Nicknames come from the media, from fans, from coaches, from teammates. They are earned. They are dreamed up and granted to show respect, endearment, awe.
Not every athlete gets one. And many get ones that they don't like. So some break the sacred code of cool and [gasp!] self-bestow.
Is this not one of the lamest things an athlete can do? It is. And some get eviscerated for doing it. Their self-chosen pet names are mocked, then stripped away, then forgotten altogether.
But others get away with it. Either because they oh-so-stealthily slip the name out there and hope people won't notice its origins, or because the name is just so damn good we fans can't resist using it, or because they are Shaq.
Click on to see the accused, the arrogant, the self-namers.
Because: Uh, he's big and strong? Because he produces a pungent odor when excited or stressed? Not sure.
But hell, Williams told Commissioner Roger Goodell that he could use the moniker when he called his name at the NFL draft. Goodell surprised Williams and really used it. That was the cement that locked this name down.
Word has it that Williams is truly infatuated with his primate moniker. Among his most prized possessions is a necklace that costs about as much as a quarter of the budget of the original King Kong.
Because: Celebrity couple portmanteaus aren't in the least bit annoying. Who doesn't love a Brangelina, a Tom Kat, a Bennifer?
Fly or fail? Fail. Just like all portmanteau-ed relationships are destined to.
Nickname: Honey Boy
Because: He says it's for his ability to slip punches from opponents.
Fail or fly? Fail. Last time I checked, honey was sticky, not slippery. Should he have gone with Banana Peel Boy?
Because: He watches the movie Gladiator two or three times. EVERY MONTH.
Fly or fail? Fly. Apparently he has the physique to back up the nickname. According to his roommate, “If you ever see David you're not really mad (that he gave himself his own nickname) because David always looks like he just worked out. It doesn't matter what time of year or what time of the morning.”
Nickname: "He Hate Me"
Because: In Smart's own words, "Basically, my brother's my opponent. After I win, he's gonna hate me."
Fly or fail? Like Icarus, this name flew so well that it failed. See, the nickname came about after Smart had the words stitched on his XFL jersey. The name caught on so fast and so furiously that everyone knew of He Hate Me, yet not so many knew of Rod Smart. In other words, people like the idea of the name more than they cared about the player who bore it.
Because: He wore number zero and because "my moves freeze people, got ice in my veins!!"
Fly or fail? Fail. People didn't like that Rivers had given himself a nickname (let alone before he had played a single game of college ball) and, well frankly Scorpion and Liu Kang are way better.
Nickname: Batman and Robin
Because: They were washed up NFL superheroes with a lot of money but without any real powers?
Fly or fail? Never had any chance this would get off the ground. Now if they had gone with Paris and Nicole, or Kourtney and Khloe, or Zsa Zsa and Eva, something along those lines, the handle might have really soared.
Because: He's a fierce warrior who took on a supposedly superior foe and won? Well, yeah, that happened-ish a couple of times. But mostly he just thought the movie was pretty slick.
Fly or fail? Fail. Name never really caught on. Probably because that nickname is so tediously overused. Jeez with creativity like that Leites probably named his dog Fido, his cat Tiger, and his goldfish Goldy.
Nickname (and for a time, legal last name): Ochocinco
Because: The jersey names the man, not vice versa? Or maybe because ochochinco is easier to pronounce than achtzigfünf or восемьдесят пять.
Fly or fail? Flew for a while. Then Johnson's wife led the failure charge.
Nickname: Swag 100
Because: In his own words, "I'm swag 100% of the time. In order to have swag, you have to be balling —doing your thing and making game-changing plays, like I've been doing."
Fly or fail? Fail. Sorry for that, Samuel. It just doesn't roll off the tongue. Plus, the whole swag thing has run its course and then some. The cyber-space vibe regarding swag is "Something We've All Gotten tired of hearing."
Henderson gave himself the nickname his rookie year with the Cowboys. Since then, he has lived many of the famous cliché's associated with the famous denizens of his geographical namesake: rise to fame, fall in disgrace, drug abuse, prison stint, rehab. And even a Hollywood ending: in 2000, long after his NFL career had ended, he hit the lottery jackpot.
Fly or fail? Well if the name failed at first, it has certainly grown some wings by now.
Because: He says he's too old to be called Pretty Boy. Oh and then there's the fact that he's got gobs of his namesake and likes to let us all know it ("My check looks like your Social Security number.")
Fly or fail? Fly. An exception to the rule that nicknames must be earned is that they may sometimes be bought.
Because: He's a fan of the silent D? Then how about he just go by his real name but pronounce it "U-On-Is"?
Or maybe because he identifies with being an avenging angel full of righteous fury. Though whom he's avenging and to whom his fury is directed at is not quite clear.
Fly or fail? Fail. Too random. Too topical. The moniker has barely been mentioned since it was self-bestowed back in January.
Nickname: Black And Decker
Because: Thomas is black. Decker is white. Oh, and for the endless supply of power tool jokes ("It’s also helped that wherever Manning seems to throw it, Black and Decker find the tools to pull it in." - Rick Reilly). Brace yourselves. The yuks have only just begun.
Fly or Fail? Fly. Media and fans are enamored of the friendship, so they are giving the self-naming faux pas a pass.
Nicknames: Black Mamba, The Doberman, and most recently... Vino
Because: As for the mamba, he's deadly and dangerous? He's skittish and flees at the first sight of a human?
As for the doberman, he barks and he's dangerous? He suffers from separation anxiety? He guards warehouses?
As for the vino: Yeah, yeah, gets better with age. Pffffft!
Fly or fail? The snake flies (at least for some). The pooch and the fermented grapes fail.
Nickname: Metta World Peace
Because: Metta is a word that means "goodwill" in the Pali language. World Peace, well that's what Ms. America contestants all want.
Clearly, Artest is the harbinger of tranquility amongst all humankind and needs an appropriate title.
Fly or fail? Seeing as there are currently 138 armed conflicts in Africa, 114 in Asia, 68 in Europe, 102 in the Middle East, and 30 in the Americas, we'll go with "fail."
Nickname: The Black Unicorn
Because: In his own words, “I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, I’m faster than I’ve ever been. I could run all day. I’m kind of like a black unicorn out there. It’s amazing to watch.”
So he means he is mythical? One of a kind? Or maybe it's just to be eccentric. After all Bennett has said, "Basically, I like cool stuff that becomes cooler when you make it a ninja."
A black unicorn ninja would be pretty cool, right?
Fly or fail? Fly. Weird as it is, the name has stuck. And since Bennett recently saved a child's life, we'll give also give this self-bestowing faux pas a pass.
Nicknames: The Big Twitterer, Shaq Fu, The Big Deporter, Wilt Chamberneazy, The Big eQuotatious, The Big Maravich, M.D.E (Most Dominant Ever),The Big Baryshnikov, The Big Agave, The Big Galactus, The Real Deal, Witness Protection, Superman, Diesel, Shaq Daddy, The Big Felon, The Big Field General, Shaqovic,The Big IPO, Shaq-tus, L.C.L , The Big Banana, Dr. Shaq, Osama Bin Shaq...
Because: He's Shaq and he can. Each nickname has its own corny, arrogant little yarn to go with it.