Kobe Bryant and the 30 Greatest NBA Nicknames Ever

Matt DawsonContributor IFebruary 16, 2011

Kobe Bryant and the 30 Greatest NBA Nicknames Ever

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 14:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball up the court against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User express
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    One of the best things about the NBA is the plethora of excellent nicknames, and this list compiles 30 of the best. They are not ranked by number, as too much of deciding is personal opinion. 

    If you have any players to add, feel free to comment. 

    Honourable Mentons:

    Vince Carter - Vinsanity 

    Kevin Durant - Durantula

    Darrell Griffith - Dr. Dunkenstein

    Kevin McHale - The Black Hole

    Yao Ming - Chairman Yao

    Nate Robinson - KryptoNate

    Glenn Rivers - Doc

    Amar'e Stoudemire - STAT (Standing Tall And Talented)

    Corliss Williamson - Big Nasty

    Chris Anderson - Birdman

Paul Pierce: The Truth

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    BOSTON - FEBRUARY 13:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks to pass against Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 13, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    "Paul Pierce is the *beep*ing truth. Quote me on that and don't take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn't know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth."

    The above quote was from an in-his-prime Shaquille O'Neal when the Celtics defeated the Lakers. In that game Pierce scored 42 back-to-back points, and showed the world that he was more than just the best player on a bad team.

    Shaq is the king of nicknames, and The Truth is a nickname extremely associated with the game Pierce plays. Whenever and whatever the Celtics need at any given time, Pierce seems able to supply.

    It is sort, catchy and sweet, and has to be about as associated with Paul Pierce as anything else.

Charles Barkley: The Round Mound of Rebound

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    LAS VEGAS - JULY 9: TNT NBA analyst and former NBA player Charles Barkley jokes around as he arrives at the celebrity basketball 'New School vs. Old School' poker tournament at the Mirage July 9, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event was held to benefit Op
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    The more common nickname for Barkley is by far Sir Charles, but the one he worked hard to deserve and is closer to the heart of fans is The Round Mound of Rebound.

    He earned the nickname as a college player at Auburn, but he kept earning it in the NBA. Any 6'5", 250-pound forward who has a 16-year career with a career average of nearly 12 rebounds a game needs to have the operative word of "rebound" in his nickname.

    Whatever you want to say about Charles' weight now, you don't get hops like that by spending a lot of time at Krispy Kreme. 

Stephon Marbury: Starbury

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Stephon Marbury of the Boston Celtics attends Game Two of the 2009 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic at Staples Center on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
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    Stephon Marbury is 100 percent crazy, let's just get that out of the way. And despite a pretty decent career scoring average, he never really backed up this self-given nickname.

    There are a few pun-based nicknames in this list, but Starbury might just be the best. Despite being a relatively brilliant philanthropist, creating a good quality star-named shoe and selling it for crazy cheap, the nickname suits the brand more than the player.

    Starbury left the NBA to dominate in China.

Karl Malone: The Mailman

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    SALT LAKE CITY - FEBRUARY 13:  Karl Malone gestures as he announces his retirement from playing NBA basketball as his wife Kay (L) listens on February 13, 2005 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Malone played 19 years in the NBA, 18 with the Uta
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    It is argued that Karl Malone is the greatest power forward of all time. This list argues he has one of the greatest nicknames of all time.

    Malone is a 13-time NBA All-Star, a two-time All-Star MVP and a two-time MVP. Malone has more defensive rebounds than any other player in NBA history and has two gold medals. Pretty impressive.

    Malone earned his nickname because he always, always delivered on the court. The only problem is he is more efficient than any mailman ever. 

Julius Erving: Dr J.

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    LOS ANGELES - 1987:  Julius Erving #6 of the Philadelphia 76ers (right) talks to fellow legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #33 of the Los Angeles Lakers before Erving played the final game of his career against Lakers, which happened to be at the Great Western Fo
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    Julius Erving has one of the simplest and most arrogant nicknames in all of the NBA. And he totally deserves it.

    According to NBA legend, Erving picked up the nickname from a friend who he played hoops with in Long Island, who would call him the Professor, as he would always dispute calls and give long and argumentative answers as to why he was right. This developed into Dr. J.

    He also has a Ph.D is awesome skills. Just sayin'.

Caron Butler: Tough Juice

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    DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 15:  Forward Caron Butler #4 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on December 15, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is c
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    Caron Butler made the NBA All-Rookie First Team and is a two-time All Star, but his greatest achievement may be his awesome nickname. Maybe.

    The nickname was bestowed upon him by his coach Eddie Jordan after he was traded to the Washington Wizards. 

    Jordan took to calling him Tough Juice after witnessing his passionate and extremely aggressive play—shown by the impressive (particularly for a small forward) 20 rebounds he took against the Cavaliers in a playoff game.

Kevin Garnett: The Big Ticket/KG

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    BOSTON - FEBRUARY 13:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics catches a pass against Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat at TD Garden on February 13, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics won 85-82. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
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    KG isn't a real nickname, they are just his initials, but I can't remember the last time I called him anything but.

    The Big Ticket is a name not often used by fans, but you will hear it relatively often thrown around on ESPN or on commentary. That doesn't make it any less of a cool nickname. 

    He got the nickname after his first few years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, entertaining and selling out the Target Center, and was the biggest thing in Minnesota sports.

    He may not still be the same player he was back then, but he is still a massive draw in Boston—and it is doubtful anyone would argue that he didn't work to earn his nickname. 

Tyrone Bogues: Muggsy

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    15 Feb 1999:  Stephon Marbury #3 of the Minnesota Timberwolves  tries to keep with Tyrone Bogues #1 during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, California. The Warriors defeated the Timberwolves 101-99.  Mandatory Cr
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    Did you even know Muggsy Bogues' first name was Tyrone? Exactly. That is one of the signs of a great nickname.

    At only 5'3", Muggsy was an anomaly in the NBA, but he was undoubtedly one of the best point guards of his time. He got his nickname from the kids he used to play with before getting into the big leagues, as he was so adept at stealing the ball, he was practically mugging you.

    He bought this stealing ability into the NBA, with 1,369 career steals.

Allen Iverson: The Answer

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    CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 20: Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers is slow to get up after being hit in the face during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 122-90. NO
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    Allen Iverson was the first amazingly explosive player to enter the NBA, and he was no doubt the answer, but what were the questions?

    Apparently he picked up the nickname from his family and friends, who said he was the answer to what they saw as the conformity of the family-friendly NBA at the time. Boy, were they right!

    The nickname can also be applied to the early years of Iverson, where he answered any player who challenged him. Shame about those later years.

Hakeem Olajuwon: The Dream

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    25 Nov 2001:  Dikembe Mutombo #55 of the Philadelphia 76ers blocks Hakeen Olajuwon #34 of the Toronto Raptors during the game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Raptors defeated the 76ers 107-88. TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
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    Hakeem Olajuwon, like so many on this list, is synonymous with his nickname. It is rare to get a player with his skill set, so rare some might say it is a coach's dream.

    No defender could stop the Dream, and he is one of the few players to not only have moves associated with him, but to basically have created them. These new moves, developed later in his career, became known as The Dream Shake.

    Also, got to love the rhyme. It just feels good to say.

Glen Davis: Big Baby

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    BOSTON - FEBRUARY 13:  Glen Davis #11 of the Boston Celtics drives against Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Miami Heat at TD Garden on February 13, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics won 85-82. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
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    Glen Davis hates this nickname. And that is part of the greatness of it; as much as he tries, Shrek just won't eclipse Big Baby.

    According to his biography on his fan page, this nickname has been one that he has had for quite a while. Apparently he picked it up while he was playing peewee basketball, as he was bigger than the other kids his age and played with the older kids, who gave him the nickname and it stuck.

    If you thought that he got his nickname for his propensity to act like, well, a big baby on the court, then you can be excused. We have all seen the video of him crying on the bench after a spray from Kevin Garnett.

Ron Artest: Ron Ron

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 14:  Ron Artest #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers knocks the ball loose from Gerald Wallace #3 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User
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    How can Ron Artest's nickname Ron Ron be on this list, when Ray Allen's Ray Ray isn't? Because for some reason Ron Ron suits Artest in a disturbing way.

    Reggie Miller calls him True Warrior, but given his tendency to give up during games (unlike a true warrior), Ron Ron seems to fit just perfectly. Let's face it, Artest is absolutely out of this world crazy, and Ron Ron is the name of a total crazy person.

    Long live Ron Ron. 

Michael Jordan: Air Jordan/His Airness

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 15: Former players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls share a laugh before a game between the Bulls and the Charlotte Bobcats at the United Center on February 15, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User exp
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    This one is pretty obvious as far as origin, but has to be included as when one does an article about all-time greats of anything in the NBA it is compulsory that Jordan is included in some capacity.

    Both nicknames refer to Jordan's amazing leaping ability. The man was an unnatural freak, but the kind we all love to watch. LeBron could learn something from him: He was the most dominant basketball player around yet we all still love him.

    Air Jordan wasn't as much of a nickname as His Airness, but as a brand/nickname it has had probably the biggest and most iconic impact on the world. 

Dwight Howard: Superman

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    ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 08:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic attempts a shot during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Amway Arena on February 8, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
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    Okay, Superman may be a fictional comic book character, who is a near-unstoppable alien with a heart of gold. Are you going to disagree with this nickname for Orlando's Dwight Howard?

    Howard is the most innovative and dominating center since, well, the previous Superman, Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq may have tried to hold on to the nickname for a little too long, being publicly insulted that Dwight had taken the mantle from him.

    That was last season, and since Shaq disputing his use of the nickname Howard has taken his game to the next level. Howard is currently the only truly elite center in the NBA, and deserves his nickname.

Shaquille O'Neal: The Big Aristotle/Diesel/The Big Shamrock

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    PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 28:  Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 28, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Celtics 88-71.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
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    Also: The Big Twitterer/Manny Shaq-laou/Shaq-Fu/The Big Deporter/Superman/M.D.E/Shaq/Shaq-tus and many, many more.

    From one Superman to another.

    Shaquille O'Neal is most likely the most prolific nicknamer of all time. Almost all of them were given to him by himself.

    The NBA isn't short on massive egos, and so Shaq finds himself in good company, but naming yourself after a near unbeatable superhero alien seems a bit much. To be fair though, unlike Stephon Marbury, Shaq had the abilities and size to back himself up. 

    You try and tell Shaq one of his nicknames is stupid.

Rafer Alston: Skip 2 My Lou

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 16:  Rafer Alston #1 of the New Jersey Nets in action against The Utah Jazz during their game on December 16th, 2009 at The Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
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    Rafer Alston was a streetball legend, and everyone knows that you have to go to the streets to find the best and most creative nicknames.

    The nickname doesn't really make that much sense, but it comes from his tendency to skip while he is dribbling up court. Maybe not the first thing you would think of, who is my Lou? Or what is my Lou? Feel free to comment!

    Skip 2 My Lou has been suspended by the Miami Heat for the remainder of the season after missing a practice and a game. He is contemplating retirement.

Andrei Kirilenko: AK-47

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 21:  Andrei Kirilenko #47 of the Utah Jazz tries to keep the ball as Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics jumps to block on January 21, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
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    Andrei Kirilenko has one of the coolest and simplest nicknames in the whole of the NBA, if only he was a slightly better player to back it up.

    The nickname has a fairly obvious origin, it is a mix of his initials and his jersey number. To be honest, when he sparks he does play a bit like a machine gun.

    Also, the AK-47 was created in Russia, much like Kirilenko, so take from that what you will.

Kobe Bryant: Black Mamba

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 14:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to the bench against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
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    Kobe gave himself this ultra-cool nickname, but you can't really begrudge him it; he is one of the greatest of all time and just look at the sheer amount of nicknames Shaq has given himself over the years.

    The Black Mamba is the largest venomous snake in Africa, and if you've seen Kobe's offence in a clutch scenario you'd know he is probably the most venomous offensive player in the NBA. 

    The only detraction of this nickname is that it is also the nickname of Marvel Comics super-villain Tanya Sealy and Beatrix Kiddo, an assassin in the movie Kill Bill. Both of whom are, of course, women. Take from that what you will. 

George Gervin: The Iceman

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    PHOENIX - JUNE 03:  NBA Legend George Gervin watches the Dallas Mavericks take on the Phoenix Suns in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2006 NBA Playoffs on June 3, 2006 at US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Mavericks won 102-9
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    This is one of the most fascinating nickname origin stories in all of this list, so let's get straight to it.

    He was given the nickname by a guard who took it from a best-selling autobiography about a pimp hustling on the streets of Chicago. Gervin didn't like it because he thought it represented a negative stereotype.

    The name stuck, but it didn't refer so much to his resemblance to a street hustler, more to his icy on-court composure. 

Chris Bosh: Chris Botch/The RuPaul of Big Men

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    MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 08:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat is guarded by Jeff Foster #10 of the Indiana Pacers during a game at American Airlines Arena on February 8, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
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    Chris Bosh is currently best known as the distant .5 in Miami's Big 2.5. The Big 3 is just an insult to James and Wade.

    His nicknames are not ones that have been at all embraced by Bosh, but that is part of why they are so enjoyable. Chris Botch was bestowed on him due to his uncanny ability to botch big plays right at the end of a big game.

    The other nickname, which is significantly longer than his full name, was given to him by the NBA's God of the nickname, Shaquille O'Neal. If it isn't obvious why, it is because Bosh looked like a drag queen when he had long hair. And he plays like a girl…Though not a good one like Cheryl Miller.

Clyde Drexler: The Glide

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 06:  Honoree Clyde Drexler speaks at The 24th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner benefiting The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis (national fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis) at The Waldorf=Astoria on October 6, 200
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    Clyde Drexler is known in almost all NBA circles by his nickname Clyde the Glide, and boy did he deserve the name.

    The Glide was a truly spectacular scorer, attacking the hoop with style and finesse from a range of angles and in a range of styles.

    Philadelphia Inquirer correspondent Mike Burton once said that The Glide was more than just a nickname—it was actually what Drexler did on a basketball court.

Marvin Webster: The Human Eraser

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    This may be the most terrifying nickname in all of this list. It makes him sound like a hit man in Soviet Russia.

    The late, great legend definitely earned the nickname, though, as he was practically a hit man on the basketball court. As a junior center at Morgan State he averaged eight blocks, 21 points and 22.4 rebounds—that isn't a typo. The man was a rebounding machine.

    Get between him and the ball and find out the origin of his nickname.

Dominique Wilkins: The Human Highlight Film

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    LAS VEGAS - APRIL 20:  2006 NBA Hall of Fame inductee Dominique Wilkins listens during a ceremony held to unveil the logo for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game at the Fashion Show Mall April 20, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The game will be held February 18, 2007,
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    A lot of the nicknames on this list have been given to the player by themselves and they have done nothing to deserve them. This is not one of those cases. Quite the opposite, actually.

    Dominique Wilkins was one of the most electrifying men in sports in the mid '80s and early '90s. He was given his nickname because of his amazing athleticism and windmill dunks that helped him to win the slam dunk title twice.

    This nickname fits another young, acrobatic dunker in the NBA, considering the wall-to-wall ESPN coverage.

Gary Payton: The Glove

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    MIAMI ? FEBRUARY 1:  Gary Payton #20 of the Miami Heat drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena on February 1, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Miami won 92-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
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    Gary Payton may be best known for following Shaq to the Lakers and then on to the Miami Heat, where he retired, but he also had a great nickname.

    Payton was given the nickname The Glove during the week of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix, when he was called by his cousin, who told him he was holding Kevin Johnson like a baseball in a glove.

    I'm sure the evolution of the nickname continues with Gary Payton telling everyone who would listen this anecdote. That is pure speculation, though.

Tim Duncan: The Big Fundamental

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 03:  Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs faces off against Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 89-88 Spur victory at Staples Center on February 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
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    Tim Duncan may be the best power forward of all time, and was voted the best player of the decade almost across the board when NBA did their decade retrospective in 2010.

    Duncan's nickname The Big Fundamental suits him down to a tee. He isn't the most explosive or exciting player to watch, he isn't high on on-court personality, but he is spectacular as far as having all the fundamental skills down.

    Just go to YouTube to watch the Tim Duncan bank shot—you'll never question this nickname again.

Dennis Rodman: The Worm

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    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20:  Dennis Rodman attends the Battle of the Codes poker game held at Star City March 20, 2008 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
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    Dennis Rodman is one of the fruitiest and most flamboyantly interesting players to ever step onto an NBA court.

    The dominant rebounder was nicknamed The Worm, and despite popular opinion, apparently the nickname had nothing to do with his personal life. He was given the nickname by his mother, for wriggling around while playing pinball.

    During his time in WCW, Hulk Hogan referred to him as The Real Hot Rod, to mock wrestling legend Roddy Piper, who had held the nickname Hot Rod.

Wilt Chamberlain: The Stilt

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    7 Feb 1997:  Former Los Angeles Laker Wilt Chamberlain addresses the media at a press conference before the NBA All-Star Game at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
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    It isn't often that the perfect nickname, one that perfectly encapsulates a person's unique physical traits, also rhymes with their first name. There may be a few obese guys named Matt, but that isn't quite as rare an affliction. 

    Wilt Chamberlain was ridiculously tall, and his legs looked like stilts (particularly wearing the short basketball shorts that were the style at the time). Wilt the Stilt just fits damn perfectly.

    He will be remembered for more than his awesome nickname, but still, Wilt the Stilt just works.

Larry Bird: Larry Legend/The Hick From French Lick

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    Forward Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics sits on the bench during a game.
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    Larry Bird and Magic Johnson's rivalry re-sparked interest in the NBA in the '80s, and he deserves to be known as Larry Legend.

    The odder of the nicknames comes from a quote by Bird himself. He came from French Lick, Indiana, and when he came to the Boston Celtics as the highest-paid rookie in NBA history, he took it with his trademark blue-collar, down-to-earth attitude, saying "No matter how good I am, I'm still just a hick from French Lick."

    As one of the all-time greats, and a man whose name constantly comes up in arguments for the greatest of all time, Larry Legend is a well deserved piece of alliteration. 

LeBron James: King James

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    INDIANAPOLIS - FEBRUARY 15:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is pictured during the NBA game against the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse on February 15, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   The Heat won 110-103.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
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    It hurts how accurate this nickname is. LeBron James is not only the most hated player in the NBA right now, he is the best. 

    King James is one of the versions of the Bible and LBJ was considered the savior of the Cavaliers franchise (awkward), and also the savior of basketball, considering how exciting he is.

    As arrogant and ridiculous as this nickname is, sadly, we will all witness… Whether we want to or not. Hopefully The Jimmer can take his throne.

Earvin Johnson: Magic

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Earvin 'Magic' Johnson hugs general manager Mitch Kupchak after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USE
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    Magic Johnson may be the greatest player of all time not named Michael Jordan (as a Celtics fan it hurts to admit that). He also has what is likely the most iconic and recognizable nickname is NBA history.

    The nickname Magic is so associated with Earvin Johnson that more people would recognize him as Magic than Earvin. And he earned the nickname, as well. 

    Apparently the nickname came about due to the terrible habit assists had of magically appearing in his stats. Though a sports writer called him Magic after a 36-point, 16-rebound, 16-assist game at Everett High School in Michigan when he was only 16 years old. 

    He was magic.