Grading Kobe Bryant's Latest Nickname, 'Vino'

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench during introductions before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on March 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 99-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For Kobe Bryant, apparently "Black Mamba" just wasn't good enough.

Following the Los Angeles Lakers' victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, an unnamed friend gave Sir Kobe a new nickname: "Vino."

Kobe Bryant @kobebryant

Omg . My man just gave me a new nickname and I love it! Ha #vino

So, there's that.

The general thinking behind it (though obvious) is that "vino" means wine, and Bryant, like wine, only gets better with age.

Kobe Bryant @kobebryant

“@LKRGIRL: I finally get Kobe's new nickname. #Vino means Wine. So that means he gets better with age #duh #ImDumb lmao” U got it ;)

But while the meaning behind it holds some genuine traction, is this a nickname that should stick? Should it rival Black Mamba?

Meaning: A

Let's not pretend that, at 34, Kobe isn't still a monster.

Bryant averages 27.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.3 steals in over 38 minutes of burn per game. As it stands, he's one of just five NBA players over 30 averaging at least 35 minutes per game and the only player over 30 logging 38 or more.

Chide the Mamba's (sorry, "Vino's") shot selection all you want. His ability to play such heavy minutes while performing at a ridiculously high level is just that—ridiculous.

It's also numerical proof that there's plenty of merit to his mysterious new nickname.

Creativity/Originality: D

Come on, Kobe's nameless friend—you can do better than that, can't you?

Though the comparison between Bryant and the literal definition of "Vino" is quite intriguing, the actual moniker is rather mundane.

When you think Kobe, you think vibrant, exuberant and animated. Calling him Vino implies none of those things.

This is the guy who has built a global brand around the Black Mamba, a uniquely intimidating handle. If he's going to go all Mr. Softy on us, it should at least be comical and attention-grabbing. Referring to him has "Vino" just doesn't do any of that.

Of course, it's Kobe's appellation, so he can do with it what he wants. But if he's looking for a new byname that embodies the whole "getting better with age" mantra, I'd search for something with more flair and originality.

Swagger: B

In a refined sort of way, "Vino" really is pure boasting.

It's more sophisticated than "Black Mamba" and portrays Kobe as a cultured talent, someone who is cognizant of his age yet refuses to yield to it.

Admittedly, that just doesn't do Bryant's game or persona justice. As elegant and honest a sound bite as Kobe has become, he's still brusque—in a good way. His dunks remain poster-worthy (just ask Josh Smith), and he still carries the Lakers both statistically and emotionally.

Nowhere in that depiction of Kobe do I think of "Vino" or any other alcohol.

Has it also dawned on anyone else that we're essentially just calling him "Wine"? That's absolutely horrible. If we're not supposed to translate it, should we then put every other player's nicknames in Italian, Spanish or, worse, Latin?

I didn't think so.

Still, no one else in the league is referred to as "Vino," and only a handful of other players (Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, etc.) have aged as gracefully as Bryant. 

That the meaning is so literal helps save an otherwise prosaic epithet.

Overall Grade: B-

Truthfully, Bryant has ruined us for any other self-designations. You just can't top Black Mamba or his "Count on Kobe" commercials. It's just not possible.

Or rather, it's certainly not possible when you hope that "Vino" catches on.

Perhaps if Bryant had been more specific. What kind of "Vino" are you, Kobe? Merlot? Cabernet? Bordeaux?

Even a more descriptive personal adage really wouldn't have helped this one (much).

I guess we're left with "Vino" in all its humdrum glory.

Forgive me in advance, Kobe, for sticking with Black Mamba.

It's not that I don't count on you to lead the Lakers. It's that I can't count on you or anyone else to replace (or even complement) an already awesome sobriquet.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.