Today's Versions of the NBA's Coolest All-Time Nicknames

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2013

Today's Versions of the NBA's Coolest All-Time Nicknames

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    The NBA has too many nicknames to count so let’s add some new ones—or at least bring back some old ones.

    There have been so many iconic monikers since the inception of pro basketball, but those monikers too frequently go unused once the player carrying that nickname leaves the game. Where's the fun in that?

    Really, we're in a nickname famine. There's been a drought of clever nicknames, even though there are so many current players who have some sort of epithet today. That means it's time to dig into the archives and find some old-time nicknames that might work for some present NBA players. 

    Air Jordan wasn't under consideration. Neither was Magic or Larry Legend. Those nicknames are too iconic to see anyone else wear them.

    So don't worry, Brandon Knight. DeAndre Jordan is still not Air Jordan. Larry Sanders isn't Larry Legend. LeBron James isn't Magic.

    But there are some current NBA players who do fit nicely into certain historical nicknames. Here are some of them:

The Microwave: Vinnie Johnson and Jamal Crawford

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    Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone is already making modern-day nickname comparisons:

    After practice Coach Malone compared Marcus Thornton to Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson, who his dad coached during Detroit Bad Boys era.

    — Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) October 2, 2013

    Johnson became "the Microwave" as a member of the Bad Boy Pistons (also an iconic nickname) when he would come off the bench and run the offense for Detroit's second unit. He might've been the Pistons' third guard (behind Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars), but he could heat up the offense in a hurry.

    But is Thornton really the ultimate Microwave in 2013? He can score, but J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford give that label a new meaning. Ultimately though, Crawford is the true Microwave of this generation.

    Crawford led the NBA last season with 29 20-point games off the bench and has the ability to get as hot as anyone in the league. He's a streaky shooter so when Crawford is off, he's not going to contribute much, but when he's on, there aren't many defenses that can slow him down.

World B. Free: Metta World Peace

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    Do we need any explanation for why Ron Artest is the modern-day version of Lloyd Bernard Free? 

    Whimsical name changes are all the talk in the Free/World Peace household. Chad Ochocinco agrees. 

    Like World Peace, Free was already an established NBA player once he changed his name as a seventh-year veteran in 1981. Now, we could probably flip World B. Free with Metta World Peace without anyone ever noticing.

Fall Back Baby: Dick Barnett and Reggie Evans

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    Dick Barnett earned "Fall Back Baby" as his nickname back in the 1960s because that was exactly what he used to say every time he took a shot.

    Fall back, baby!

    Reggie Evans deserves this nickname for another reason. Mainly this one:

    Oh, and this one:

    Evans was the first player the NBA fined for flopping last season. That's not going to stop. It's never going to stop.

    So fall back, baby, and just keep falling.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Ray Allen and Lance Stephenson

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    OK, so this is a bit of a cheat. Ray Allen is still in the NBA so "historic" is not exactly a way to describe his nickname, but Allen is close enough to retirement (and this comparison is far too good to be ignored) so we're going to pull a Jesus Shuttlesworth and let it fly.

    Allen, of course, earned his nickname when he played Jesus Shuttlesworth, the unbelievable Lincoln High product who could shoot the lights out, in the Denzel Washington hit He Got Game. Shuttlesworth wasn't that different from Allen, himself—and he's not all too different from Lance Stephenson either.

    Stephenson basically lived the life of Jesus Shuttlesworth. He's a former Lincoln High shooting guard and is generally thought of as one of the best players in the history of Brooklyn high school basketball. 

    Stephenson is the all-time leading scorer in New York City high school basketball history. That alone is such a Jesus Shuttlesworth move.

The Doctor: Julius Erving and Pau Gasol

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    Yep, we're getting literal. Pau Gasol is precisely the modern version of "the Doctor."

    Gasol actually attended med school for more than a year in Spain, but had to drop out because he couldn't balance the work with his basketball-playing career.

    Who could blame him? It's pretty tough to become a perennial All-Star when you spend your spare time learning how to save lives. No one's ever done that. Well, except for Dr. J.

    So Dr. J may not have been an actual MD. We can still assume him to be an honorary one. Pau, though, is only a few years of hard work away from becoming a real doctor. That, alone, should get him the nickname.

Big Country: Bryant Reeves and Chris Kaman

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    Bryant Reeves earned the nickname "Big Country" back in college when he stepped on an airplane for a cross-country flight for the first time and seemed particularly out of his element. The 7-foot, 275-pound Oklahoma native was big—and he was country. That'll do it.

    Chris Kaman is about the same. Kaman doesn't exactly hide who he is—or if he does, he does a really poor job trying. 

    Kaman loves to hunt, hates to groom, and generally seemed ready to replace Brad Miller as the NBA's resident lumberjack following Miller's retirement. Now, Miller would be proud. 

    Kaman has done some weird stuff, including tweeting a picture of himself grasping a dead bobcat in his right hand before his New Orleans Hornets took on—guess who—the Charlotte Bobcats in March of 2012.

    So Kaman hunts, he has no filter, he looks like a caveman and he likes puns. Bryant Reeves would be as proud as Brad Miller.

The Round Mound of Rebound: Charles Barkley and Zach Randolph

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    Mounds don't move. Neither does Z-Bo.

    Sir Charles earned this one of his many nicknames by becoming one of the best offensive rebounders of his generation. Zach Randolph has done the same, and he's done it without actually learning how to jump.

    Seriously, Z-Bo's pudge probably couldn't jump over a piece of paper, but that's fine when you're averaging more than four offensive rebounds per game. He defines a modern-day Round Mound of Rebound.

The Glove: Gary Payton and Tony Allen

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    There was a time when Gary Payton was the best point guard in the NBA, and it wasn't because he averaged more than 20 points per game seven times in his career. It was because of his defense.

    That's how Payton ended up with that nickname: the Glove. He stuck to his man like a glove—just like Tony Allen.

    Allen is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and has been for some time. He finally began to get some national recognition a few years ago when he started making NBA All-Defense teams. But even with reputation, his D hasn't changed.

    Allen is the best perimeter defender under 6'6" in the NBA, and there's probably not much arguing against that—though Eric Bledsoe is gunning for him. If anyone fits his defender like a glove, it's Tony Allen.


    Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in 5th grade, but he maintains that his per 36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.