Updated Nicknames for Some of NBA's Top Stars

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2013

Updated Nicknames for Some of NBA's Top Stars

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    A specter is haunting the NBA—the specter of stars adopting new nicknames.

    Now that he's getting on in years, Dwyane Wade is not satisfied with "Flash." He wants to be known as "WOW," which is both what you repeatedly say when you watch him play and an acronym signifying "Way of Wade."

    LeBron James thinks the new self-appointed nickname is "corny" (per Ethan Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post). He's right. Isn't WoW also "Work Out World?" At least it is in parts of New Jersey.

    The new name also serves as a blatant marketing ploy.

    "Way of Wade" is the slogan for the new campaign from Li-Ning shoes. The Player Formerly Known as Flash is the only prominent NBA endorser for the Chinese athletic company, with Jose Calderon and Evan Turner as its next biggest names.

    Li-Ning has also pushed "WAYOFWADE" as a Twitter hashtag, much like Nike pushed "COUNTONKOBE" for Kobe Bryant's new System 8 shoes, though the latter has had considerably more success.

    Speaking of Kobe, he's one of the very few cases of a good self-created nickname. The Black Mamba is a great moniker, but Bryant is not satisfied with that. He tweeted in mid-March:

    Omg . My man just gave me a new nickname and I love it! Ha #vino

    — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 1, 2013

    OK. Vino means wine, and most wines get better with age. That handle stands to reason, as the 17-year veteran is averaging more than 27 points and nearly six assists per game. He's shooting 46.8 percent from the field, up from 43 percent last season. That is certainly better.

    He subsequently tweeted, "E=mc2 = #Vino," perhaps to shed some light on "Vino,"  but I have no idea what that formula means. It's all relative?

    I'll allow Kobe "Vino," as he's aging better than a '97 Napa Valley red, but Wade has to come up with something better than his own shoe company's slogan for his new campaign. Or just stick to Flash!

    It's time to give updated nicknames to some of the NBA's stars before someone else comes along and ruins it.

Kyrie Irving

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    Kyrie Eleison

    Kyrie Irving is amazing to watch. When he's healthy, he's the most electric player in the league. His agility and quickness resemble a video game cheat code.

    But the incredible Irving lacks a nickname. For the time being, he's being called "Uncle Drew" after his character in old-man makeup from the excellent Pepsi commercial. But we as fans and writers can do better than endorsing Pepsi by perpetuating that nickname.

    Irving was born in Melbourne, Australia, of all places, and he's championed the title "The Australian Assassin" for himself (per The Courier-Mail). That hasn't really stuck, but I do like employing his Down Under pedigree for an alias.

    "Crocodile Kyrie" is too obvious, but I like it better than The Australian Assassin. ("You call that knifing to the hoop?")

    As a lover of classic rock, I would put forth "Aussie Airborne" as a potential candidate, though that's a bit of a stretch and well before Irving's time. 

    I think the best way to settle this is by turning to religion and employing Irving's unusual first name. "Kyrie Eleison" means "Lord, have mercy" in Latin, derived from the Greek.

    So when he does something truly amazing on the court, like his killer crossover, you should remark, "Kyrie Eleison!" in your best Dave Chappelle Jamaican accent

Blake Griffin

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    Blake Superior

    Blake Griffin has a tenuous relationship with nicknames. Despite being one of the league's most phenomenal players capable of stupendous athletic feats on a nightly basis, he lacks a nickname.

    At least his L.A. Clippers are accurately dubbed "Lob City." This title came to them when a camera crew caught Griffin saying the phrase to a teammate after learning that Chris Paul would join the team. But now he regrets ever saying those apt words.

    Last year, he told Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com about the label "Lob City:" "It's unfortunate...that's not what we're about...we're just trying to win games and trying to get better...If anybody says it in [the locker room], it's just a joke." 

    OK, forget Lob City (at least for the moment, regardless of how appropriate it might be), let's capture the essence of that label in a nom de guerre that's all Blake's own.

    He hails from Oklahoma, but "Okie-Oop" and "Sooner Slam" just don't have the right ring to them.

    We could call him "Wooden" after his deadpan acting in numerous ad campaigns, and because he received the John R. Wooden Award in college. However, that doesn't describe his tantalizing play.

    As someone that throws down a lot of posterizing dunks, it's tempting to call him "Poster Child" or some such configuration, but it's too clunky and forced. We'd be better off calling him "Double Clutch" after his sweet double-clutch dunks.

    Still, we're watching a different Blake Griffin in 2013. He has elevated his play this season by adding a mid-range jumper and strengthening his post game. After shooting just 27.7 percent from 10 to 15 feet last year, Griffin is making 41.1 percent of those shots this season (per HoopData.com).

    Since I believe there are not nearly enough geographical puns in modern nicknames, I hereby christen Griffin as "Blake Superior." As in, "Why don't you purify yourself in the waters of Blake Superior?"

Kevin Durant

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    Kev Kev

    Kevin Durant appears to be headed for his fourth consecutive scoring title. This man should have a trove of nicknames. 

    Of course, "Durantula" is one of the best nicknames in the entire league, but it's been somewhat sullied due to the lawsuit brought by a rock guitarist from 30 years ago named Mark Durante (per TMZ).

    Even though Kevin Durant didn't create this nickname (and does Durante really "own" it?), he's still being sued over it. So let's at least come up with a backup pseudonym, which will be inevitably inferior to his arachnid anonym.

    Obviously, Durant has a crazy wingspan; ESPN reported back in 2007 that it was just a quarter-inch shy of 7'5". In looking to the animal kingdom, the gibbon, sloth and long-arm squid all have very long arms, but none of those are really nickname material.

    I'm slightly fond of "The Long Arm of the Law," but he would need a higher steals average for that to work (though he is averaging a career-high 1.5 per game this season).

    Durant reps Maryland really, really hard (see here), so perhaps incorporating a reference to crabs is in order. Crab PeopleArmor Abs? And The Wire offers countless possibilities like "Hungry Man" (keep feeding him), and "Slim Charles" (he is pretty skinny).

    Ultimately, however, you can't go wrong with trusting Grandma. That's why Durant should be known to all as "Kev Kev."

    And if that doesn't work, at least he can always fall back on his hip-hop handle, Trey 5 (skip to 0:40 for a sample).

Dwight Howard

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    Cookie Monster

    Dwight Howard can be a puzzling character. He's brimming with talent, blessed in physique but constantly grumbling. This season, he has exchanged digs with Kobe Bryant in the media like a postmodern Vaudeville act.

    Howard only ended up with the L.A. Lakers because his stated preference for a landing spot, the Brooklyn Nets, couldn't swing a deal with the Orlando Magic. And Brooklyn wouldn't have had to negotiate if Dwight had just kept his early termination option intact.

    Nevertheless, he's in Los Angeles, and the Lakers front office seems intent on molding Dwight into the 21st-century version of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

    To do that, they're going to need the right nickname. 

    Howard is known as "Superman." Unfortunately, another former Orlando Magic center was also called "Superman." And Shaquille O'Neal has the tattoo to prove it.

    So we'll need something else for Dwight. Fortunately for him, "Big Baby" is already taken by Glen Davis. Unfortunately, most names incorporating the modifier "big" have also been taken, with baseball's Frank Thomas, aka the "Big Hurt," being the best. 

    For Dwight, I think it's entirely appropriate that we indulge his humorous side in giving him a new sobriquet.

    And that's why he should be known as the "Cookie Monster." For better or worse, that video is all I can think of when I watch him play. Too bad the Lakers don't wear blue uniforms. Bring in the throwbacks!

Paul Pierce

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    Piercing Headache

    Paul Pierce has long been known as "The Truth." But at this year's trade deadline, his legacy with the Boston Celtics almost transformed into a lie. 

    After many status-quo pronouncements by GM Danny Ainge, it turns out that Boston did in fact try to deal Pierce at the 2013 trading deadline. 

    Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early March that Pierce was very nearly shipped to the Dallas Mavericks. The deal would have netted Boston Josh Smith from Atlanta, but the C's wouldn't part with a first-round pick in the swap, so the deal died on the vine as the deadline slipped by.

    Pierce is renowned as a lethal finisher in the clutch and delivered many last-gap victories for the Celtics.

    According to 82games.com, from the beginning of the 2003 season through February 2009, Pierce drained 11 game-winning buckets (10th in the NBA over that span) and dished a league-high nine game-winning assists.

    Pierce also has the uncanny ability of an action-movie villain to appear utterly broken and defeated, only to roar back and mortally wound you in the end. You may recall Game 1 of the 2008 finals when he was carried off the court and led to the locker room in a wheelchair, only to return and spur the C's to the win.

    That sort of finishing is what makes him The Truth, but it wouldn't be right in another uniform. If he doesn't retire after this season (and he wouldn't give his haters the satisfaction), he could be in store for a change of venue.

    So he should be known at the "Piercing Headache" wherever he lands next. It still describes his clutchness and also speaks to what the rest of the league has thought about him for years.

    If only Boston had beaten the Miami Heat in last year's playoffs, Pierce would be known as "Good Job" to LeBron James' "Good Effort." Alas...