Top 25 NBA Rookie Nicknames

Vin GetzCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2012

Top 25 NBA Rookie Nicknames

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    There was a time when regardless of your occupation or milieu—basketball player, football player, frat pledger, taxi driver, adult film star—one had to earn a nickname over time.

    Now everybody has one from day one.

    Especially in the NBA, where some cagers have been called something other than their given name before they could walk.  Most of the time, though, it has to do with their play as they move through high school, college and pro ball. Almost invariably, the nicknames are flattering.

    Today, many rookies enter the league already carrying nicknames before proving themselves. Some will stick.  Some won't.

    They'll get the opportunity to prove themselves this year.  What was oft-criticized as a weak draft may wind up yielding the most total rookie minutes in NBA history (corrected for 66 games).  You can thank the lockout and demanding shortened schedule for that.

    Here are my rankings for the NBA's top 25 rookie nicknames.

25. Jeremy Tyler (Golden State Warriors): Negative 2

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    Jeremy Tyler's nickname has been around a long time.  Geesh, do something a little bit off at the age of 12, and it will hang around forever.

    Back then, according to the Sudan Vision Daily, the "pudgy benchwarmer for a local summer basketball team took an inbounds pass and darted to the basket for a layup. He celebrated vociferously."

    It was the wrong basket. "Negative 2."

    That's not a very flattering moniker, so it comes in at No. 25.

    How's he doing?

    Tyler has made his way into three games already, but hasn't done much, scoring just two points.

24. Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs): The Human Avatar

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    Kawhi Leonard is a "physical freak [who has an] arm length / wingspan [that] іѕ wildly long," so his fellow San Diego State Aztecs named him "The Human Avatar." (

    I guess his teammates were referring to the movie.  I don't remember.  Did those blue things have long arms?

    How's he doing?

    Leonard has hit the floor in all six games for the San Antonio Spurs and has 31 points, six steals and, hey now, 29 rebounds.

23. Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons): Whopper

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    Brandon Knight (B.K. as in Burger King) is "The Whopper."

    Nice play on words, but Knight is only 6'3" and a buck-ninety wet.  Should've been "The Whopper Jr."

    How's he doing?

    He's got 60 points and 16 assists in all six Pistons games.  Nice.

22. Tobias Harris (Milwaukee Bucks): Nobody's Smiling

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    Tobias Harris, according to, "uses his versatility and smooth game play to make opponents just frown in their failed efforts," hence the nickname "Nobody's Smiling." 

    From the looks of this photo, Harris could use some cheering up himself.

    How's he doing?

    Harris hasn't entered a game yet. He's been battling dehydration.  Ah, that explains it.

21. Jimmer Fredette (Sacramento Kings): Jimmer

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    James Taft Fredette goes by his nickname.  Everybody knows it: Jimmer.

    His mom "insisted on the nickname Jimmer since the moment he was born."

    How's he doing?

    Fredette is an integral part of the Sacramento Kings, on the floor for 25 minutes a game.

20. Iman Shumpert (N.Y. Knicks): Shump

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    Not very imaginative, but still sounds cool enough to make the list. Makes me think of the song "The Shumpty Dance." Do the Shumpty Shump.

    How's he doing?

    Iman Shumpert busted out of the gate on Christmas Day (11 points on 13 shots and four rebounds) only to suffer a sprained MCL.  Shump will make an instant impact for the Knicks, but it needs to be a more accurate one.

    He returned to the lineup with four three-pointers and 18 points against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday.

19. Ater Majok (L.A. Lakers): The Terror

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    Ater Majok is nicknamed "The Terror," but no one can justify that, as he's played hardly any basketball in college, in the pros or overseas.  It's just a mixture of partial seasons and occasional games.

    Still, his personal life has been rather terrifying and maybe that has something to do with it.  Majok and his family are "refugees from the war in the Sudan," and he has a couple knife scars to prove it.

    How's he doing?

    Majok is playing Slovakia now for BK SPU Bemaco Nitraand and won't see an American court this season but he's finally playing consistent ball (and consistently playing).

18. Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves): La Pistola

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    Ricky Rubio is "La Pistola," a nod to NBA Hall of Famer "Pistol" Pete Maravich, whose play, it is said, Rubio's resembles.

    How's he doing?

    Rubio leads all rookies in assists, and can score and rebound, too.

17. Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors): Rambo

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    Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas "went Rambo" on Team U.S.A. according to Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt.

    In the FIBA Under 19 World Championships game, Valanciunas went for 30 PTS,15 RBS and a handful of blocks.

    How's he doing?

    The 19-year old is currently having a down season in Lithuania for BC Lietuvos Rytas, but it's very possible we'll see him in Toronto Raptors' Red and Black this season for a number of reasons.

16. Donatas Motiejunas (Houston Rockets): D-Mo

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    Another Lithuanian, Donatas Motiejunas, is known as "Donce" by his countrymen.  It's a standard nickname for "Donatas," like "Tony" for "Anthony."

    But in the U.S.A., that tongue-twister of a last name has led to the new nickname, coined by Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, "D-Mo."  A bit played, but sounds good.

    How's he doing?

    D-Mo is trudging along in the Euroleague for Polish team Asseco Prokom Gdynia putting up some ok numbers.  He likely "won't play for the Rockets this season."

15. Darius Morris (L.A. Lakers): Wheels

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    New L.A. Lakers head coach Mike Brown "has dubbed" Darius Morris "'Wheels,' because, well, he just keeps moving."

    How's he doing?

    He's signed and is on the roster, but hasn't seen the light of day in any of the seven Lakers games so far.

14. Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls): Miley

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    This is a good razz. Jimmy Butler is known as Miley.  He's a Miley Cyrus fan.

    But it's deeper than that.  Apparently, he sank a tie-breaker against UConn after "Party in the USA" was played during the final timeout.

    How's he doing?

    He's got four points in just eight minutes.  The 6-1 Chicago Bulls are pretty rich at guard right now, so expect Miley to get sparse minutes throughout the season as he develops.

13. Josh Harrellson (N.Y. Knicks): Jorts

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    Knicks' rookie Josh Harrellson can't get away from "Jorts," an abbreviation for the stylin' jeans shorts that Harrellson sported throughout his four years at Kentucky.  He loves the nickname anyway.

    How's he doing?

    Jorts has been bringing it from day one, especially on the defensive side, and filled in a good number of minutes when Amar'e Stoudemire was out with his ankle injury (and spelling STAT upon his return).  Expect the second-rounder to get a lot of minutes this year with the demanding schedule and New York's need for defense.

12. Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz): The UnderKanter

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    Enes Kanter is "a big fan of the WWE" and "by far Kanter's favorite wrestler is the Undertaker," whom he someday hopes to meet.

    While at Kentucky, fans began calling him "The UnderKanter."  I don't know.  Sounds kind of R-rated.

    How's he doing?

    Kanter has been in all six games. He hasn't been a factor, but can play some ball.

11. Kyle Singler (Detroit Pistons): The Wig

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    Kyle Singler was nicknamed "The Wig" back when he had long hair. Hey, that thing looks like a wig, too, a lego wig.

    He also goes by Wireless and Shampoo.  He's called these three names in the movie "Gunnin for that #1 Spot."

    How's he doing?

    To the Detroit Pistons' chagrin, Kyle Singler has elected to play with Real Madrid this year.  He'll make more money there.

10. Chukwudiebere Maduabum (Denver Nuggets): Chu-Chu

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    Chukwudiebere-Chukwudiebere Train just doesn't make any sense, so everybody just calls him Chu-Chu.

    How's he doing?

    Maduabum played in the NBA D-League last season for Bakersfield Jam and is a work in progress, not yet on the Nuggets roster.

9. Jon Diebler (Portland Trail Blazers): Threebler

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    Jon Diebler set the Ohio State Buckeyes' career record for three-pointers with 374, "earning him the [rhyming] nickname 'Threebler.'"

    How's he doing?

    Diebler isn't ready for the Portland Trail Blazers or the NBA, yet.  He's playing for the Greek League's Panionios B.C.

    Jon Diebler set the Ohio State Buckeyes' career record for three-pointers with 374, "earning him the [rhyming] nickname 'Threebler.'"

8. Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats): Prince of Zamunda

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    Kemba Walker played a lot of streetball in his day.  Maybe that's how he got so good.  There's one streetball tournament, the Watson Shootout, that Walker used to play every summer where he got his nickname.

    According to the New York Daily News:

    Joe Pope, a 43-year-old entertainer who moonlights on the microphone at Watson games, gave Walker a nickname, calling him "Prince of Zamunda," a reference to the African royalty Eddie Murphy's character enjoyed in Coming to America.

    How's he doing?

    Walker is a critical role player for the Charlotte Bobcats and backup to D.J. Augustin, averaging about 10 points per 20 minutes.

7. Marcus Morris (Houston Rockets): Mook

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    Marcus Morris was nicknamed "Mook" by his grandmother.

    Morris told the Journal-World:

    My grandmother gave me the name when I was young...I don’t think it has a meaning, but it rhymes with book...When I was younger I used to read books. My grandmother used to call me ‘Mook Book.’ Then we took the book part off and kept the mook.


    How's he doing?

    Morris has a negative PER, before being sent down to the NBA's D-League.  He's playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

6. Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves): The Whole Enchilada from La Mirada

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    Derrick Williams was known as "Superman" in college.

    "The nickname was created by Wildcats guard Kevin Parrom...when Williams' intimidating right mitt first saved the day in an 87-86 victory over Washington." (

    But that's already taken in the NBA (Dwight Howard).

    Williams' other nickname is a mouthful: "The Whole Enchilada from La Mirada."  A FOX Sports commentator, Petro Papadakis, gave him the moniker.  Williams grew up in La Mirada, California and used to sneak into La Mirada High's gym after hours to practice.

    How's he doing?

    The No. 2 pick in the draft is an up-and-coming bench player for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  He scored 13 points in his first game, but has quieted down lately.  Williams is stuck behind Michael Beasley on the depth chart.

5. Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets): Manimal

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    According to Kenneth Faried, "Everyone kept saying — 'he's a man, he's an animal, he's a beast,'" so a buddy coined him the nickname "Manimal."

    Faried's aggressive play and the dreads add to his persona.

    How's he doing?

    "Manimal" had four blocks against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night and leads the team in blocks per game.

    According to Kenneth Faried, "Everyone kept saying — 'he's a man, he's an animal, he's a beast,'" so a buddy coined him the nickname "Manimal."

4. Jan Vesely (Washington Wizards): The Dunking Ninja

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    Vesely has a bunch of nicknames from his days playing in Europe.  He's known as "The Flying Czech," "The Helicopter," and "Honza," amongst others.

    But perhaps the funniest because of its incongruity, is "The Dunking Ninja."  There's no doubt Vesely takes to the air, but rather awkwardly.  Hey, if it works.

    How's he doing?

    The injured Jan Vesely has yet to play for the woeful Washington Wizards (0-6), but he's almost ready.

3. E'Twaun Moore (Boston Celtics): Smooge

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    There's debate over the origin of E'Twaun Moore's nickname, and it covers both ends of the spectrum.

    On one side, it's a cute nickname that was given to him by his mom.  On the other side, the over-18 side, defines it as "To have sex in a romantic way."

    Now those are two differing origins for sure.

    How's he doing?

    Smooge was the sixth guard option for the Boston Celtics, but just moved up the depth chart, taking over for the slumping Avery Bradley.

2. Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Bobcats): La Pantera or Big Smack

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    Bismack Biyombo is another rookie who overloads your Word spellcheck and has a host of nicknames.

    He was known as "Master" in the Congo.  His facebook page calls him "B-Smack."

    But the two best are "La Pantera," or the "Black Panther," which Biyombo picked up in Spain and "Big Smack," which he picked up in the U.S.A. - along with "Big Mac,"  something Biyombo had never heard of before.

    How's he doing?

    Bismack is Big Smacking his way into a lot of foul trouble, but he does lead the Charlotte Bobcats in blocks.

1. Jerome Jordan (N.Y. Knicks): The Jamaican Hurricane

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    The "Jamaican Hurricane" is the best rookie nickname.

    It's the Knicks' Jerome Jordan's birthplace. He played for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in college. It tells you about his game.  It's geographically and meteorologically appropriate. It kind of rhymes. It has the aura of a heavyweight championship prizefight. It packs a punch.

    How's he doing?

    Jordan is seeing about five minutes a game in garbage time. He's more like the "Jamaican Low-Pressure System" right now.

    Follow me on Twitter @VinGetz.


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