100 Greatest Nicknames in NBA History

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2011

100 Greatest Nicknames in NBA History

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    During Shaquille O'Neal's hilarious press conference in which he officially announced his retirement, a man of many nicknames gave us his latest moniker: "The Big AARP (Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons)."

    The league has seen plenty of great nicknames over the years.  It's seen plenty of bad ones, too (i.e. King James).

    This list won't have any unearned or uncreative (D-Rose) sobriquets, epithets or aliases.  Only the best for you—the 50 best...


    You can follow Andy Bailey on Twitter   @_Andy_Bailey

100: Zach "Z-Bo" Randolph

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Z-Bo and the Grizzlies are on the rise.  If everyone stays healthy, they could definitely win a first-round series next year.

99: Joe "Cool" Johnson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Joe "Cool" is the man in Atlanta.  Next year, they could use a little less cool and a little more edge out of their best player.

98: Cuttino "Cat" Mobley

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    He played with cat-like quickness and he kind of looks like the professional wrestler of the same name.

97: Sam "I Am" Cassell

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Sam Cassell catches a lot of flak for supposedly looking like an alien, but I could see him in a Dr. Seuss book, too.

96: "Dollar" Bill Bradley

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    This future politician was a pretty good basketballer too.

95: Dwyane "Flash" Wade

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Wade said he didn't want to be called "Flash" anymore, but his reason is stupid and we shouldn't honor it.

94: Marvin "Bad News" Barnes

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    Marvin Barnes dominated the ABA, but struggled in the NBA.  The nickname transcends any basketball struggles.

93: Ray "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Allen

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    It's not technically a nickname, just a character the man portrayed.

92: Harold "Happy" Hairston

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    Happy Hairston more than held his own playing alongside scores of Lakers legends.

91: Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    This seems like one of those nicknames that a lot of people would have.  Robinson may be the "Big Dog."

90: John "Hondo" Havlicek

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    Not really sure of the meaning behind "Hondo," but it sure sounds cool.  Can anyone enlighten me?

89: Steve "Hair Canada" Nash

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    He's from Canada and his hair is a big deal from time to time.

88: Ron "TruWarrior" Artest

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Finals just aren't the same without Ron Ron.

87: Billy "Kangaroo Kid" Cunningham

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    I don't think the comparison to a Kangaroo is drawn because of a pouch.

86: Ronald "Popeye" Jones

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    J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

    It should be pretty obvious why they called this guy Popeye.

85: Dikembe "Mt." Mutombo

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Trying to shoot it over him was indeed like trying to shoot over a mountain.

84: Billy "The Whopper" Paultz

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    Maybe he ate a bunch of 'em?

83: Walter "Fabio" Herrman

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    I seriously used to dominate with Herrman on one of those NBA 2K games.

82: Jamaal "Silk" Wilkes

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    His silky smooth game helped him win titles for two different teams.

81: Chris "Caveman" Kaman

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Chris Kaman really needs to bring those locks back.

80: "Jumpin" Joe Caldwell

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    Jumpin' Joe took his skills from the NBA to the ABA and tore it up in both leagues.

79: Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Frankly, I think it's one of the corniest nicknames we've ever seen.  This name would be perfect for a member of White Goodman's Purple Cobras.

78: Nate "Tiny" Archibald

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    Some players' nicknames were so good that they really replaced their real first names.  That's the case with Tiny Archibald.

77: Corliss "Big Nasty" Williamson

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    I actually don't have much to say about the nickname.  What is that ref doing?

76: Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith

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    Darrel Griffith was a Louisville legend and great NBA player who earned his moniker for obvious reasons.

75: Vitaly "The Ukraine Train" Potapenko

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    The Ukrainian Michael Jordan.

74: Chet "The Jet" Walker

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    The original "Jet."

73: "Captain" Kirk Hinrich

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I don't know if he's ever been the captain of an NBA team, but this nickname was inevitable either way.

72: Moses "Chairman of the Boards" Malone

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    This aptly-nicknamed big man led the league in rebounding six times.

71: Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    If "Mad Dog" was still in the lead, there's no way we'd be headed for a lockout.

70: Michael "B-Easy" Beasley

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    This name really seems to fit Beasley's smooth game and hip-hop style.

69: Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Chauncey has hit tons of big shots in his career, and plenty of them led to a title in '04.

68: Leonard "Truck" Robinson

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    While he probably wouldn't be considered a truck by today's standards, he could run people over back in the day.

67: Toni "Pink Panther" Kukoc

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    One of Michael Jordan's more underrated running mates.

66: Matt "The Red Rocket" Bonner

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    He led the league in three-point percentage last year with very ugly form.  He launches the ball from his shoulder (get it?).

65: Caron "Tough Juice" Butler

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks could really use some "Tough Juice" right now.

64: Austin "The Crusher" Croshere

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Look at "The Crusher" take flight.  I guess Bogans has always been dirty.

63: Baron "Boom Dizzle" Davis

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    Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    Once upon a time, Baron Davis was really explosive and "Boom Dizzle" sounds cool after a dunk.

62: Manu "Obi-Wan" Ginobili

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    If people used this nickname more, Manu would really annoy me less.

61: Kris "Humpty-Hump" Humphries

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    Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

    My sister and my wife don't think they look good together.  I, for one, just find them adorable.

60: Stephen "Action" Jackson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This dude's action helps him get off a lot of shots.

59: Sarunas "Jazzy Cabbages" Jasikevicius

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    Matthias Kern/Getty Images

    He didn't spend much time in the NBA, but with a nickname and a given name like that, I couldn't keep him off the list.

58: Rashard "Sweet Lew" Lewis

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    He's faded a little bit over the last couple years, but there was a time when his game was about as sweet as anyone's.  He has the contract to prove it.

57: Shawn "The Matrix" Marion

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    I love Marion, but his jump shot could only go in if some sort of alternate existence was involved.

56: Adam "Ammo" Morrison

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I don't think anyone gave him a good enough chance to fire off that ammo.

55: Brian "The Custodian" Cardinal

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    The Mavs need someone to get down and dirty right now.  Put "The Custodian" on duty.

54: Luke "Frodo" Ridnour

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    I'm pretty sure he could've played the part more convincingly than Elijah Wood (that's a dis on Wood, not Ridnour).

53: Josh "J-Smoove" Smith

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    His game is pretty smooth.  So much so that the nicknaming powers that be replaced the "th" with a "ve."

52: Gerald "Crash" Wallace

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    I don't know if his nickname has anything to do with this video-game character, but it should.

51: Brent "Bones" Barry

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Most underrated player of all time.

50: Chris "Birdman" Andersen

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    MIAMI, FL - MARCH 19:  Forward Chris Anderson #11 of the Denver Niggets leaves the game against  the Miami Heat  at American Airlines Arena on March 19, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  The Heat defeated the Nuggets 103-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
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    The nickname itself is pretty cool.  The way Andersen flaunts it is not.

49: Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 09:  Head coach Fred Hoiberg of the Iowa State Cyclones looks on against the Colorado Buffaloes during the first round game in the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 9, 2011 in Kansas City
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Fred Hoiberg earned his nickname when he was playing for Iowa State University.  In 1993, he earned some write-in votes for the town of Ames, Iowa's mayoral race.

    Plus, he just looks like a politician (even when he played).

48: Walt "Clyde" Frazier

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    "Clyde" Frazier embodied cool back in the '70s when he led the Knicks to two titles.

47: Vince "Vinsanity" Carter

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    5 Dec 1997:  Guard Vince Carter of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates during a game against the Tennessee at Chattanooga Moccasins during the Harus Teeter Pepsi Challenge at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.  North Carolina won the
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Carter has had a few nicknames in his career.  He's been known as "Half-Man, Half-Amazing" and "Air Canada," but "Vinsanity" is his best.

46: Jason "White Chocolate" Williams

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 7:  Jason Williams #55 of the Miami Heat is on the court during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena on December 7, 2006 in Sacramento, California. The Heat won 93-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
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    There aren't many nicknames that seem to fit the player quite as well as Jason Williams' "White Chocolate."

45: Paul "The Truth" Pierce

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 29:    Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics upset during the second period of their game against the New Jersey Nets in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey on May
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    Paul Pierce's ridiculous acting in the 2008 NBA Finals was the furthest thing from "The Truth," but plenty of people still dig this moniker.

44: "Thunder" Dan Majerle

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - 1989:  Dan Majerle #9 of the Phoenix Suns shoots a free throw against the Los Angeles Lakers during the game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Storm clouds always seemed to be looming when "Thunder" Dan played.  The man could make it rain.

43: Gary "The Glove" Payton

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    6 Jan 1995:  Point guard Gary Payton of the Seattle Supersonics releases a pass during the Sonics 108-101 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.   Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Gary Payton earned his nickname because of his strong defense.  He could cover his opponents like a "Glove."

42: Kenny "The Jet" Smith

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    This one really doesn't need much explanation, right?

41: Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas

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    7 Dec 1999:  Gilbert Arenas #0 of the Arizona Wildcats makes a slam dunk during a game against the Connecticut Huskies  at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Huskies defeated the Wildcats 78-69. Mandatory Credit: Kathleen Economou  /Allsport
    Kathleen Economou/Getty Images

    A lot of people say that Arenas' nickname is representative of his enigmatic nature.  To me, it's more about the fact that he wore the number for so long.

40: Isiah "Zeke" Thomas

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    During his playing days, Isiah Thomas was known simply as "Zeke."  During his playing days, he was known for his game.

    Now he's known for more dubious reasons.

39: Dennis "The Worm" Rodman

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    7 Mar 2000: A back view of Dennis Rodman #70 of the Dallas Mavericks as he walks on the court during a game against the Seattle SuperSonics at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. The Sonics defeated the Mavericks 101-86.  Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martin
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    This is another one that just fits.  Some say his mother called him "The Worm" because he wiggled when he played pinball.

    It stuck with him as an NBA player because he had no problem getting dirty.

38: Robert "Tractor" Traylor

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    15 Jan 2001:  Robert Traylor #54 of the Cleveland Cavaliers rests on the court during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Arena in Oakland in Oakland, California. The Cavaliers defeated the Warriors 107-101.   NOTE TO USER: It is expressly u
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    It was always a wise move to get out of the way of the "Tractor," who was 6'8" and nearly 300 pounds when he played in the NBA.

37: "Downtown" Freddie Brown

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    Freddie Brown led the league in three-point percentage during the three-point line's first year in existence.

    His nickname led to us hearing Marv Albert say, "From downtown," over and over again.

36: Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway

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    28 Jul 1996: Guard Anfernee Hardaway of the Dream Team looks to pass during the USA v Croatia basketball game at the Georgia Dome at 1996 Centennial Olympic Games Atlanta, Georgia.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Lil' Penny commercials were some of Nike's best.

35: Kevin "The Big Ticket" Garnett

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    11 Dec 2000:  Kevin Garnett #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts on the court during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Timberwolves defeated the 76ers 96-91. NOTE TO USER: It is expres
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    Kevin Garnett was, without a doubt, the biggest reason people bought tickets to T'Wolves games for years.

34: Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson

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    LOS ANGELES - 1989:  Vinnie Johnson #15 of the Detroit Pistons looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California in 1988-1989 NBA season.  (Photo by Mike Powell /Getty Images)
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Pretty self-explanatory—the guy could heat up quickly.  

    However, I'm not sure it made a ton of sense, as Johnson averaged 12 points a game for his career while shooting 25 percent from three-point range.

33: Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins

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    17 Apr 1997:  Center Sam Perkins of the Seattle Supersonics sits on the floor before a game against the Denver Nuggets at the McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado.  The Sonics won the game 108-104. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Sam Perkins was a big man who never moved with great speed or quickness, but he sure was smooth.

32: Rodney "Hot Rod" Hundley

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    Hot Rod Hundley never put up great numbers in the NBA, but when your real first name is almost entirely replaced by "Hot Rod," that's pretty cool.

31: Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry

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    3 Jan 1996:  Forward Robert Horry of the Houston Rockets moves the ball during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls won the game, 100-86. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Stephen
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    Most people say it's "Big Shot Rob," but Bob is short for Robert as well, and my version just rolls off the tongue so much better.

30: George "Mr. Basketball" Mikan

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    George "Mr. Basketball" Mikan was one of the game's first superstars and had first dibs on this catch-all nickname.

29: Jerry "The Logo" West

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    It has to be pretty cool to see a silhouette of yourself attached to everything the NBA is attached to.

28: Andrei "AK-47" Kirilenko

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 12:  Andrei Kirilenko #47 of the Utah Jazz against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, Use
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I'm typically not a big fan of the modern nickname trend that just puts initials and numbers together, but this one works on another level.

    An AK-47 is a famous Russian rifle and Andrei Kirilenko is a famous Russian basketball player who wears No. 47...get it?

27: Artis "The A-Train" Gilmore

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    Artis "The A-Train" Gilmore utterly dominated the ABA for years before the league merged with the NBA. 

26: Allen "The Answer" Iverson

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    20 Feb 1995: Allen Iverson of Georgetown University controls the ball during the Hoyas 77-52 win over Villanova at McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Iverson came into the league surrounded by a ton of hype.  

    He played as hard as anyone I've ever seen, but his me-first attitude never proved to be a good "Answer" for any of the teams he played for.

25: Michael "Air" Jordan

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    Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls dunks the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
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    Early in his career, Michael Jordan took flight in ways that fans hadn't really seen before.

    It wasn't long before he rounded out his game and became the greatest of all time.

24: "Big Game" James Worthy

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    1989: James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers makes a free throw during a game.  Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
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    There are plenty of solid rhyming nicknames coming up between now and No. 1.  

    Prepare yourself.

23: Oscar "The Big O" Robertson

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    One of the greatest all-around players of all time, "The Big O" did it all.

22: Lloyd "World" B. Free

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    World B. Free sounds more like the name of a Harlem Globetrotter than an NBA player.

    But alas, World B. was in the league and was one of its best scorers back then.

21: Dominique "Human Highlight Reel" Wilkins

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    Forward Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks stands on the court during a game.
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    This one doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it is pretty cool and fits well.

20: Charles "The Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley

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    1992-1993:  Forward Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns confers with an official during a game against the Denver Nuggets at McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado. Mandatory Credit: Tim DeFrisco  /Allsport
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    I could have gone with the more commonly used "Sir Charles" on this one, but "Round Mound of Rebound?"  Come on.

19: Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain

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    Another rhyming nickname—and this one was inevitable.

18: Clyde "The Glide" Drexler

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    LOS ANGELES - 1990:  Clyde Drexler #22 of the Portland Trail Blazers walks during the 1989-1990 NBA season game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Ken Levine/Getty Images)
    Ken Levine/Getty Images

    Drexler's smooth game and athleticism naturally led to the rhyming moniker, "Clyde the Glide."

17: Rafer "Skip 2 My Lou" Alston

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    CLEVELAND - MAY 28: Rafer Alston #1 of the Orlando Magic reacts after a play against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 28, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: Us
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Rafer Alston earned his nickname where they're generally more clever than the ones we typically see in the NBA.

    "Skip 2 My Lou" was a playground legend before he was an NBA regular.

16: Anthony "Spud" Webb

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    1986-1987:  Guard Anthony (Spud) Webb of the Atlanta Hawks         leaps to victory during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
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    Spud Webb (who was just 5'6") proved he wasn't small potatoes when he won the NBA dunk contest.

15: Earl "The Pearl" Monroe

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    Earl Monroe was an elite scorer for his entire NBA career.  He was a rare find.  

    You know—like a pearl.

14: David "Skywalker" Thompson

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    A lot of nicknames are in reference to a player's athleticism or jumping ability, and this one may be the best.

    What basketball player wouldn't like to be known as "Skywalker?"

13: Larry "Legend" Bird

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    Anyone with a Sports Illustrated photo like this one was bound to be legendary in more ways than one.

12: Robert "The Chief" Parish

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    Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics looks on during a game.
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    Parish's teammate Cedric Maxwell dubbed him "The Chief" because of striking similarities between the Boston center and the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest character.

11: Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon

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    Center Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets looks on.
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    Hakeem Olajuwon's nickname extended beyond just identifying the player.  He even had a move called "The Dream Shake."

10: David "The Admiral" Robinson

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    2 Dec 1994:  Center David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs sinks the ball during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.  The Spurs won the game, 95-91. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA  /Allsport Mandatory Credit:
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Robinson never reached the rank of Admiral in the United States Navy, but he was known as such in the NBA because he was indeed an officer prior to his professional basketball career.

9: Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues

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    1990:  Guard Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues of the Charlotte Hornets in action with the ball during a game at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn  /Allsport
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Tyrone Bogues is the best 5'9"-and-under player the NBA has ever seen, and "Muggsy" seems pretty fitting for a 5'3" guy.

8: Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins

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    Darryl Dawkins of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during a game.
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    Darryl Dawkins was a backboard-breaking beast when he played in the '70s and '80s.

7: George "The Iceman" Gervin

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    George Gervin was about as cold blooded a scorer as the league has ever seen.  He was a four-time NBA scoring champion.

6: Karl "The Mailman" Malone

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    24 Feb 1995: Forward Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz looks on during a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The Blazers won the game, 114-101.
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    "The Mailman" always delivered over 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz.

5: Shaquille "The Diesel" O'Neal

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    30 Oct 2001: Shaquille O''Neal #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts a shot up at the Lakers'' home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. DIGITAL IMAGE.   NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Shaquille O'Neal probably could have been on this list several times, but I wanted to save room for others so I just picked my favorite.

    "Superman," "The Big Cactus," "The Big Aristotle" and all the others are nice, but "Diesel" fits him best.

4: Earvin "Magic" Johnson

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    Magic's nickname was so perfect that it replaced his actual first name.

3: Julius "Dr. J" Erving

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    Julius Erving was a serious pioneer for the NBA.  If he hadn't operated the way he did, the game may not have evolved into one that allowed the style Michael Jordan brought.

2: "Pistol" Pete Maravich

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    "Pistol" Pete's nickname was so good that it was on the back of his jersey.  

    Maravich earned his nickname before he ever entered the NBA when he averaged 44.2 points per game over his three-year college career at LSU.

    His unique style didn't work quite as well in the NBA when he no longer averaged 40 shots a game, but it still worked.  

    He won the league's scoring title in 1977, went to five All-Star games and was chosen to be a part of the league's 50 Best Players of All Time in 1996.

1: Bryant "Big Country" Reeves

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    23 Dec 2000:  Bryant reeves #50 of the Vancouver Grizzlies with the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers defeated the Grizzlies 92-90.    NOTE TO USER: It is expressly unders
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Deal with it.

Coming Soon to an Arena Near You: James "Jimmer" Fredette

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars goes to the hoop for a layup against the Wofford Terriers during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    If you're one of the haters out there, you're probably sick of hearing the nickname "Jimmer."  Well, you better get over it, because it's not going away.