Picking a New Nickname for Every Top 20 NBA Star

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIFebruary 2, 2014

Picking a New Nickname for Every Top 20 NBA Star

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    The NBA's best players could use some new nicknames.

    As the Internet community pushes for Kevin Durant to be the Slim Reaper (though he actually hates it), it has brought to light the dearth of inventive monikers in the Association today.

    Some of the most dominant and most popular basketball talents on the planet don't have real nicknames at all; fans either refer to these stars by abbreviations of their full names or by some combination of initials.

    Let's fix that scarcity of creativity and fill the void. And let's give the great players with nicknames to match some new ones, too. They don't need them, but nicknames are fun, so why not?

    Apologies to Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Andre Iguodala and Kyrie Irving, who all came close to receiving new nicknames here but just missed the cut.

LaMarcus Aldridge: LaMazing

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    Mid-range jumpers aren't sexy, but LaMarcus Aldridge is doing his darndest to make them so.

    Equipped with a nearly unblockable 15-footer that he can get off against any defender, Aldridge needs a utilitarian nickname that highlights his simple yet immense ability. On top of that, his name just so happens to merge pretty well with a certain superlative adjective.

    He is nothing short of LaMazing.

    Now that Aldridge is not just the best player on the Portland Trail Blazers but truly a budding superstar, he needs to be more than just LA. As long as he's raining Js and Portland is winning games, Aldridge ought to get the acclaim he deserves and the Rose Garden ought to be known as the place where LaMazing happens.

Carmelo Anthony: Mr. La La

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    Apologies to Carmelo Anthony if invoking his La La like this disrespects his superstar status in any way, but the media consistently finds a way to insert 'Melo's wife into his affairs.

    'Melo is mum on his mindset as he approaches free agency, but ESPN New York reports that La La "definitely" thinks her husband will remain with the New York Knicks.

    Her role in the story is ultimately harmless, but it's big enough that she felt the need to address it.

    "I get blamed for everything. No matter what happens, it's my fault," she said. "[There are] all these talks if he's staying in New York or not, [and] I'm somehow the mastermind behind if he stays or not."

    It's all in good fun calling her husband Mr. La La. And the name has a delightful ring to it, one Walt Frazier will have no trouble working into his whimsical, rhyme-filled color commentary.

    Just imagine: "'Melo posting and toasting again on the right side. Mr. La La's singing a happy tune tonight!"

Kobe Bryant: Lazarus

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    He is 35 years old, currently in his 18th NBA season after playing more than 50,000 minutes of professional basketball, including both regular-season and playoff games. He tore his Achilles in April 2013, returned to the Los Angeles Lakers the following December and promptly broke his leg.

    But the basketball gods will not let Kobe Bryant succumb to mortal wounds. They shall will him back to health so he may hoop again in their blessed names.

    Just as the biblical Lazarus was restored to life, so shall Bryant return to the court once more. Through his indomitable spirit, Mamba mentality and German blood spinning, Bryant will get back to nailing turnarounds like he was never out.

    And if he can restore the Lakers to their winning ways, that would truly be miraculous.

DeMarcus Cousins: Grimace

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    This nickname not only works on multiple levels, but weirdly alludes to how DeMarcus Cousins' matured as a player.

    Sure, fans are no strangers to his snarling face when he encounters a bad call—or really any little thing that rubs him the wrong way.

    But the Sacramento Kings center is also giant, purple and beloved by those who get to know him, much like Grimacethe McDonald's side character.

    Want more? When Grimace was first introduced, he was known as Evil Grimace and stole milkshakes from Ronald McDonald and friends. Later, he developed into a jovial good guy, and his popularity soared.

    Remind you of anyone you know?

    Bonus unrelated catchphrase: whenever Cousins makes a dominant play, shout "I want that purple stuff!"

Stephen Curry: Carolina Reaper

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    If Durant doesn't want to be Slim Reaper, Stephen Curry can have the latter part of the name.

    So what is a Carolina Reaper?

    Per the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the hottest chili pepper ever measured, rating in at 1,569,300 Scoville heat units. As a point of comparison, a jalapeno pepper falls between 5,000 and 15,000 SHU, more than 100 times less spicy than the Reaper.

    There is no one on the planet who shoots like Curry when he gets hot from downtown, and he shares his family name with a traditionally spicy dish as well. Furthermore, Steph went to Davidson, which is in North Carolina, about 20 miles north of where his father, Dell Curry, played for the Charlotte Hornets and now calls games for the Bobcats.

    Between the heat and the roots in this name, it's a no-brainer.

Anthony Davis: Browbeater

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    Anthony Davis has embraced his unibrow, but it's unnecessary to limit his moniker to just the line of hair across his face.

    It's hardly the only recognizable physical trait about him. He's a lanky 6'10", 220 pounds, with arms that stretch forever and the leaping ability to swat away threes or slam down emphatic dunks.

    There's no need to cut off The Brow entirely from Davis' identity, but he deserves some recognition of his fearsome presence in the middle of the floor.

    Browbeater is the best of both worlds.

    The unique image Davis has publicly cultivated since his time at Kentucky is still in place. Focus too much on his brow, however, and you're going to get beat.

Kevin Durant: Marvel

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    It would be easy to simply say Durant is the God of Thunder, but we run into some mythological sticking points on the matter.

    The title itself is too obvious, which brings us to either Zeus or Thor. While Durant has bulked up since he failed to bench press 185 pounds even once at his NBA draft combine, he still doesn't have anything on the barrel-chested deities of lore. Switching to the world of comics, as long as Chris Hemsworth is wielding the hammer, Durant isn't comparable.

    Yet, Durant is much more than his might, and we can give him a moniker that reflects his wide-ranging skill set.

    So call him Marvel. Name him after the whole superheroic universe; we can turn the tables on the Thor strength disparity and say that no one character is worthy of lending Durant his or her name, but rather all of them must.

    And surely the cash-conscious folks who run the Oklahoma City Thunder won't mind a manufactured relationship with a Hollywood mega-franchise.

Paul George: Sandman

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    The Indiana Pacers have not had a star like Paul George at the very least since Reggie Miller retired, perhaps ever.

    You can make the argument that, come playoff time, Hibbert is the most essential player to the Pacers' success, but all the verticality in the world couldn't create the excitement George brings when he gets in the zone.

    George re-upped with the Pacers long term prior to the season, so Indianapolis can safely lay claim to him without fear that he'll bolt. What better name then for the pride of Naptown than Sandman?

    Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have both retired from baseball, leaving the nickname and the accompanying Metallica anthem up for grabs.

    Given how unconscious George can get at the end of games, he can carry on the closers' legacy in the NBA.

Blake Griffin: Optima Prime

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    It has been three years since Blake Griffin leapt a Kia Optima, rising majestically above Baron Davis' hirsute head, to catch a basketball and power it home to win the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest.

    Blake's relationship with Kia is far from over, though. The explosive power forward has played funk, traveled back in time and formed his own Griffin Force with Jack McBrayer, all in the name of selling a affordable, jumpable automobile.

    We can honor Griffin's commitment to his sponsor and position him as basketball's athletic answer to Calvin Johnson all at once.

    If Johnson is Megatron, then Blake can be Optima Prime, with the Transformer-like ability to play above the rim and make Kia commercials entertaining.

James Harden: The Great Hardini

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    He's only 6'4", but James Harden has still found a way to rank in the top five in free-throw attempts per game; the other four players around him are all at least 6'10".

    How is that possible, you ask? Magic, that's how.

    Using an illusory trick with mysterious European origins, the Great Hardini is able to slice past defenders as though they weren't even there, reappearing behind them to either draw a foul at the rim or to finish unabated.

    You can watch the Houston Rocket drive the lane time and time again without gaining any insight into how his trick is not a travel. Don't expect the magician to reveal his secrets, though.

Dwight Howard: The Philanthropist

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    With the Dwightmare and the Dwightmare II behind us, it's time for Dwight Howard to rehabilitate his public image.

    Because Howard is bigger than the self-interested free agent he has been in recent years. Beneath that me-first facade, Howard cares.

    The Philanthropist revealed his benevolence in a recent public service announcement, promoting the Center Center for Centers and its efforts to "Save the Centers" after their position was tragically removed from the All-Star ballot.

    That's just one example of Howard's altruistic work. Whenever he bricks a shot from the charity stripe, think of that as philanthropy, too.

LeBron James: The Executive

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    LeBron James has aspirations beyond the basketball court, and The Executive has the business savvy to extend his influence.

    2K Games tagged James to executive produce the most recent installment of their wildly successful basketball franchise, NBA 2K14, which became the best-selling sports title for next-generation video game consoles.

    James has a history of using his basketball ability to further his executive goals. In fact, his leadership has helped earn the Miami Heat annual visits to the White House to visit President Barack Obama, the Chief Executive of the United States.

    So when LeBron says he has some ideas for Adam Silver, the new NBA commish ought to listen. The Executive knows what he's doing.

Damian Lillard: The Omen

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    If you're an opponent facing Damian Lillard late in games, you know he's downright terrifying, and you don't need a nickname to remind you.

    Let's give him one anyway.

    Whether you're facing the Trail Blazers with the shot clock turned off or you're facing a satanic child in the classic horror film The Omen, there is no stopping Damian.

    Granted, the kid from the movie spells his name with just one A, not two. Lillard's daggers are also entirely metaphorical, whereas the fictional five-year-old is the cause of some much more realistic impalements and decapitations.

    That's just semantics, and we're not going to let semantics ruin our fun. Facing Damian is enough of a killjoy already.

Kevin Love: FutureKev/LoveSounds

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves are in need of some more excitement, and Kevin Love is just the guy to provide it.

    He's already averaging 25.1 points and 13.0 rebounds per game, so what more can he do?

    Be like Justin Timberlake, that's what: FutureKev/LoveSounds.

    Love has already exhibited the versatility to bang around inside as well as step out and knock down the three ball, much like Timberlake was able to cross over from performing on worldwide music tours to garner Oscar nomination buzz for his work in The Social Network.

    Timberlake is also a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, which makes this a bit awkward. But Love and the Wolves aren't going to make the playoffs in the formidable Western Conference unless they're willing to take what they want.

Dirk Nowitzki: Leaning Tower of Wurzburg

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    If you think of Dirk Nowitzki playing basketball, you think of an unconventional image of grace.

    He does not have the picturesque form of a traditional sharpshooter, but as he falls away on one leg, raises the ball above his head and sends it through the net with an effortless flick of the wrist, it's clear his motion has been practiced to the point of mastery.

    Even though the crafty 7-footer perfected his craft with the Dallas Mavericks, he still owes his style to Germany, where he first learned this quirky approach to scoring.

    Thus gives us the Leaning Tower of Wurzburg, a testament to his size and style as well as the origins of his skill.

Tony Parker: Attaquant

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    Sticking with tributes to European heritage, the French language serves up this Tony Parker moniker on a silver platter with boulette d'Avesnes and a glass of blanc.

    Attaquant literally means attacker in French, but it is also the word used to describe an offensive player in basketball.

    Maybe Parker's not the most physical player, but he certainly has an attacking style of offense. He is in constant motion, running circles around the opposing defense to probe for weaknesses at which the San Antonio Spurs can strike.

    It's simple, elegant and effective—just like Parker himself.

Chris Paul: Chili Three

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    Per Rick Reilly and his ESPN.com story on Chris Paul and his relationship with his late grandfather, Nathaniel Jones:

    The man everybody called "PaPa Chili" was the first black man to open a service station in North Carolina and both Chris and his brother worked at it. PaPa Chili was known to let people run tabs when times got tough. Plenty of times, he'd hand people money out of the cash register to get by. Paul called him "my best friend."

    Jones was mugged and brutally murdered in 2002. He was 61 years old. Paul, still a high school senior, went out and scored exactly 61 points, intentionally missing a late free throw to preserve the tribute.

    If we're honoring Paul, we should honor the man as well as the athlete, and he would credit Jones for making him the man he is today.

    Paul's grandfather was PaPa Chili, so two generations later, Paul will be Chili Three. The fact that the nickname matches his jersey number is coincidental, but it fits to make his grandfather part of his on-court identity.

Derrick Rose: Second Savior

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    Ever since their last championship in 1998, the Chicago Bulls have been looking for the man to fill Michael Jordan's shoes.

    The Second City needs a Second Savior, and Derrick Rose is the guy.

    Not only is he far and away the best Bull of the post-Jordan era, the only Chicago player aside from His Airness to win the league MVP award, but Rose is also embroiled in his own personal quest for redemption on the hardwood.

    He has now torn an ACL in each of the past two seasons in which he has played, but Rose remains the face of the franchise. The Bulls will wait for his return, and when he does, they will be ready for Rose to take his second chance in earnest.

Dwyane Wade: Substance

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    Once upon a time, Dwyane Wade was simply Flash, but it's been ages since he has earned that nickname. Age and injury have curtailed his electrifying approach to the shooting guard position, forcing him to reinvent himself as a secondary scorer alongside LeBron.

    In 2013-14, Wade is shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 40.0 percent on three pointers; both of those figures are career highs, albeit with a low-volume output from beyond the arc.

    Elite athleticism has given way to efficient shotmaking, and Wade needs a name that reflects his new game.

    He has no flash anymore; now, he's all Substance.

    It's not as, well, flashy as Flash once was, but that makes sense for the 32-year-old version of Wade. Substance wants to make sure his shots fall so he can win another ring; how pretty that process is doesn't matter.

Russell Westbrook: ?uestbrook

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    Much like The Legendary Roots Crew, the Oklahoma City Thunder are built around two superstars.

    In this analogy, Durant is Black Thought—the crazy-talented frontman who thrives as the centerpiece of the team but can be just as impressive by himself.

    That makes Russell Westbrook OKC's ?uestlove, the flamboyant and equally ultratalented drummer who elevates the group to world-beating heights.

    ?uestbrook has both the on-court greatness and the amazing off-court quirkiness going for him. In fact, he often surpasses his nicknamesake in terms of ostentatiousness.

    Andrew Sharp of Grantland (NSFW) recently found his way into Roc Nation's Kevin Durant Super Bowl Party at the 40/40 Club. Therein, Sharp offered this account of ?uestbrook's activity:

    Russell Westbrook showed up wearing a designer shirt long enough to make you think he maybe bought it at a maternity store. For the five minutes he wasn’t in a VIP area, he was by the corner of the bar eating peanut M&Ms.

    That's the kind of next-level anecdote ?uestbrook provides while he's recovering from knee surgery. When he's playing and putting his amazing postgame fashion on display while fielding questions, his dynamism knows no bounds.


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