25 Greatest Nicknames in the NBA
If there is one thing that I thought was dying in the NBA these days, it was the nickname. You have Kobe Bryant nicknaming himself "The Black Mamba" and many lazy ones with Chris Paul's "CP3", Carmelo Anthony's "Melo" and Chris Bosh going with "CB4" (unless you want to go with "The RuPaul of Big Men."
Still, it seems like there is an epidemic throughout the league with great nicknames for great players being few and far between. Sure, some lesser players have some terrific monikers, usually because they don't care if a corny one sticks to them, but there are few superstars with iconic nicknames.
Magic Johnson's was so good that it stuck and basically became his first name, Julius Erving's nickname was so effective that he is probably more well known today as Dr. J than Julius Erving.
We will roll along with athletes nicknaming themselves, sticking with their initials and jersey numbers or just recycling nicknames that other players made popular (Dwight Howard isn't Superman, and he never will be).
So in my own little attempt to make them cool again, I'm paying homage to the best nicknames in the league today.
25. Boobie Gibson
He's been around the league for the past five years, so everyone's heard his nickname at least once, but Daniel Gibson of the Cleveland Cavaliers is nicknamed Boobie.
In fact, his nickname has been thrown around so much that he is more known as Boobie Gibson than Daniel Gibson.
I've spent an endless amount of time just trying to figure out where he got the nickname, but can't dig up anything more than the fact that his mom gave it to him.
This is one of my favorite nicknames in the NBA, because it seemingly makes no sense, but it fits him perfectly. I mean, if ever there was a guy to be named Z-Bo, doesn't Zach Randolph look like he's it.
The only thing I've found as to why he is called Z-Bo is from forums and chats that say he had a friend who was giving out nicknames one day and decided that he should be called Z-Bo. The original interview with Randolph is on the Blazers official website, and because of the lockout they've taken down all information on players, so use that information how you will.
23. Tough Juice
This nickname absolutely cracks me up because I don't understand it at all, but I remember the first time I heard it.
Back when the Cavs and Wizards had a bit of a rivalry going on (I don't know how much of a rivalry it was when the Cavs were continually whipping them), Eddie Jordan did an interview talking about how he was planning on adding "Tough Juice" into their lineup. I had no clue what that meant.
I later found out that he was referring to Caron Butler, but I still have no clue the reason for calling him "Tough Juice" besides the fact that he's a tough player.
22. The Machine
It pains me that the two most well-known people in sports nicknamed "The Machine" are Albert Pujols and Sasha Vujacic.
One guy is a home run-mashing juggernaut of a baseball player and the other is spindly little Sasha Vujacic.
With Vujacic, you either love him or you hate him, and if you love him you love the fact that he is nicknamed The Machine.
21. White Chocolate
Jason Williams is hanging onto the league by a thread. He officially retired in April, but I've got to include White Chocolate as an homage to white guys breaking stereotypes about us in basketball. (Besides, he'll probably end up signing a veteran minimum contract with the Heat in a month.)
Williams was given the nickname by a Sacramento Kings media relations assistant back when he was a rookie for his flashy style of play and his sweet game (and his whiteness I suppose).
Williams completely embraced the nickname over the next dozen years and has gone as far to get "WHIT" and "EBOY" tattooed on his knuckles.
20. The Matrix
It's not as easy to see anymore because he is getting up there in age, but back when he was a younger fellow, Shawn Marion was one of the most athletic players in the league.
He could do things that almost nobody else in the league could do, and he did them in such a way that just made it look impossible.
Marion came into the league around the time that The Matrix was taking the world by storm, so the nickname was thrown at him and it stuck.
19. The Black Mamba
I ragged on Kobe Bryant's nickname earlier on, but truthfully I think it's a pretty good nickname. It fits him well.
Kobe started calling himself that and then explained the nickname to the LA TImes saying, "The mamba can strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession. That's the kind of basketball precision I want to have."
Yep, that's pretty much Kobe's game.
Still, he loses points for giving himself a nickname, that's just weird.
18. Il Mago
I love nicknames in other languages, it sound so much more natural and makes the player seem more mysterious. So even though I cannot stand the way that Andrea Bargnani plays basketball, I absolutely love his nickname "Il Mago," which means "The Magician" in Italian.
What's the biggest reason he's nicknamed Il Mago, well I'm not sure but I have a theory about how he is able to disappear completely on defense.
17. Wild Thing
I think naming Anderson Varejao "Wild Thing" is the most appropriate nickname in the NBA.
It was given to him in the city of Cleveland, of course endearing him to the city as the next Rick Vaughn, who everyone in the city loves even though he was a character in Major League.
When you watch Varejao plays it's obvious why he got the nickname, he flys around the court with his hair streaking behind him playing with all the intensity of a Rick Vaughn fastball, and early on all the unpredictability of one as well.
16. The Chosen One
LeBron James was given a few nicknames while in Cleveland, a few of them don't work anymore and a few of them I never liked in the first place. The Akron Hammer can't really be used now that the entire state of Ohio is holding a grudge against him and King James has always bothered me.
That leaves The L Train (which I absolutely love) and The Chosen One, which makes the most sense.
LeBron was anointed before he was even a high school senior as the next great thing in basketball. He was chosen at an early age, therefore, he is The Chosen One.
15. Agent Zero
He doesn't go by this nickname anymore, partly because he has the number one with Orlando and partly because he barely plays anymore.
However, back when he was coming off the bench in Washington, working his way up in the depth chart and rocking the big 0 on front of his jersey, "Agent Zero" was one of the coolest nicknames in the game.
He rocked it with pride, and it made him seem kind of like a secret agent, which made it even cooler.
I used to think that Amar'e Stoudemire was nicknamed STAT because that's all he was good for. He could rack up good numbers and fill up a stat sheet, but his teams never got farther than the Western Conference Finals.
Come to realize it, STAT stands for "Standing Tall and Talented" which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, so it was shortened to STAT.
13. Big Ben
One of my favorite players of the past decade and one of the most simple, yet effective nicknames during the same time period.
It started off with Ben Wallace just being called Big Ben because he was, well big, but it evolved into something much more.
It began to allude to the big clock tower in London so that every time Ben Wallace came into the game a bell would toll, it was time for Big Ben to come in.
12. The Big Ticket
Back when Kevin Garnett was with the Minnesota Timberwolves, this nickname fit so well that it has stuck with him up to this point.
People began calling Garnett "The Big Ticket" because he was the reason that the arena was full every night. Everyone came out to see Garnett, making him the big ticket in town.
Now that he is with Boston, their four all-star players combined make up the best show in town, but Kevin Garnett is still The Big Ticket.
11. The Big Fundamental
TIm Duncan beat out Kevin Garnett in almost everything else when they were battling for the title of "Greatest Power Forward of All-TIme" (GPFOAT for short), so I decided that he wins the nickname battle too.
Duncan is big and he relies on the fundamentals of basketball more than any other player. Boom, nickname. It works from every angle and doesn't sound as lame as calling him TD21 or T-Dunk.
First of all, let me acknowledge that that painting (or whatever it is) is a work of art that belongs in a museum hanging between The Mona Lisa and The Wedding Feast at Cana in The Louvre.
Rarely does a nickname become a player so much that he completely embraces it and tattoos it across his neck. That's dedication.
Chris Andersen plays like a man who is part bird, as he flies around the court like he's got wings and is ready to take off at any point.
Dwyane Wade told the world that he didn't want to go by "Flash" anymore a few years back, but people are resisting it. It just goes to show that you can't get rid of a good nickname no matter how hard you try.
Wade as Flash worked perfectly. He was faster than most of the other players in the league and could slice into the lane like The Flash getting from here to there by seemingly disappearing and reappearing less than a second later.
8. The Red Rocket
Back when Matt Bonner was on the Toronto Raptors, he got the nickname "Red Rocket" seemingly because he always rode the streetcars around town that had the slogan "Ride the Rocket" and because of his red hair.
Either way, the nickname has followed him all throughout his career and has truly become one of the funnier and more original nicknames in the league.
7. Half Man/Half Amazing
When Vince Carter was in his prime it may have been more like "One-Quarter Man/Three-Quarters Amazing."
Carter had a handful of nicknames, ranging from "Vinsanity" to "Air Canada", but my favorite by far was "Half Man/Half Amazing."
It reflected how unbelievable Carter was at time and it was implemented at a time when street ball nicknames were all the rage and went right along with the likes of "Skip-to-my-lou" in the mid-2000s.
This is the only exception I've made for the default "Initials+jersey number=nickname" formula because it is such a cool nickname.
Andrei Kirilenko as AK47 reflects his Russian-ness because it was a Soviet-made gun, and his ability to rapidly score points (well, before he got hurt and slowed down a bit).
5. Big Baby
The man cried on the bench when Kevin Garnett yelled at him and he expects the nickname Big Baby to go away?
The nickname started off innocently enough when Glen Davis was with LSU and people started calling him Baby Shaq, but that nickname eventually just morphed into "Big Baby" and it has yet to go away up to this point, and it probably won't now that he is more often referred to as Big Baby Davis rather than Glen Davis.
4. The White Mamba
For a guy that earns very little playing time, Brian Scalabrine has had many nicknames. He was called "Veal" in New Jersey because his last name sounded like an Italian dish, I have heard "The Ginger Ninja", but the best has been The White Mamba, hands down.
The nickname comes from Stacey King, former Bulls center and current Chicago Bulls analyst after Scal drained a running bank shot and has stuck ever since.
The legend of Scalabrine has turned him into an internet legend and has yet to really get out of hand, people have harped on his awesomeness an appropriate amount so far and have yet to make it annoying, but as with anything on the internet, it's just a matter of time.
3. The Human Victory Cigar
The only thing that would make Darko Milicic's nickname better would be if he played for Red Auerbach and got on the court as Auerbach was lighting up his victory cigar. Art imitating life.
Darko got the nickname back on Detroit, as the only time he ever got on the floor was when the team was thumping another team and they decided to put Darko in.
There have been many players who are human victory cigars since Darko, and there were may before, but he is the only true Human Victory Cigar.
2. The Custodian
He's unassuming, unthreatening and just comes in and does his job and then goes home. Looking for no glory, Brian Cardinal comes in to do the dirty work on the floor, clean up the glass and contribute the only way he knows how.
He's been called "The Custodian" for as long as I can remember, at least since he was at Purdue doing the same thing he does now, and I can't think of any other nickname that would work better.
1. The Vanilla Gorilla
This one makes me giggle every time I hear it, and I'm not sure why, but Joel Przybilla as "The Vanilla Gorilla" is my favorite nickname in the NBA today.
Why is Przybilla known as the Vanilla Gorilla, well, quite frankly because he's white and because he's big. It's simple, it makes sense and it's hilarious, what else do you need in a nickname?
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