Magic Johnson. Pistol Pete Maravich. David “The Admiral” Robinson. The NBA has a rich history of awesome player nicknames. In recent years I’ve felt like the league, and the public, has been slacking in the nickname department. Too often we fall into the A-Rod trap of simply using the first initial and the start of the last name. Or just using the initials and then the number. It lacks imagination. I kept feeling like there had to be more out there.
Finally, last week, when asked what I was going to write about and I had no ideas, I decided I had had enough. I went through all 450 player pages on basketball-reference.com and found my top three favorite nicknames on each team. I do not know where this site gets some of its information, but I am forever thankful. Move over, His Airness Michael Jordan, because there are some doozies. Most people know the obvious ones, like The Beard and The Brow for James Harden and Anthony Davis. I will instead be highlighting some of the more obscure nicknames in the NBA.
- Georges Niang – Minivan
- Ersan Ilyasova – Turkish Thunder
- Rudy Gobert – The Stifle Tower, The French Rejection
I know I literally just said I’d be highlighting the more obscure ones. A lot of fans know about Gobert’s French roots and these nicknames, I just love them so much.
- Mikal Bridges – Inspector GoGo Gadget, Praying Mantis
- Jae Crowder – The Beast
- Jalen Smith – Stix, Logs
For Bridges, they seem to have combined the character’s name and catchphrase? Smith was the skinniest person on his AAU team so he got the nickname Stix from his coach. He bulked up at Maryland and so they called him Logs. I’m down for that.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Ivica Zubac – Zu Alcindor
- Rajon Rondo – Johnny, The Yoga Instructor
- Kawhi Leonard – The Claw
Zubac is nothing like Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Like, nothing. As for Kawhi, he should have such a cooler nickname than this. Thanks, Liar Liar.
- Will Barton – The People’s Champ
- Paul Millsap – The Anchorman
- Monte Morris – The Count of Monte Assist/TO
Monte’s moniker is my pick for “Most Creative” in the league. Absolutely dynamic construction.
Los Angeles Lakers
- Wes Matthews – Iron Man
- Andre Drummond – Big Penguin
- Alex Caruso – Bald Mamba
Mamba count–1. This number will go up.
Portland Trail Blazers
- Derrick Jones Jr. – Airplane Mode Jones
- Carmelo Anthony – Hoodie Melo
- Jusef Nurkic – The Bosnian Beast
You might be catching on that if you are not from America, that will play a role in your nickname.
Dallas Mavericks (overall worst nicknames in the league)
- Kristaps Porzingis – Unicorn
- Dorian Finney-Smith – Doe-Doe
- Luka Doncic – Luka Legend?
Luka has a long list of names I’ve never heard. Do we need a nickname for this man? He’s just Luka, but should there be an alternative?
- Kyle Anderson – Slo Mo
- Tyus Jones – Tyus Stones
- Jonas Valanciunas – Lithuanian Lightning
No, he’s not fast.
Golden State Warriors
- Kelly Oubre Jr. – Tsunami Papi
- Gary Payton II – The Mitten
- James Wiseman – The Big Ticket
Payton is playing off his father’s nickname The Glove, while Wiseman needs to apologize for ever thinking he can take KG’s tag.
San Antonio Spurs
- Gorgui Dieng – Senegalese Sniper
- Rudy Gay – The Great Rudini
- Patty Mills – Patty Cakes
So Dieng gets the foreigner treatment, but Patty Mills does not…
New Orleans Pelicans
- James Johnson – Bloodsport
- Brandon Ingram – Slenderman
- Stephen Adams – Aquaman
Adams actually does look like Jason Mamoa.
- Harrison Barnes – Black Falcon
- Hassan Whiteside – Count Blockula
- Buddy Hield – Buddy Buckets
Honorable Mention, De’Aaron Fox – Swipa.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Lou Dort – Fortress
- Kenrich Williams – Kenny Hustle
- Al Horford – Godfather
Is it a thing in the Godfather trilogy where a player gets sent home to chill just so the young players can get some run?
- Anthony Edwards – Ant-Man
- Naz Reid – Big Jelly
- Jake Layman – Sunshine
Great nickname for any white player thanks to Remember the Titans.
- John Wall – Optimus Dime
- David Nwaba – Mr. Dunk
- Eric Gordon – Splash Gordon, Hobbit
Hobbit is just an incredible nickname. Hobbits are noble creatures.
- Mike Scott – The Threegional Manager
- Danny Green – Icy Hot
- Ben Simmons – The Wizard of Oz, Fresh Prince, Peacemaker
People do not often call Simmons any of these, but what a collection.
- Joe Harris – Beef Jerky Joe
- Landry Shamet – One a Day
- Kevin Durant/Nic Claxton – The Slim Reaper
It’s hilarious that two people on the same team have the same tag. I wonder if they talk about it in the locker room or while strolling on the promenade?
- Kris Middleton – WD40
- Pat Connaughton – Vanilla Thunder
- PJ Tucker – PJ is a nickname!
It stands for Pops Junior!
- Danillo Gallinari – The Rooster
- Clint Capella – Swiss Bank
- Kevin Heurter – Red Mamba
Mamba count–2. Also, wasn’t this Brian Skalabrine’s nickname as well?
New York Knicks
- Frank Ntilikina – Frankie Smokes
- Mitchell Robinson – The Block Ness Monster
- RJ Barrett – Maple Mamba
Mamba count–3. He’s Canadian.
- Robert Williams – Time Lord
- Semi Ojeleye – Muscles Jesus, Ox, Thor, Man Made of Granite
- Carson Edwards – Eddie House
I think it’s ridiculous that Carson’s nickname is listed as just the name of another Celtics role player from the past.
- Nemanja Bjelica – Professor Big Shots
- Trevor Ariza – Switchblade
- Bam Adebayo – Bam is a nickname.
Bam comes from the Flintstones character.
- Cody Zeller – The Big Handsome
- Malik Monk – God of Dunk
- Terry Rozier – Scary Terry
I appreciate how Rozier has grown into this nickname. It’s been around for a while, but he is a real problem for teams now.
- Justin Holiday – The Fireman
- Malcolm Brogdon – The President
- JaKarr Sampson – Spongebob Sampson
He is such a big Spongebob fan that it’s his nickname. How big a fan does that mean he is? Is he wearing an adult Spongebob onesie on the road?
- Al-Farouq Aminu – Chief
- Thad Young – Thadgic Johnson
- Lauri Markkanen – The Finnisher
Thad’s is quite clunky. Markkanen is from Finland and so they portmanteau-ed the nationality and the skill.
- Russell Westbrook – The Brodie
- Brad Beal – Big Panda, Blue Magic
- Jordan Bell – Swatterboy (Stay tuned.)
We should be calling Brad Beal Big Panda all the time. It’s great. Apparently, he eats a lot.
- Chris Boucher – Swatterboy
- Pascal Siakam – Spicy P
- Yuta Watanabe – The Chosen One
So Boucher and Bell both have the Swatterboy nickname. Do they know this? Do they have a feud about it?
- Matthew Dellavedova – Outback Jesus
- Collin Sexton – Young Bull
- Cedi Osman – Jedi
“This is not the role player you are looking for.”
- Markelle Fulz – Quick Wash
- Jonathan Isaac – Minister of Defense
- Terrence Ross – The Human Torch
I will be calling Ross The Captain after his iconic tweet at the trade deadline.
- Rodney McGruder – The Scavenger
- Mason Plumlee – Plumdog Millionaire
- Isaiah Stewart – Beef Stew
See, this is an exemplary nickname for Mr. Stewart. It fits his game, it works with his name, and it’s not a paragraph long. Perfect.
I guess I was wrong about there being a dearth of creative nicknames in the NBA. Kind of? Have a great day.