The 100 Best Nicknames in Sports History
How do you rank the best nicknames of all time? There are so many famous AKAs in the world of sports, and many deserve their place at the top of the heap.
There are those names that just seem...so...right. Whether they describe physical appearance, a catch phrase, or an extreme and unique ability, these nicknames follow their host, even beyond the grave. Applicants are ranked on creativity, unique jargon and consideration of prominence.
These individuals are synonymous with these names and will always remember their playing days and the monikers we used to make them legends of the lingo.
Here's the list. Let the debating begin!
Honorable Mention: Jared (The Hefty Lefty) Lorenzen
The former Super Bowl champion New York Giant gained the nickname due to his large stature and semi-rare left-handedness.
Other nicknames include "Pillsbury Throwboy," "J. Load," and "Round Mound of Touchdown," in reference to one of Charles Barkley's many monikers.
Honorable Mention: Tom (Flash) Gordon
Gordon earned his nickname when he burst on to the scene in 1989 at the age of 21, when he went 17-9 in his first full season in the majors.
The nickname stuck throughout his career and separated his fairly common name from the rest of the herd.
Honorable Mention: Shaun (The Flying Tomato) White
Shaun's nickname is born out of obvious connections. One look at the high-flying X-Games star, and it's easy to see why he is called "The Flying Tomato."
The long red locks flowing from his helmet while he seems impenetrable by gravity seems to make this nickname non-inventive, but still a perfect fit.
100. Andre (The Hawk) Dawson
Andre Dawson's nickname, "The Hawk," was given to him by an uncle when Andre was very young.
While playing on youth baseball teams, Andre would attack the ball like a hawk, while teammates would shy away.
The nickname would stick and become part of his identity throughout his playing years, summarizing Dawson's aggressive approach to the game and his Hall of Fame work ethic.
99. Larry (Chipper) Jones
Jones owes his alias to his family, who constantly told him he was "A chip-off-the-old-block," in reference to his father.
Of course, talking about wood is also a perfect fit for this career above-average hitter.
Likewise, his relationship with his father remains strong; therefore when Chipper was progressing through the ranks of baseball, he decided to keep the name.
98. Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway
Folklore legend has it Hardaway's nickname came as a result of his grandmother's southern accent when calling him "Pretty," thus coming out as "Penny."
Penny has attributed his successes in life to his grandma, who raised him up as a child while his mother was away working.
Hardaway was a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA first team selection and NBA All-Rookie first team selection (1994).
97. Carlton (Pudge) Fisk And Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez
In less than a decade, both MLB catchers will be Hall of Fame members.
Carlton Fisk earned his nickname with the Boston Red Sox for his physical stature, standing 6'2" tall and weighing 220 pounds.
Ivan Rodriguez also got his moniker for the same reason.
Fisk held the MLB record for games played at the catcher position (2,226) until Rodriguez broke it in 2009 with the Texas Rangers.
96. William (Mookie) Wilson and Daron (Mookie) Blaylock
William Wilson received the nickname "Mookie" as a child, when his mother noticed he was having trouble asking her for more "milk."
Mookie Blaylock could have been the name of a famous band. But when the band was told they couldn't use his name as their band moniker, they adopted his other nickname and became known as "Pearl Jam," a name that also has rumors to its origins.
95. Héctor (Macho) Camacho
In 87 career fights, Camacho has 79 wins (including 38 knockouts) and just five losses with three draws.
The nickname given to Camacho seems born out of synergy, contained in, and rhyming with, his last name.
Following legal troubles, Camacho retired from professional boxing and has since proclaimed himself to be a "born again Christian."
94. Daryl (Moose) Johnston
Johnston got his moniker from a teammate on the Dallas Cowboys, Babe Laufenberg, a second-string quarterback.
Troy Aikman and Johnston remain close friends, having won three Super Bowls together.
Johnston was also the first fullback ever elected to the Pro Bowl, a position officially recognized by the NFL because of Johnston's efforts as a blocker and occasional runner.
93. (Mr. Hockey) Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe is considered one of the best hockey players in history but is also known for his friendly personality, kind demeanor, longevity as a player and prolific goal-scoring.
Howe is a PR dream, the face of the NHL and a legend in the realm of professional hockey.
His nickname is more a basic description of the entity he embodies than a catchy alter-ego. "Mr. Hockey" is used to sum up his life, and it is very fitting.
However, his nickname doesn't rank very highly on a list of originality and creativity.
92. Richard Alan (El Guapo) Garces
As if the Venezuelan pitcher needs any more names, Garcés' tongue-in-cheek nickname is a poke at his stature, and friends and teammates commonly refer to him by his moniker.
He pitched parts of 11 seasons with the Minnesota Twins (1990,1993), Florida Marlins (1995), Chicago Cubs (1995) and Boston Red Sox (1996-2002).
91. Thomas (Hitman) Hearns
Really? Seriously? Nothing more creative for a boxer than "Hitman?" The nickname is cool because it's edgy and impressive, but then when you find out he's a boxer, it just seems kind of lame.
In the realm of all-time nicknames, it is definitely sweet, but it hits the countdown towards the back, because there isn't much back story here, and he's not actually a hitman.
Can you imagine trying to pass through airport security with his full name on a passport?
90. Ozzie (The Wizard) Smith
This moniker has nothing to do with Smith on a personal level, other than his ability to make spectacular plays and do back flips off the turf.
This obvious alias comes from the "Wizard of Oz," and is in combination with Smith's shortened first name, "Oz."
Smith is a 15-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove Winner and a 1982 World Series Champion with the St. Louis Cardinals.
89. Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez
This nickname isn't creative at all, but is so synonymous with the Yankees third baseman it deserves a mention on the countdown.
It has spawned other nicknames involving athletes with the last name "Rodriguez," including the current record holder for most saves in a season, Frankie "K-Rod" Rodriguez.
88. Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd
Rumor has it, the pitcher wanted to return to the majors in 2008 at the tender age of 49, reports the Boston Globe.
The wily pitcher was a fan favorite despite his volatile personality, and his moniker is indicative of his aggressive pitching style.
Boyd played parts of nine seasons in the majors, and compiled a career 78-77 record, with 799 strikeouts.
87. Kenny (The Jet) Smith
Smith spent 11 years in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings (1987–1990), Atlanta Hawks (1990), Houston Rockets (1990–1996), Detroit Pistons (1996), Orlando Magic (1996–1997) and Denver Nuggets (1997).
He was a two-time NBA Champion (1994, 1995) and member of the 1988 NBA All-Rookie Team.
His moniker was given to him by teammates for his dribbling skills and ability to go "coast-to-coast," covering the entire floor from a rebound on defense to a layup on the other end.
86. Adam (Pacman) Jones
Currently playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, Adam "Pacman" Jones received his nickname as a young child, when it was noted that he could drink his milk as fast as the video game character.
Due to his legal troubles, Jones has requested he now be known simply as "Adam Jones" in an effort to separate his new under-the-radar personality from his past troubles with the law.
85. Allen (The Answer) Iverson
Also known as simply "A.I.," Iverson became known as "The Answer" in his first tour of duty with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The moniker became the genesis of a shoe deal Iverson signed with Reebok and became almost an alter-ego for the prolific scoring guard.
84. Glen (Big Baby) Davis
Glen Davis was a big kid. At nine years old, Davis was already 5'6" tall and weighed 160 lbs. When he was not allowed to play with his friends on the peewee team due to his size, he was told he must play with older kids.
Davis would often cry to his coach, begging the man to let him play with his friends and the coach would say, "stop crying, you big baby!" and the name stuck.
As far as nicknames go, this one isn't much fun, but at least it's better than "Baby Shaq."
83. Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez
The nickname literally translated means "The Duke," but his moniker is in reference to a tropical hurricane, which he is said to have brought on his opponents while pitching on the mound.
Hernández is also known for the enormous leg kick featured in his delivery. If the Cuban pitcher ever wanted to sue the founder of Pilates, he may have a solid case.
82. Robert (Chief) Parish
Parish got his nickname from a fictitious Chief Bromden, a silent, giant Native American character in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. According to Parish, former Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell gave Parish this nickname because of his stoic nature.
His nickname prompted fraternity members to rename the commonly-practiced act, involving a passed-out friend and a head shaver. Ya...that has to be true...
81. Willie (Stretch) McCovey
The Hall of Famer battled through segregation to become one of the greatest left-handed hitters in Major League Baseball history.
McCovey got his nickname from his slender-but-tall build.
In his era, people of this stature were commonly called "stretch," for the way they appeared lengthened out as if someone had grabbed their toes while someone else held them by the head and pulled in the opposite direction.
80. Walter (Sweetness) Payton
There's something about being a football player while making a living in Chicago that attracts nicknames like a moth to a flame.
Payton is no exception and quickly garnered the nickname "Sweetness" for his ability to make plays, and slide through the defense with ease.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer has 16,726 career yards, along with 110 TDs on the ground.
79. Shawn (Reign Man) Kemp
A six-time NBA All-Star broke into the league in 1989 with the Seattle SuperSonics and got his nickname, according to Wikipedia.org:
"...after Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro saw a poster with the name and found it fitting to add to his radio broadcasts."
Kemp retired in 2003 and now the only thing falling from the sky in Kemp's world are illegitimate children, as he has 11 of them from nine different women last time we checked.
78. David (The Admiral) Robinson
Robinson's nickname is derived from his service in the United States Navy.
The big man also played for the USA Basketball team, was a two-time NBA Champion, won the NBA MVP in 1995 and was a 10-time NBA All-Star.
77. Roger (The Rocket) Clemens
Clemens' major league career has clearly been overshadowed by steroid use allegations in recent years, but the pitcher's dominance on the mound is worth noting.
Fans chose to note his pitching by nicknaming him "The Rocket," for the perception of a rocket mounted on his shoulder, in reference to his arm and the velocity of his pitches.
In related news, the US Congress prosecuted a rocket for perjury for the first time in history.
76. Andrei (AK-47) Kirilenko
Kirilenko's nickname is fairly obvious but still cool because it's the same as the name of a firearm.
"AK-47" is simply Kirilenko's initials plus the number on his Utah Jazz jersey.
The tall glass of water is a solid shooter, and therefore, the gun jokes just flow.
75. Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain
While Wilt's playing career and infamous personal dealings with women are the stuff of legend, his nickname seems a little weak for his accolades.
The nickname comes from Wilt's height and slender build and the obvious rhyming of his first name.
Chamberlain is still holds the NBA record for points scored in a single game, and the paper he is holding is the number of points he dropped on the New York Knicks in 1962 as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors.
74. Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams
Williams is perhaps best known for giving up the game-and-World Series-winning home run to Joe Carter and the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.
However, he is also known as "Wild Thing" for his unusual delivery to the plate
"When he joined the Cubs, his extravagant wind-up and release and his frequent wild pitches inspired Wrigley Field organists to play The Troggs' Wild Thing as he came out of the bullpen.
A power reliever, he put his full weight behind every pitch, so that he dropped hard to the right, sometimes falling off the mound.
He was often compared to film character Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn (played by Charlie Sheen) in the 1989 David S. Ward film Major League.
In 1993, Williams started wearing the No. 99 (he originally wore the No. 28) on his jersey, the same number that Vaughn wore in the film.
According to an interview on the Dan Patrick radio show on 10/22/08, the number change had nothing to do with the film Major League.
Williams said he had wanted the No. 99 for years because of an admiration for the football player Mark Gastineau, who also wore No. 99. Williams said he didn’t change his number until 1993 because that was his first chance to do it."
Either way, the nickname stuck, as did the movie. Although Williams' long mullet locks are long gone, the moniker follows him wherever he goes.
73. Avery (The Little General) Johnson
Standing just 5'10" tall, Johnson has enough attitude packed inside his small frame for the rest of us.
He earned the moniker "The Little General" for his leadership abilities on the court and also his fiery, competitive nature as a player.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recognized these qualities and made Johnson head coach of the team in 2004, before Avery moved on to the New Jersey Nets in 2010.
72. (Hammerin') Hank Aaron
Aaron's nickname epitomizes his performance at the plate. The obvious alliteration is a testament to his power-hitting prowess and home run tally as a player.
Along with Aaron's power, his longevity also is worth noting. "Hammerin' Hank" played 23 seasons and recorded 755 career home runs and 3,771 hits.
71. Sam (Big Smooth) Perkins
Perkins played the game with pride and a seemingly calm demeanor that earned him the nickname "Big Smooth."
The big man spent his best NBA days with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Seattle SuperSonics, but he was also on the 1985 NBA All-Rookie First Team roster with the Dallas Mavericks.
70. Eldrick (Tiger) Woods
"While doing the research on why someone would name their child "Eldrick," it was discovered the nickname "Tiger" was given to him by his father.
Turns out the nickname is a motivational tool to remind Eldrick to fight for his dreams and accomplishments."
69. Bernard (The Executioner) Hopkins
As far as boxing nicknames are concerned, "The Executioner" isn't very imaginative but still intimidating.
Hopkins is known for 51 wins in 59 fights, which include 32 knockouts and one no contest.
He is also known for his 10-year reign as middleweight world champion and setting a record for defending it 20 consecutive times.
68. Lenny (Nails) Dykstra
New York Mets fans began referring to Dykstra for his "tough-as-nails" approach to the game, and it was later shortened to just "Nails."
Dykstra was a three-time All-Star, World Series champion and Silver Slugger Award winner while playing for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.
67. Eric (Sleepy) Floyd
Floyd's nickname is used to describe the consistent look on his face, and how his complexion reminds on-lookers of someone who looks tired or "sleepy."
It has been said that Floyd actually fell asleep several times during games in his career, and his hooded eyelids certainly didn't help refute the claims.
66. John (Spider) Salley
Aside from being a vegan, Salley is known for several other odd mannerisms and goofy antics.
The nickname "Spider" is a reference to Salley's fear of arachnids, which, according to him, was conquered during his time on the 2009 reality television show I'm a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here!
Salley was also a co-host for "Best Damn Sports Show Period," alongside Tom Arnold and Chris Rose.
Oh yeah, he also played basketball for five NBA teams in 15 years and won four NBA championships with three different teams. But we know him best for the TV personality aspect.
65. Rich (Goose) Gossage
This nickname was bound to happen, seeing as how his last name is so closely spelled to "goose," and there were no other candidates that could top it.
The name stuck throughout Rich Gossage's playing days, and he is affectionately known by the moniker to this day.
Gossage is a nine-time MLB All-Star and won a World Series ring with the 1978 New York Yankees.
64. (The Minister Of Defense) Reggie White
Reggie White (December 19, 1961 – December 26, 2004), was known as a devout Christian and ordained Evangelical Minister.
His stellar play as a defensive lineman, along with his faith, helped him earn his nickname as "The Minister of Defense."
White was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection.
63. Oscar (Golden Boy) De La Hoya
Before these famous images went viral, Oscar De La Hoya was boxing's "Golden Boy," a heavy-hitter with a squeaky-clean image.
His moniker was also his calling card, but these days, it's just his his curse.
62. (Iron) Mike Tyson
Also called "The Baddest on the Planet," Mike Tyson won his first 19 professional bouts by knockout—12 of them occurring in the first round.
He began to garner the nickname "Iron" for his toughness and seemingly total resistance to go down.
During and following his boxing career, Tyson is known for his unusual and often frightening quotes and taunts and also several run-ins with law enforcement.
Beginning in March, Tyson will be featured in a six-part series on Animal Planet entitled, "Taking on Tyson." The program will chronicle Tyson's love for pigeon racing.
We have to say it: "He'll stomp on a child's testicles, but he won't poop on a pigeon."
61. George (Iceman) Gervin
Named for his cool demeanor on a basketball court, Gervin played in both the ABA and the NBA, and it has been said at his ABA tryout in Virginia, he made 22-of-25 three-point attempts.
Gervin would go on to be a nine-time NBA All-Star and be elected to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.
60. Paul (Bear) Bryant
While most think the successful Alabama Crimson Tide coach was named "Bear" for his personality, it was actually given to him as a child.
When he was younger, Bryant agreed to wrestle a captive bear, and the nickname was given to him by his siblings (Paul was the 11th of 12 children).
Bryant would grow up to be one of the most prominent figures in college sports and one of the most successful coaches in college football history, winning six national titles.
59. Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion
The Canadian ice hockey legend got his moniker from his thundering slap shot, which was said to echo through stands and arenas like a sonic boom.
Geoffrion was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1972, following a stellar career as a right winger with the Montreal Canadians and New York Rangers.
The lefty was also a six-time Stanley Cup Champion and winner of multiple awards.
58. Jim (Catfish) Hunter
As owner of the Kansas City A's, Charles O. Finley thought his new pitcher needed a solid nickname, and citing Hunter's giant 'stache which looked like a catfish's whiskers, gave him the nickname "catfish."
Hunter is an eight-time All-Star and five-time World Series Champion. He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987, with 76.27 percent of the vote, just over the necessary 75 percent to qualify.
57. Bryant (Big Country) Reeves
Reeves was nicknamed "Big Country" by his college teammate Byron Houston when Reeves was amazed by his first airplane flight across the United States.
The NBA big man grew up in the small community of Gans, Okla., and attended Oklahoma State University. He played his entire career from 1995-2001 with the Vancouver Grizzlies.
56. Reggie (Mr. October) Jackson
During the World Series against the Dodgers, Munson was interviewed and suggested that Jackson, because of his past postseason performances, might be the better interview subject.
"Go ask Mister October", he said, giving Jackson a nickname that would stick. In Oakland, he had been known as "Jax" and "Buck."
Jackson hit home runs in Game 4 and Game 5 of the Series.
55. Robert (Tractor) Traylor
While attending the University of Michigan, Traylor earned his nickname for his tremendous size, dominance in the paint, and the way "Tractor" just seemed to flow with his last name.
In 2005, Traylor failed a physical exam (surprise) and has played overseas ever since.
54. Fred (Crime Dog) McGriff
McGriff's alias is just one of the many nickname brainchild ideas of ESPN analyst Chris Berman, who noticed the slugger's name resembled that of the National Crime Prevention Council mascot "McGruff."
Whatever you want to call him, McGriff had a solid career in MLB, playing for seven teams and recording three Silver Sluggers, five All-Star appearances and a 1995 World Series Championship with the Atlanta Braves.
53. (Shoeless) Joe Jackson
Forever remembered for his involvement in the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was known for his lightning-quick feet and agility, earning the moniker that would become inseparable from his legacy.
Jackson was also a prolific hitter, and many historians feel he could have broken several records had he not been banned from baseball after the 1920 season.
Jackson spent 12 years in the majors with the Philadelphia Athletics (1908–1909), Cleveland Naps/Indians (1910–1915) and Chicago White Sox (1915–1920).
He has a career batting average of .356 and 1,772 hits.
52. Clyde (The Glide) Drexler
Drexler has had his nickname since his days at the University of Houston, named for his speed and athleticism on the court and his pleasant and easygoing nature in his private life.
"The Glide" is a member of the Hall of Fame and captured the 1995 NBA championship with the Houston Rockets.
51. David (Big Papi) Ortiz
Boston's prodigal son, Ortiz has become an icon in Bean Town for his clutch hitting and lovable personality.
The left-handed hitting slugger is the current face of the Boston Red Sox franchise and spent many years in a potent lineup with Manny Ramirez.
His image has been slightly tarnished after he admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs after many published media reports.
However, steroids will likely only be a small blip on his write-up when his playing days are over, and it seems America will remember him for his philanthropy and for coming through in the clutch.
50. (Joltin') Joe DiMaggio
DiMaggio was bound to earn a few nicknames in his playing days, and "Joltin' Joe" was just the beginning. His other famous nickname, "The Yankee Clipper," also deserves a mention on the countdown.
"Joltin' " refers to his speed and ability to get a jump on the ball off the bat in the outfield and his smart baserunning abilities.
DiMaggio was given the nickname "The Yankee Clipper" by Yankees announcer Arch McDonald in 1939, when he likened DiMaggio's speed and range in the field to the then-new Pan American airliner.
The Yankees great still holds the record for consecutive games with at least one hit with a 56-hit streak in 1941.
49. Edwin (Duke) Snider
Also nicknamed "The Silver Fox" and just known by the shorter "Duke" Snider, the former Brooklyn Dodgers slugger was often compared to other New York outfielders such as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and earned the nickname "The Duke of Flatbush" after an area in New York City called "Flatbush" and his accolades as a hitter.
He hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons (1953–57) and averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average between 1953-1956. He led the league in runs scored, home runs and RBI in separate seasons.
He appeared in six postseasons with the Dodgers (1949, 1952–53, 1955–56, 1959), facing the New York Yankees in the first five and the Chicago White Sox in the final. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1955 and in 1959.
48. (Pistol) Pete Maravich
Maravich earned his nickname in high school, from his habit of shooting the ball from his hip, as if firing a revolver.
Considered one of the best players in professional basketball history, Maravich's life ended and began when he suffered a heart attack while playing a pick-up game in Pasadena, Calif.
Maravich was a devout Christian and said shortly before his death he would like to be remembered as a follower of Christ, and not a basketball player.
Ironically, Maravich died in a church.
47. (Sugar) Ray Leonard
"Sugar" Ray Leonard owes his legendary moniker-alias to Sarge Johnson, assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team.
Johnson once said to Dave Jacobs, "That kid you got is sweet as sugar," and the nickname stuck.
It seemed so right to give him the nickname, given the man many consider to be the best boxer of all-time is also named "Sugar Ray" (Robinson).
46. Harold (Pee Wee) Reese
"Pee wee" was a term used to describe a small marble in Reese's childhood, and it would become his nickname for the remainder of his life.
The term has become synonymous with small stature, which Reese also had.
Reese was a 10-time All-Star and two-time World Series Champion with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
45. Hakeem (The Dream) Olajuwon
The Nigerian giant stood 7-feet tall and weighed 255 pounds in his playing days. He is famous for his blocked shots and on-the-court bouts with Shaquille O'Neal while O'Neal was a member for the Orlando Magic.
Olajuwon's first name was spelled "Akeem" in his college days at the University of Houston and early into his NBA career.
He added an "H" to his name later in his career in homage to his Muslim faith. He won two NBA titles with the Houston Rockets and was the NBA MVP in 1994, also with the Rockets.
44. Joe (Cool) Montana
Also called "Golden Joe" and "Comeback Joe," Joe Montana earned his nickname for his ability to stay calm under pressure and come through in the clutch with key passes and throwing accuracy.
Montana became a football great with the San Francisco 49ers, finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs and compiled a career rap sheet that looks like this:
- 8× Pro Bowl selection (1981, 1983, 1984, 1985,1987, 1989, 1990, 1993)
- 3× First Team All-Pro selection (1987, 1989,1990)
- 3× Second Team All-Pro selection (1981, 1983,1984)
- 4× Super Bowl champion (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV)
- 3× Super Bowl MVP (1981, 1984, 1989)
43. Mordecai (Three Fingers) Brown
The Hall of Famer lost his index finger in a gruesome farming accident, in which he was putting material into a feed chopper, slipped and got his hand mangled. The injury was a blessing in disguise, actually giving him an edge on the mound.
"Three Fingers" Brown was able to throw many pitches that could not be achieved by a man with a full hand. The amount of spin generated by the mangled bones and missing pieces of his dominant hand had great effects and led to Brown's legendary moniker.
Here's a little lesson for all you readers out there, confused as to how he loses one finger and only has three remaining. The thumb is not called a "finger," and therefore doesn't count. Carry on with the slideshow, and impress your friends with your newfound street cred.
42. (The Croatian Sensation) Toni Kukoc
Kukoč was a member of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the late '90s, where he gained his nickname for his superb play and country of origin.
Kukoč is considered one of the best wingmen to ever play the game, and therefore might be the only man on the planet capable of getting Franck Ribéry a real date.
41. Nate (The Kitchen) Newton
Newton once weighed as much as 400 pounds and was said to be even bigger than William "The Fridge" Perry, therefore earning him the nickname "The Kitchen."
The longtime Dallas Cowboy was caught with nearly 400 pounds of marijuana combined in two separate incidents. Newton was the prime example of how munchies can have devastating effects on your weight and physical appearance.
However, Newton underwent vertical gastrectomy, in February 2010, a surgical operation that removes up to 75 percent of a patient's stomach and staples the remainder.
He currently weighs 220 pounds and it's no longer a good past-time to poke fun at his weight, just all the loose skin that now must hang from his neck, arms and thighs.
40. Kordell (Slash) Stewart
Playing for the University of Colorado Buffaloes in 1994, Kordell Stewart completed a Hail Mary pass to beat the University of Michigan 27-26, a play known as "The Miracle at Michigan."
When Stewart entered the NFL, he was moved from quarterback to receiver, but was often placed under center for certain plays by head coach Bill Cowher.
The ability to play both QB and WR gave Stewart the nickname "Slash," as in quarterback/(slash)receiver.
39. Wayne (The Great One) Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky is widely considered the best hockey player ever to play the game, in the same conversations with Gordie Howe and Brett Hull.
"The Great One" is the simplest way to describe his talents, although a more creative moniker would gain more points. Just the mere mention of "The Great One" in reference to hockey brings memories of nearly 900 goals and a memorable trade that landed the hockey star in Los Angeles.
38. James (The Great White Hope) Jeffries
Also called "The Boilermaker," Jeffries was a world heavyweight boxing champion just before the turn of the 20th century. He used the technique of crouching with his left arm out to fight opponents, and experienced many successes.
It has been said that he could run 100 yards in 10 seconds and high jump over six feet. He stood 6'-and-a-half inches tall and weighed 225 lbs, a very large size in his time.
In 21 total fights, Jeffries had 18 victories and 14 knockouts, with just one loss and two draws. While his nickname is creative, it is also a prime example of racial prejudice and bigotry. Jeffries boxed in a time where blacks were heavily persecuted, and "The Great White Hope" was a moniker for his desire to destroy all blacks with his boxing abilities.
37. Julius (Dr. J) Erving
There's no inventive story here: "Dr. J" was given to Julius Erving by a high school friend, who watched him play and likened his smoothness with the ball and ability to score like the precision of a doctor performing surgery.
Erving electrified crowds with his dunking and leaping abilities, and the nickname seemed divine and easily matched his personality and persona.
36. Frank (Big Hurt) Thomas
"Apparently, White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson tagged Thomas with the nickname "Big Hurt" because that's exactly what he does to opposing pitchers. It's one of the more unique and popular nicknames of the modern era."
Thomas was a dominant hitter and an icon during his playing days with the Chicago White Sox. Unless he attempts a return to baseball, which isn't likely, he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame following the 2012 season and could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and definitely deserves to be elected.
35. Muhammed Ali (The Greatest)
In true legendary boxer style, Ali gave himself the nickname "The Greatest," but also deserves it. He is the most dominating boxer in the history of the sport and is synonymous with boxing legend.
This list rewards creativity, and while Ali is the greatest boxer ever, his nickname isn't the most creative moniker in sports.
34. Larry (Grandma-Ma) Johnson
Johnson played for the Charlotte Hornets at the height of their popularity in the mid-'90s, and earned the nickname "Grandmama" after shooting a commercial for Converse.
Larry was 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year and a two-time NBA All-Star selection. He spent 12 years in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks. In 1993, he signed the most lucrative contract in NBA history (at that time) to play for the Hornets, a 12-year, $84 million deal.
33. Harold (The Galloping Ghost) Grange
Grange got his nickname from Chicago American writer Warren Brown, who dubbed the pasty white-skinned red head "The Galloping Ghost," citing his running style at the University of Illinois.
Grange was drafted by, and finished his career with, the Chicago Bears. He also played for the New York Yankees of the American Football League for just one season before they absolved into the NFL.
The Galloping Ghost was also a film star, appearing in two silent films in the mid-'20s,
32. Gary (The Glove) Payton
Payton's defense is the stuff of NBA legend. His trash talking is the stuff of street legend and his longevity in the league cemented his status as an NBA great.
"The Glove" was born when Payton's cousin called him during the 1993 Western Conference Finals series and told him "you're holding Kevin Johnson like a baseball in a glove."
After nearly 14 seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics, the team traded him to the Bucks for the remainder of the 2003 season. After Milwaukee, Payton played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
Payton is also likely the best player to ever play at Oregon State University, with A.C. Green, Brent Barry and Corey Benjamin in the discussion.
31. O.J. (Juice) Simpson
The obvious nickname is the third generation of his birth name. Orenthal James was shortened to O.J., which is an acronym shared by "Orange Juice," and there you have it.
The nickname got so huge that Simpson's offensive line became known as "The Electric Company," since "Juice" is also a colloquial synonym for electricity or electrical power.
His lawyer should have been named "The electric no possibility of victory but still attempting attorney."
30. Michael (His Airness) Jordan
Sometimes just called Michael "Air" Jordan, the greatest basketball player to ever live has been called many other things as well.
However, "His Airness" seems to be the most creative, citing his incredible leaping ability. At the height of his career, Jordan could take off from the free-throw line and dunk the basketball. The nickname seems to describe his abilities perfectly, and Jordan and the moniker are now inseparable.
29. Jake (The Snake) Plummer
After becoming a standout at Arizona State University, Jake Plummer was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and would go on to play for the Denver Broncos. However, soon after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007, Plummer announced his retirement, citing his desire to live a more peaceful life.
"The Snake" was a nickname given to him after the likeness of professional wrestler, Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Coincidentally, Roberts adapted his nickname from former Oakland Raiders QB Ken Stabler, who was nicknamed "The Snake" for his ability to slither through opponents when scrambling.
Plummer is currently a racquetball champion in his native Idaho and was recently interviewed and quoted as saying he loves his life in his small town.
28. Jack (The Golden Bear) Nicklaus
The "Golden Bear" moniker given to the famous golfer was the result of Melbourne Age writer Don Lawrence referring to the "large, strong, and blond" player as the Golden Bear, and the nickname seemed fitting.
The World Golf Hall of Fame member is a legend in the game, and his "Golden Bear" moniker has led to many endorsements and products that "bear" his name.
27. (BroadwayJoe) Namath
Namath's nickname "Broadway Joe" was given him by Sherman Plunkett, a Jets teammate.
The Rams and Jets QB also did several endorsement commercials during his playing days, including this one for pantyhose, no joke. However, he only made one broadway appearance, covered here by Wikipedia:
"...he made his only appearance on Broadway as a cast replacement in a revival of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. He did however appear in summerstock productions of Damn Yankees and Fiddler on the Roof."
Joe was never a stranger to the media, providing plenty of quotes and controversy in his days, and "Broadway Joe" seems fitting despite the limited experience in actual theatre.
26. Karl (The Mailman) Malone
"The Mailman always delivers" was the phrase that followed Malone from his college days until the end of his career and beyond.
Malone was known for his consistency and durability and for teaming up with a sprightly white guy in short shorts all those years as a member of the Utah Jazz. He is a two-time NBA MVP and 13-time NBA All-Star selection and is currently ranked second all-time in NBA scoring.
25. Rod (He Hate Me) Smart
Rod "He Hate Me" Smart was the shining star of the Vince McMahon's XFL, which lasted all of one season.
The league quirky tweaks of NFL rules, including a mad dash to midfield to gain possession of the ball, rather than a kickoff. Another aspect of the game that set it apart from traditional American football were the names on the back of the jerseys. Players could put whatever name they wanted back there, and Smart's "He Hate Me" was the best of them all.
24. Derek (Captain Clutch) Jeter
The nickname may not be specific to the Yankees shortstop, but he personifies the alliterative nickname with consistent big hits when needed most. In the postseason, no one is more dominant in baseball than Jeter.
David Ortiz has his regular season heroics, but Jeter owns October.
23. Leroy (Satchel) Paige
Paige is considered one of the best pitchers to play baseball, and it is a crying shame he didn't get a chance to enter the Major Leagues sooner than he did.
The tall glass of water got his famous alias from multiple sources:
According to Paige, his nickname originated from childhood work toting bags at the train station. He built a contraption out of poles that allowed him to carry more bags than his co-workers.
His tall and skinny build makes him look like a satchel tree. Childhood friend and neighbor, Wilber Hines, said he gave Paige the nickname after he was caught trying to steal a bag. Still yet another story says he was named "Satchel" simply for the immense size of his feet, looking like two satchel bags on the end of his ankles.
Whatever the case may be, the five-time Negro League All-Star, World Series Champion and Hall of Famer was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, and he wore his moniker with honor.
22. Ed (Too Tall) Jones
The 6'9", 271lb lineman recorded 57 sacks in his career but played before the sack became an official stat in 1982.
Jones is said to have 106 sacks unofficially and is one of the most notorious pass-rushers in the history of the game. With a common name like Ed Jones, inserting "Too Tall" seemed like an easy way to separate the man and make him an individual.
Simple, yet accurate, this nickname is solid and turned a superb athlete with a common name into a legend.
21. Nolan Ryan (The Ryan Express)
Ryan recorded 5,714 strikeouts, 324 wins and a TKO of Robin Ventura in his 27-year career. He became known as "The Ryan Express" when he came into games because of his fastball that easily topped 100 mph on a routine basis.
The durable fire-baller still holds the MLB record for career strikeouts and still fields questions about the day he plunked Ventura and subsequently pummeled him after getting him in a head-lock on the mound.
20. Bill (The Owl Without The Vowel) Mlkvy
Mlkvy received his nickname while attending Temple University. The school's mascot is the Owl and the obvious lack of a vowel letter in his last name was the second half of a legendary nickname.
"The Owl Without A Vowel" only played one season in the NBA with the Philadelphia Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors), but the nickname has stuck with him ever since college.
19. Earvin (Magic) Johnson
Johnson was elected to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996, is a five-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, a three-time MVP and a 12-time All-Star.
Johnson was first dubbed "Magic" while playing Everett High School high as a 15-year-old sophomore. When he recorded a triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists. Fred Stabley Jr. of the Lansing State Journal, gave him the moniker, despite protest from Johnson's mother, a devout Christian, who claimed it was sacrilegious.
18. Jerome (The Bus) Bettis
Steelers commentator Myron Cope is responsible for Bettis' legacy as "The Bus," noting a Notre Dame teammates' adjective when calling Bettis "Bussy."
The over-sized running back looked like a bus carrying opponents on his back while being dressed in yellow and black. Bettis is certainly a large man, weighing 252lbs while standing only 5'11" tall. In his playing days, Jerome was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl Champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.
17. Evander (The Real Deal) Holyfield
"Real Deal Holyfield" followed Evander throughout his boxing career, as he captured cruiserweight and heavyweight division championships and defeated Mike Tyson twice, losing chunks of both ears the second time around in the famous 1997 bout.
This nickname is clever, scores big points for rhyming with the name and personifies Holyfield to the fullest.
16. Lester (The Molester) Hayes
Hayes earned many nicknames during his playing days, such as "The Judge" and his self-proclaimed "Jedi" alias for his pre-Super Bowl XVIII quotes stating he was "The only true Jedi in the NFL" (Star Wars was immensely popular in the late '70s and early '80s).
The defensive back has become known for two things: His "bump-and-run" coverage on receivers that earned him the nickname "Molester" for the brutal way he treated receivers coming off the line of scrimmage and for using Stick 'Em on his hands before the league banned the substance and named the rule after Hayes.
15. Pete (Charlie Hustle) Rose
The nickname "Charlie Hustle" was given to Rose by Whitey Ford in 1963, who was watching the then-rookie Rose sprint to first base on a walk.
Rose took the nickname seriously and spent his career as a hard-nosed ball player, known for legging out extra-base hits and splendid play in the field.
He is perhaps the best player in Major League Baseball history that is yet to enter the Hall of Fame, having been banned for life for lying about his involvement with betting on baseball. Rose is the career MLB hits leader, having recorded 4,256 knocks.
14. Dale (The Intimidator) Earnhardt Sr.
Named for his aggressive and controversial driving style, "The Intimidator" is the biggest name in the history of NASCAR and the father of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
His No. 3 has become a symbol of pride for NASCAR fans everywhere, and he is remembered as being fearless while winning seven Sprint Cup Championships and four IROC Championships in 677 races spanning 27 years.
13. John (The Wizard of Westwood) Wooden
Although he personally disliked the nickname, Wooden became known as the "Wizard of Westwood" during his days as UCLA basketball head coach, where he was noted for turning troubled athletes into upstanding stars.
Wooden disapproved so mightily of individual achievement, he wouldn't even allow his players to dunk the ball. If a player did anything to attract attention to themselves, and not the team, he would be benched. The legendary coach lived to be 99-years-old, passing away last June. His legacy will live on in college basketball and the hearts of his students forever.
12. Ted (The Splendid Splinter) Williams
The legendary Boston Red Sox outfielder had many nicknames, such as: "The Kid", "Teddy Ballgame," and "The Thumper."
Any way you slice it, the man could hit, and the "Splendid Splinter" seems to be the most creative nickname ever concocted for the lefty.
While most remember him for his playing days in baseball, Williams is also a true American hero, leaving the game twice to enlist in the United States Armed Forces as a Marine Corps pilot. No joke here, just a great player and an exceptional man.
11. Randy (The Big Unit) Johnson
There are a couple of stories regarding the origin of Randy Johnson's nickname.
One theory says he received the nickname while participating in batting practice as a rookie with the Montreal Expos. He collided with teammate Tim Raines, and other teammates shouted, "You're a big unit."
Die-hard Seattle Mariners fans remember the smooth delivery and fantastic catch phrases of broadcaster Dave Niehaus and the way he would refer to Johnson as "The Big Unit" instead of his actual name for the entire duration of the tall lefty's playing days in Seattle.
Either way, the nickname is very fitting of one of the most dominant strike-out pitchers the game has ever seen.
Bitchin' mullet, Brother!
10. Shaquille (Diesel) O'Neal
Quite possibly the athlete with the most nicknames in sports history, Shaquille O'Neal seems to be a fan favorite wherever he goes, and his outgoing personality has earned him numerous sponsorships and TV/Film appearances.
Other nicknames, aliases, and monikers include:
"Shaq," "Shaq Fu," "The Big Aristotle," "The Big Daddy," "Superman," "The Big Agave," "The Big Cactus," "The Big Shaqtus," "The Big Galactus," "Wilt Chamberneezy," "The Big Baryshnikov," "The Real Deal," "Dr. Shaq," "The Big Shamrock," "The Big Leprechaun," "Shaqovic," and the most recent, "The Big Conductor."
Surprisingly, no one calls him "Kazaam," but that could be because they are afraid of being sit on by a 7'1", 325 lb man.
9. Honus (The Flying Dutchman) Wagner
The iconic hitter earned the nickname "The Flying Dutchman" in his playing days for his speed and nationality. Wagner recorded over 3,400 hits in his career with the Louisville Colonels (1897–1899), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1900–1917), in a time known as the "Dead Ball" era when pitchers reigned supreme.
Wagner was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1936, gaining 95.13 percent of the vote. Fans of this era only know his name as the legend, but quotes from players of his day tell the story of Wagner as a dirty player, often clueing infielders and holding baserunners by the jersey as they attempted to round a base.
8. Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch
Hirsch made his NFL debut for the Chicago Rockets before finishing his career with the Los Angeles Rams.
He is best known for his unusual running style, which some say he developed running cross legged over four square cement sidewalk blocks in his home town. The style earned him the nickname "Crazy Legs."
The running back/receiver was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team.
7. Dennis (The Worm) Rodman
This is one of the most fitting nicknames on the countdown. Rodman earned his moniker with aggressive and often over-the-top defense. Rodman was a king on the court when it came down to getting into his opponent's physche.
Rodman embraced the nickname and fed off the hype. The eccentric cross-dresser earned his play in NBA history as a Champion with the Chicago Bulls, and as a psycho, after kicking a camera man in the jewels, drawing a record number of technical fouls, tearing his jersey off before leaving the court when ejected, wearing a dress for a promotion on multiple occasions, piercing every area of his body and dating Carmen Electra.
6. Dominique (The Human Highlight Reel) Wilkins
Wilkins earned his alias with gravity-defying dunks and prolific scoring. He is a nine-time NBA All-Star, was the NBA scoring champion in 1986 and won two dunk contests (1985, 1990).
The high-flyer ranks 13th in career scoring in the NBA and is mentioned nearly every year during the dunk contest and has been a judge in the competition multiple times.
5. William (The Fridge) Perry
William Perry was a fan favorite with the Chicago Bears from 1985-93, and the team used him on both sides of the ball.
As a pass-rusher, Perry dominated offensive backfields and was constantly in the head of opposing quarterbacks. However, it was as a fullback that got him his alias, and it would stick with him long after his playing days were over.
Perry was described as "A man in a white jersey resembling a refrigerator coming through the offensive line." When the Bears needed a short yardage gain, there was "The Fridge," banging through the line and stumbling into the end zone.
Seriously, the man eclipsed Rosie O'Donnell. Is it still cool to diss her or is it too far gone now?
4. Charles (The Round Mound of Rebound) Barkley
"Charles is no stranger to the comical spotlight, so when this nickname surfaced, it obvious stuck. Barkley had a stellar professional basketball career and continues to be a force on the celebrity sports scene."
The NBA Hall of Fame member and current TNT studio analyst is also known as "Sir Charles."
3. Deion (Prime Time) Sanders
"Prime Time" was more than just a nickname for Sanders, it became his alter-ego, and it became difficult to separate the man from the legend.
The multi-sport star was perhaps one of the biggest self-promoters the sports world has ever seen but also a very talented individual. Sanders played professional baseball with the New York Yankees (1989–1990), Atlanta Braves (1991–1994), Cincinnati Reds (1994–1995, 1997, 2001) and San Francisco Giants (1995).
He played professional football in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons (1989–1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995–1999), Washington Redskins (2000) and Baltimore Ravens (2004–2005).
The ever-flamboyant star has also had his run-ins with the law but will go down as a tremendous athlete with a killer nickname.
2. Willie (The Say Hey Kid) Mays
There are many different stories explaining the origin of the "Say Hey" nickname, but the most common descriptions is as follows:
When Mays was coming up in the minor leagues, he moved so frequently through the ranks he didn't know very many of his teammates names. Each time he reached a new team, he would shout out "Say hey, man" in order to get his teammates attention, and the name stuck with him wherever he went.
In any event, Mays is one of the best players to grace a Major League field and will forever be known as, "The Say Hay Kid."
1. George Herman (Babe) Ruth (The Great Bambino)
Over 75 years after Ruth's professional baseball career ended, he is still regarded as the best baseball player to ever live.
Just as important as his stats to his legacy are the monikers we have come to know and fondly use to remember him.
"The Great Bambino," "The Sultan of Swat," "The Colossus of Clout," and simply "The Babe," are all references to baseball's greatest legend. We even remember his name, as "Babe" Ruth, instead of George Ruth. Truly the champion of the nickname, Ruth is also the symbol of achievement in our nation's greatest past-time.
(A special thanks to The Sandlot for assisting with this slide)