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The 25 Most Unfortunate Nicknames in Sports

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 7, 2011

The 25 Most Unfortunate Nicknames in Sports

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    Generally speaking, nicknames and sports are two things that go together pretty well. To realize this, all you have to do is sit back and think about what sports history would be like if George Ruth hadn't been "Babe," Dale Earnhardt hadn't been "The Intimidator," Deion Sanders hadn't been "Prime Time" and so on.

    Yes sir, nicknames are a great way to spice things up. They add further color and personality to a realm of entertainment that is already chock full of both. Or if you prefer a simple explanation, they're just plain cool.

    But then again, the road goes both ways. Not all nicknames are cool, and some of them are just plain unfortunate. For every "Big Diesel," there is a man known as "The Worm." For every "Golden Bear," there is a "Golden Balls."

    Indeed, these are the nicknames that just make us shake our heads, and this list is going to celebrate the worst of the worst.

    Thus, I present you the 25 most unfortunate nicknames in sports.

25. Wang "Big Wang" Zhizhi

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Before there was Yao Ming, there was Wang Zhizhi. He was a surprise selection in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Because his army team refused to let him go to America right away, Wang didn't debut for the Mavericks until 2001. When he finally did, he became the first Chinese player to ever play in the NBA. His career lasted until 2005.

    Now that you know a little bit about Wang Zhizhi, let's discuss why he is known as "Big Wang."

    Simple. It's because he's a seven-footer.

    I mean, why else would he be known as "Big Wang?"

24. Steve "Stevie Franchise" Francis

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Because Steve Francis was supposed to be the next great NBA superstar when the Vancouver Grizzlies selected him with the second-overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, calling him the "Franchise" at the time would have been quite apt.

    There was just one problem: Francis didn't want to play for the Grizzlies. It was, among other things, God's will that he play somewhere else. So they traded Francis to the Houston Rockets and he went on to have a mildly successful NBA career until injuries ultimately took their toll. He was last seen playing a handful of minutes for the Beijing Ducks in the Chinese Basketball Association.

    Any man who willingly allows himself to be called "Franchise" clearly has an ego problem. It doesn't help that he never really developed into a franchise player.

    In fact, it would be pretty awesome if Grizzlies fans decided to call him "Not Your Franchise" instead. That would fit.

23. Caron "Tough Juice" Butler

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    O.J. Simpson may not be the nicest guy ever to walk the earth, but "The Juice" sure was a cool nickname. I can't say the same, however, about "Tough Juice," Caron Butler's nickname.

    Butler, who has been a fine NBA player ever since he came into the league in 2002, got his nickname when he was a member of the Washington Wizards in the 2005-2006 season. It was coined by head coach Eddie Jordan, who gave it to him because of his aggressive style of play.

    Because, you know, juice is aggressive...I think.

    Never mind. I have a headache all of a sudden. Next slide.

22. Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The wide receiver formerly-and-once-again known as Chad Johnson is not exactly the most beloved player in the NFL. But he's certainly been productive, as he has amassed over 10,000 yards receiving in his 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. He might not be back with the team in 2011, but you can rest assured that whoever he's playing for next season will be glad to have him.

    As you well know, Johnson likes to refer to himself as Chad Ochocinco in honor of his jersey number, 85. He likes the name so much, in fact, that he legally changed his last name to Ochocinco in 2008.

    There's just one problem. In Spanish, when you want to say the number 85, you don't say "ocho-cinco." You say "ochenta y cinco."

    In other words, Johnson may be guilty of the worst (and maybe only) name change fail in history.

21. Kobe "The Black Mamba" Bryant

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    My guess is that by the time the curtain closes on Kobe Bryant's NBA career, "Kobe or Jordan?" will be a question that could potentially lead to epic arguments. Maybe even violence. After all, Kobe already has five championships, an MVP award and 13 All-Star appearances under his belt, and he still has a few good years left in him.

    My next guess is that not everyone would agree that "The Black Mamba" constitutes one of the most unfortunate nicknames in sports history. And that's fine. But as far as I'm concerned, associating one of the great players in NBA history with a black snake is just a little awkward, primarily because a certain incident in 2003 still weighs heavily on my mind.

    Yeah...let's go to the next slide, shall we?

20. Larry "Grandmama" Johnson

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    A former No. 1-overall pick of the Charlotte Hornets, Larry Johnson had a successful NBA career that spanned 10 years from 1991-2001. He took home Rookie of the Year honors for the 1991-1992 season, and he would go on to make two All-Star teams.

    In 1993, Johnson made his first foray into television, playing a character called "Grandmama" opposite Steve Urkel on Family Matters. The name stuck and Johnson suddenly found himself as the only man in the world who went by the name "Grandmama."

    This is not a good thing, you see. Just imagine how you would react if somebody called you "Grandmama" to your face on a basketball court. You would probably introduce their face to your fist, and you would be right to do so.

19. Donnell "The Real Touch of Sleep" Holmes

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    At 38 years of age, Donnell Holmes is getting up there in age (by boxing standards anyway), but the funny part is that he didn't start boxing professionally until he was 30. Before that, he had an amateur record of 73-13, with 64 of those victories coming via knockout.

    Since turning pro, Holmes has won 31 of his 34 bouts, 27 of them coming by knockout. His tendency to punch the daylights out of opponents has earned him the nickname "The Real Touch of Sleep."

    On the surface, it's a moniker that seems pleasantly original. But therein lies the problem: it's not.

    The name is a takeoff on DaVarryl Williamson, who is known as "The Touch of Sleep." Considering Williamson is more accomplished than Holmes, what we have here is a true contradiction.

    Basically, imagine what it would be like if some upstart rapper started calling himself "The Real Slim Shady." That wouldn't end well at all.

18. Andrei "AK-47" Kirilenko

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    George Frey/Getty Images

    Not a whole lot of effort went into crafting Andrei Kirilenko's nickname. All you had to do was look at his nationality (Russian), his initials (AK) and his jersey number (47). In fact, my guess is that we would probably refer to him as "AK-47" even if we didn't have the infamous Russian assault rifle for inspiration. Us sports fans are lazy like that.

    Regardless, what makes AK-47 a truly bad nickname is the fact that there are only two kinds of people that would gladly bear such a handle. The first is Kirilenko alone, and the other group consists entirely of all those hopelessly lifeless creeps who spend their evenings playing Call of Duty.

    You know, people like me.

17. Ryo "Bashful Prince" Ishikawa

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Ryo Ishikawa has two claims to fame. The first is his outrageous taste in pants. The second is the fact that he was the youngest person to ever win a Japan Golf Tour tournament, winning the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at the tender young age of 15 in 2007.

    Ishikawa started playing PGA Tour events in 2009, so you could say that he's grown up quite a bit in the last couple years. But as far as the people of Japan are concerned, he still has some decidedly boyish qualities. Because of this, they call him "Hanikami Ōji." Or in English, "Bashful Prince."

    As a man who has had to face his own accusations of bashfulness, I can definitely relate. But even I wouldn't sit there and let people call me "Bashful Prince." That's the line.

16. Larry "The High-Ayatolla of Slamola" Nance

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Larry Nance's NBA career was one defined by remarkable consistency. He averaged at least 16 points and eight rebounds in each of his 11 years as a starter. He also made three All-Star appearances and was named to the All-Defensive first team in 1989.

    Of course, the biggest feather in Nance's cap is the fact that he won the very first Slam Dunk Contest in 1984. For that, he was awarded a shiny trophy and he was also bestowed with the nickname: "The High-Ayatolla of Slamola."

    So far as I know, Nance does not have a drop of Iranian blood in him. His nickname is thus not only horribly dated, but also quite stupid.

15. Larry "The Hick from French Lick" Bird

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    There aren't many other players in the history of the NBA that can match Larry Bird's resume. The dude won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics during the 1980s, and he also has three regular-season MVP awards and two Finals MVP awards in his trophy case. Next to those is the Coach of the Year award he won in 1998 when he led the Indiana Pacers to a 58-24 record.

    Oh, he's also a Hall of Famer.

    So what nickname does one of the great players in basketball history go by? Why, "The Hick from French Lick," of course. Because he's a hick from French Lick, Indiana, you see.

    Do I have any better suggestions? No.

    Do I have any worse suggestions? That's a trick question. Coming up with something worse than "The Hick from French Lick" is categorically impossible.

14. Luke "Old Aches and Pains" Appling

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    Former major league shortstop Luke Appling didn't hit for a whole lot of power during his 20-year career. He hit just 45 home runs and had several full seasons in which he didn't hit any at all. But this doesn't mean Appling couldn't hit. He retired in 1950 with a .310 lifetime average and he hit at least .300 in nine straight seasons from 1933-1941. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

    As good a hitter as Appling was, his teammates often had to listen to him complaining of assorted minor ailments, such as sore muscles and sprains. That was enough for them to start calling him "Old Aches and Pains," a moniker which is just plain embarrassing for any man under the age of 75.

    Then again, maybe Appling was hurting more than he let on. He may have been fine at the plate, but you have to think that there had to be some reason why he made 643 errors and compiled the worst fielding percentage of any player since 1910 with at least 1,900 games played.

13. Andrew "The Foul Pole" Golota

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    On paper, Polish heavyweight Andrew Golota had himself a successful career. He won 41 of his 51 bouts, and he is a former IFC and WBA Heavyweight champion.

    But when you look beyond the box score, you remember why Golota is called "The Foul Pole." His smaller transgressions involve biting and punching below the belt, and a series of those caused what came to be known as "The Riot at the Garden."

    That was back when he fought Riddick Bowe at Madison Square Garden in 1996. He was disqualified in the seventh round after a couple of low blows sent Bowe to the canvas. The crowd literally went wild, and a fair number of policemen and civilians were injured by the time the dust settled. Golota himself suffered a nasty cut when a member of Bowe's contingency hit him in the face with a radio.

    Because of that, I'd much rather be known as "Scarface" than "The Foul Pole" if I was in his shoes.

12. J.D. "Nancy" Drew

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    No matter who he plays for, it just seems like baseball fans have it out for J.D. Drew (especially in Philadelphia).

    Drew is about to enter the final year of his contract with the Boston Red Sox. As a diehard Sox fan, I guess I would classify Red Sox Nation's relationship with Drew as a love/hate kind of thing. We love him for his grand slam in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS and his performance in June of 2008. We hate him for just about everything else, but I suppose you could narrow it down to the fact that it just seems like he's out of the lineup with nagging injuries far too often.

    Thus, we call him "Nancy Drew." This is mainly because he's fragile like a girl, but also in part because "Old Aches and Pains" is already taken.

    However, I'll never call him that again. Any man who would willingly attack an alligator with nothing more than a knife is not to be taken lightly.

11. Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    It's debatable whether or not the Detroit Pistons would have been able to win the NBA Finals in 1989 and 1990 without Vinnie Johnson coming off the bench. He was an invaluable asset as a sixth man, and the Pistons cemented his legend by retiring his number (15) in 1994.

    Not being familiar with Johnson (I was three in 1990, folks), I had to look up why he was called "The Microwave." I figured it was because he had some kind of mutant power that allowed him to cook Hot Pockets using nothing more than his mind.

    Instead, it turns out it was because he could 'heat up' the Pistons offense whenever he came off the bench.

    No offense, Vinnie, but I like my idea better.

10. Yovani "El Chupacabra" Gallardo

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Yovani Gallardo is in a rather enviable position these days. Not only does he have one of the best young arms in baseball, he is also part of a very good Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation. If he, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum can stay healthy in 2011, the Brew Crew should be able to contend for the NL Central crown.

    That being said, I have serious doubts about how his confidence is going to hold up as long as people are calling him "El Chupacabra," which, of course, is Spanish for "goat sucker."

    First of all, I'm just not so sure that anybody wants to be associated with a mystical Hispanic beast. But, more importantly, having to be known as the "goat sucker" just plain sucks.

9. Calvin "Pocket Rocket" Murphy

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    Calvin Murphy's NBA career started all the way back in 1970 with the Rockets when the team was still located in San Diego. Had he not found a career in the NBA, my guess is that Murphy's legacy would instead revolve around his apparently legendary baton-twirling skills.

    Instead, Murphy had an outstanding basketball career and he was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. At a mere 5'9," Murphy has the distinction of being the shortest player in the Hall.

    Of course, Murphy's short stature also helps explain his nickname "Pocket Rocket." I never saw him play, but I'm also going to assume that he was a quick son of a gun.

    Nevertheless, if somebody were to say the phrase "Pocket Rocket" out loud in my presence, I would probably start giggling uncontrollably. It sounds like some sort of, shall we say, device.

    But hey, Murphy also fathered 14 children by nine different mothers, so maybe that's where his nickname comes from.

8. Anthony "Pig" Miller

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    Anthony Miller played parts of eight seasons in the NBA with four different teams, but his true claim to fame probably has more to do with his brief cameo in Space Jam alongside then-Lakers teammates Cedric Ceballos and Vlade Divac.

    As far as Miller's basketball career is concerned, there's really not much to talk about, so let's skip it and get right into his nickname.

    As you know, Miller was (and probably still is) known as "Pig." For the life of me, I cannot understand why a grown man would willingly bear the handle of some smelly farm animal, and my search to uncover the truth on the Internet proved futile.

    Either way, I'll be damned if I can think of any scenario in which the name "Pig" would a) suddenly make sense and b) be perfectly acceptable. And I have a pretty vivid imagination too.

7. Joakim "The Mexicutioner" Soria

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria has saved 115 games combined in the last three seasons and has been named to two All-Star teams. He was particularly brilliant in 2010, saving 43 games while posting a 1.78 ERA and a WHIP of 1.05.

    When Soria, a native of Mexico, enters the game, you may as well try and beat the traffic. Because of that, somebody decided to give Manny Pacquiao's "The Mexicutioner" nickname to Soria.

    This was fine for a time, but not anymore. Soria tweeted in late February he wants his nickname to be changed to "something positive." The reason for this is because of "all the violence" in his native country.

    Soria has a point. According to The Kansas City Star, over 35,000 people have died in Mexico over the last four years in drug-related incidents, a good number of which are execution-style murders.

    So yeah, let's change his nickname, shall we? In fact, we probably shouldn't call Pacman "The Mexicutioner" anymore either.

6. Shaun "The Flying Tomato" White

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Along with Tony Hawk, Shaun White is one of the premiere figures in extreme sports history. He has more X Games medals than he probably has time for, and he also boasts two Olympic gold medals. Put simply, there are few things he can't do on either a snowboard or a skateboard.

    Thanks to his red hair and tendency to get major air in his assorted stunts, somebody got the idea that White should be called "The Flying Tomato." The name stuck, and while White accepted it at first, he has apparently grown tired of it.

    Well, too bad, White. The only other alternative is "Carrot Top," and it's taken.

5. Dennis "The Worm" Rodman

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    Matt King/Getty Images

    Dennis Rodman is famous for two things: being a monster on the boards and being absolutely bat[bleep] crazy.

    Credit where credit's due, it's looking like that first thing might land him in the Basketball Hall of Fame in the near future. If it does, I'm setting my DVR right away, because there ain't no way I'm going to miss his acceptance speech.

    While Rodman has also been called "Dennis the Menace," most sports fans know him as "The Worm." It's an odd choice, to be sure, but also rather fitting.

    If the question is whether or not Rodman deserves to be called "The Worm," the answer is yes.

    But would I feel comfortable referring to him as "The Worm" to his face? Hell no.

4. Anthony "Booger" McFarland

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Anthony McFarland may not have known it at the time, but when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him 15th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, he was about to be a part of one of the great defenses of the last 15 years.

    Playing alongside Warren Sapp on Tampa's defensive line, McFarland was a part of the Bucs team that won Super Bowl XXVII over the Oakland Raiders. He later signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, and promptly won yet another ring when the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

    As for why McFarland was called "Booger," well, I can only guess. What I do know for sure is that I'll think twice about shaking his hand if and when I meet him.

3. Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy

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    Hugh Mulcahy was a former major-league pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates. As you may have already guessed, he wasn't exactly the most successful pitcher in his day. But the truth is that it wasn't all bad. He did make the NL All-Star team in 1940, and he is also remembered for being the first ballplayer drafted into service for WWII in 1941.

    Nevertheless, it is also quite true that Mulcahy wasn't much of a pitcher. He never recorded more wins than losses in any of the full seasons he played, and he lost 20 games in 1938 and 22 in 1940. Thus, calling him "Losing Pitcher" was quite apt.

    Some may find Mulcahy's moniker amusing. I don't, and this is because I know his pain all too well. I was, after all, known as Zach "The Guy Who [Bleeps] Up All the Time" Rymer at my last job. I can assure you that it wasn't much fun at all.

2. Najeh "The Dump Truck" Davenport

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    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Najeh Davenport really doesn't have much to boast about as far as his NFL career is concerned. He only played six seasons in the league and he never developed into much of a running back. He's been out of the NFL since December of 2008.

    When Davenport was in an NFL uniform, he was known as "The Dump Truck." You would think that this would have something to do with the fact that he is 6'1" and upwards of 250 pounds; sort of like how Jerome Bettis, another big running back, was known as "The Bus."

    Wrong. Davenport's size had nothing to do with his nickname. Instead, it has everything to do with an incident from Davenport's days at Barry University. In April of 2002, he allegedly broke into a female student's dorm room and, ahem, relieved himself in her laundry basket.

    When Davenport faced charges of burglary and criminal mischief, he famously asked: "Where's the evidence? Where's the manure?"

    Where, indeed?

1. David "Golden Balls" Beckham

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    Kent Horner/Getty Images

    We come at last to numero uno, David Beckham.

    Beckham's not the player he once was, but there still aren't many footballers on this planet that can hope to match his resume. He played for Manchester United from 1993-2003, a span in which the Red Devils won the Premier League championship six times. They also won the FA Cup twice, as well as the UEFA Champions League in 1999.

    Off the pitch, Beckham is equally famous for his marriage to Victoria Beckham, who most people know as "Posh Spice." And it was his superstar wife that granted him the nickname, "Golden Balls."

    Victoria apparently calls her soccer-playing husband "Golden Balls" because he just seems so much more perfect than everyone else. At least, that's the notion I got out of the revealing interview.

    I could be wrong, of course. But to be honest, I'd rather not ponder alternative interpretations. Thus, now seems like a good time to stop this list. Hope you all enjoyed the show.

You "The Helpful Crowd" Guys

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    Do you think there's a nickname that should have been on this list? If so, by all means let your voice be heard in the comments section. After all, this list is by no means set in stone, and I will gladly add to it if it's obvious that I should.

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