The Sport: The late Henry Armstrong was one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport.
The Nickname: Homicide Hank
The Details: Armstrong actually had a number of terrifying nicknames, including "Human Buzzsaw," "Hurricane Henry" and "Perpetual Motion." He earned them all based on his nonstop windmill style of attack that struck fear in the hearts of his opponents.
The Man: William Perry
The Sport: NFL football. Perry played defensive end in the league for just under a decade and was noted for his tremendous size.
The Nickname: The Refrigerator
The Details: Perry earned his nickname as a freshman at Clemson University in 1981. His teammate Ray Brown noted that Perry's presence in an elevator left little room for anyone else, stating, "Man, you're about as big as a refrigerator."
2. His Airness
The Man: Michael Jordan
The Sport: NBA legend, widely considered the best player of all time. Jordan played the best years of his career for the Bulls and won six championships in Chicago.
The Nickname: His Airness
The Details: Jordan, also known by his other nickname "Air Jordan," earned both of them for what seemed to be an ability to fly on the court. Both are good, but "His Airness" has more of a regal ring to it, which makes sense because MJ is the king.
1. The Great One
The Man: Wayne Gretzky
The Sport: The greatest player the NHL has ever seen. Gretzky is a once-in-a-century type of athlete with more records, awards, medals and championships than one can even fathom.
The Nickname: The Great One
The Details: Are not required. It's just a little zippier than "The Greatest One…Ever."