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Top 25 basketball player nicknames of all time
Iceman, Agent Zero, Zen Master, Half Man Half Amazing - sounds like a comic book introduction. There have been many colorful characters throughout basketball history and almost everyone has a nickname. Nicknames serve as creative descriptions of a player's talent and personality. Some nicknames are used only by teammates, others are of public domain. The best of the best nicknames transcend the test of time and become synonymous with the athlete's real name. The following are the top 25 nicknames in basketball history. There are several types of nicknames.
Many nicknames are abbreviations or variations of a name such as Melo for Carmelo Anthony(notes), Hawk for Connie Hawkins, Coop for Michael Cooper, CP3 for Chris Paul(notes), Mo for Maurice Cheeks, Zo for Alonzo Mourning(notes).
First initial nicknames
Then there are the "Big" nicknames such as Big O for Oscar Robertson, Big E forElvin Hayes, Big Z for Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes), Big Baby for Glenn Davis, Big Dipper for Wilt Chamberlain (stilt), Big Country Bryant Reeves, Big Dog Glenn Robinson, Big Fundamental Tim Duncan(notes), Big Nasty Corliss Williamson, Big Ticket Kevin Garnett(notes), Big Red Dave Cowens, Big Shot Bob Robert Horry, Big Cactus Shaquille O'Neal(notes), and my personal favorite Big Game James for James Worthy.
Nicknames as Titles
Many players have nicknames that serve more as titles such as King James for Lebron James(notes), Larry Legend for Larry Bird. Often these titles start with "The." The Truth for Paul Pierce(notes), The Answer for Allen Iverson(notes), The Captain for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and The Admiral for David Robinson, The Rifleman Chuck Person, The Rain Man Shawn Kemp, The Glove Gary Payton, The Worm Dennis Rodman, The Chief Robert Parrish, and The Zen Master Phil Jackson.
Nicknames replace names
Spud Webb and Penny Hardaway both share the same first name of Anthony but are known on and off the court as Spud and Penny. Tyrone Bogues is known as Mugsy Bogues. It must be a short guard thing.
Lastly, there are nicknames that combine two or more categories and or stand simply stand on their own merit of uniqueness and creative description such as Earl The Squirrel Boynkins, Jim Bad News Barnes, Robert Tractor Traylor, Wayne Tree Rollins, Dunking Dutchman Rick Smitts, Dice ManAntonio McDyess, Junkyard Dog Jerome Williams, Joe Jellybean Bryant, Kenny The Jet Smith, John Spider Salley, Craig Speedy Claxton, Eric Sleepy Floyd, and Lafayette Fat Lever.
Which of these nicknames made the top 25 list? Part of the rubric for choosing the top twenty-five required the nickname to have lasting tenure. It also helped if the nickname was synonymous with the athlete's real name. For example most people if they see Michael Jordan don't say, "Hey there's Michael Air." However when someone see's George Gervin they don't hesitate to say, "there's the Iceman."
Remember this is a list of the best nicknames not the best players. Did your favorite make the list?
25. Big O Oscar Robertson
24. Tiny Nate Archibald
23. Diesel, Big Aristotle, Big Cactus, Shaq, Shaquille O'Neal
22. Big Game James James Worthy
21. Hakeem The Dream Olajuwon Hakeem Olajuwon
20. The Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barkley
19. Kangaroo Kid Billy Cunningham
18. Sweetwater Nathanial Clifton
17. The Microwave Vinnie Johnson
16. Earl The Pearl Monroe Earl Monroe
15. Clyde The GlideDrexler Clyde Drexler
14. King James Lebron James
13. The Mailman Karl Malone
12. The Wizard of Westwood John Wooden
11. Big Dipper, Wilt the Stilt Wilt Chamberlain
10. Iceman George Gervin
San Antonio Spurs great, George Gervin earned the nickname Iceman because of his cool demeanor on the court. He was voted as a top 50 NBA player of all time. He is a gracious person off the court, and always signs his autograph with the Iceman inscription.
9. Mr. Clutch Jerry West
Twelve years as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, he became known as Mr. Clutch for his ability to score with the game on the line. This Hall-of-famer is the only player in history to win an NBA Finals MVP award while on the losing team. In that 1969 NBA Finals he averaged a record setting 43 ppg. Not only is he a top 50 player of all time, his silhouette is the NBA logo.
8. Human Highlight Film Dominique Wilkins
6 foot 8 two time Slam Dunk champion, is ranked 9th on the all-time scoring list with 26,534 points and 10th in career scoring average at 25.3 ppg. His power and flair for the slam dunk was unmatched even by Michael Jordan whose slam dunk showdowns are treasured in basketball history. The Human Highlight Film is one of the coolest nicknames ever.
Vince's gravity defying dunks are so amazing SLAM magazine ranked him the greatest dunker of all time. What makes him superhuman is that he does these incredible dunks not just in a contest but in real games. He doesn't need any props or gimmicks. On the biggest stage, the 2000 Olympics was half man, half amazing when dunking on a 7 foot 2 inch French center. One of the most jaw dropping plays I've ever seen, and deservedly one of the clever nicknames in NBA history.
6. World B. Free, All World Lloyd Bernard Free
Free earned his nickname all World as a middle schooler who could score anywhere on the court. The NBA all-star averaged more than 30 points a game for the then San Diego Clippers. Philadelphia fans remember his sweet jumper. Today he works as an Ambassador for the Philadelphia 76ers. Anyone who legally changes their birth name to a nickname deserves a top spot on the list.
5. Pistol Pete Pete Maravich
The greatest collegiate scorer of all time, Pete Maravich got his nickname in grade school because he shot from the hip like a gun-slinger. His talents made the Harlem Globetrotters seem basic. He was a prodigy, a basketball wizard, voted one of the top 50 NBA players of all time.
4. Michael Air Jordan Michael Jordan
It looked like MJ was walking on air as he floated to the rim. He could fly on his own omission even if for only a second. It was an image of air-walking that turned a nickname into a billion dollar brand that continues to thrive as the most recognized athletic brand on the market. The only reason Air Jordan isn't ranked higher is because most people refer to him as Michael Jordan not Michael Air.
3. Dr. J - Julius the Doctor Erving Julius Erving
Before Jordan walked on air, Dr. J took dunking to an art-form. A friend in high school gave Erving the nickname The Doctor because of the way we could slice through defenses and "operate" on his opponents playing basketball. Throughout his career the Doctor made house-calls to the rim. Still today, throughout any sport, Dr. J is a recognized name. There may be multiple people with the nickname "Red" or "Big E" but there will never be another Dr. J.
2. Magic Earvin Johnson
When a nickname becomes so popular that people think it's the person's legal name from birth, then you have something special. Johnson has turned Magic into a billion dollar brand which includes Magic Theatres and a business empire. A sportswriter gave him the nickname Magic when he was 15 years old after a high school game were he scored 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists.
1. Chocolate Thunder Darryl Dawkins from Planet Lovetron
Nobody has brought more creative naming to basketball than Double D. Described as a freight train in the lane, the self-proclaimed Chocolate Thunder from Planet Lovetron named his dunks. After shattering two backboards during games in the 1979 season he dubbed them the Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam-I-Am Jam, In Your Face Disgrace, The Go-rilla, Earthquaker Shaker, Candyslam, Dunk You Very Much, Look Out Below, Yo Mama, Turbo Sexophonic Delight, Rim Wrecker, Greyhound Bus (went coast-to-coast), Cover Your Head, and Spine Chiller Supreme. In 2000 Darryl Dawkins was named Man of the Millenium by Saturday Night Live. With that on your resume' how can I not place him at number 1? Today Dawkins is the official Ambassador of the NBA Nation touring the globe every summer. He gives generously of his time to charities for special needs children, and kids of all ages, and has enjoyed coaching AAU, semi-pro, and college basketball in recent years. He is one of the nicest celebrities you will ever meet. He still signs his autograph with the inscription "Choc Thunder #53."
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