"Mini-LeBron," Bledsoe contemplated. "I guess it's a cool nickname."
Being bestowed the honor of a nickname that pays homage to the talents of another great player is exhilarating. Who doesn't like being called the next big thing in his or her respective industry? The next Bill Gates, the next Steve Jobs, the next Sarah Palin--all right, scratch that last one.
How about a mini version of someone else? "Mini Bill Gates" loses a little bit of its luster compared to being "The Next Bill Gates," but it might still be tolerable to a budding information technology professional. However, that same notion doesn't apply in the NBA.
The next time a professional basketball player in the NBA is called a miniature version of somebody else, he needs to refute the nickname vehemently before it spreads like wildfire. The NBA cognoscenti know that being a mini or baby adaptation of a great player is committing career suicide.
Harold Miner was known as "Baby Jordan." Let's see, he did win the Slam Dunk Contest twice, in 1993 and 1995. Hall of Famer Michael Jordan also won it twice, in 1987 and 1988. Other than that, the NBA no longer wanted Miner after three seasons with the Miami Heat and one with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe a more suitable moniker would've been "Baby Orphan."
In recent past, former Los Angeles Lakers rookie Andrew Goudelock got tagged with the "Mini Mamba" nickname for his propensity to shoot. Well, like Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, he did become a Most Valuable Player--but for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA Development League. At least he kept with the snake theme by joining the Vipers.
Bledsoe can cite those two as reasons to drop the "Mini LeBron" handle.
Bledsoe is a 6-foot-1, strong-bodied guard with a rocket vertical. His ball-hawking defense makes him a gnat when point guards are trying to coordinate their offensive sets.
He actually hearkens back to a former Denver Nuggets guard who also happens to be a Clippers assistant coach, Robert Pack. And no, don't call him "Mini Pack" or any similar amalgamation of that sort.
Maybe hearing "Mini LeBron" warmed the Celtics up to the idea of trading center Kevin Garnett for Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler. If they can't beat the guy who eliminated them from the playoffs two years in a row, why not get the mini version of him?
The Clippers faced the full-sized LeBron on Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Through only three quarters and 31 minutes of play, James went for 30 points on a pinpoint precise 9-of-11 from the field in a 111-89 rout.
In about 28 minutes and backing up a returning Chris Paul, Bledsoe had seven points--barely one-fourth of James' point production. Maybe he is "Mini LeBron."
Nonetheless, since taking the helm of the Clippers' offense for nine games while Paul was out of the lineup, Bledsoe averaged 15 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. With those numbers, the guy needs a new and better nickname.
Right now, Bledsoe's future is dependent on Paul, and, quite frankly, Paul's pen. Paul must decide whether he wants to re-sign with the Clippers or try to fetch a max deal via free agency from other suitors.
Given that the Clippers had a 3-6 record the nine games he was out nursing a bruised right kneecap, he's aware of just how vital his offensive orchestration is to the team. But will good old Clippers owner Donald Sterling continue his frugal ways or continue the spendthrift turn when he extended Blake Griffin, added Jamal Crawford and other pieces?
In essence, Bledsoe's current existence is that of an insurance policy in the event Paul decides to vamoose. Insurance policy. Eric "GEICO" Bledsoe.
Maybe Bledsoe's inclusion in this year's Slam Dunk Contest will conceive a nickname that's more apt. Here it is: "Air-ic Bledsoe." He could also pay reverence to his home state and call himself "The Alabama Slamma"--too much of a WWE feel, though.
The cool kids nowadays are using simple mathematical formulas that don't reek MIT speakeasy. For example, first initial plus surname initial plus jersey number equals instant nickname. As a result, we have "CP3." Bledsoe can be "EB12." Algebraic expressions as nicknames don't inspire much creativity, but that seems to be the latest craze.
Then there's the much easier nickname generated from using the first initial plus shortened surname. Case in point, Dwyane Wade's "D-Wade." What about "E-Bled?"Whatever the case, Bledsoe would be wise to stay away from diminutive nicknames that reflect a scaled down version of someone else. Be you, Bledsoe, and don't let anyone tell you different.
Ben Hernandez Jr. is an editor at a business school in Southern California and a writer/contributor at Sports Out West.