When ranking the proper names of every player in the NBA, it occurred to me how reliant certain players are on their nicknames — so much so that without them, their real names just seem vacant, almost totally blank. Who is this Richard Hamilton? Wasn’t Chris Andersen a TV show host? Glen Davis … like the guy who played for the Astros in the ’80s? In a league as personality-driven as the NBA — and no league in professional sports has as many characters, at least not in this continent — sometimes the regular names of these guys just aren’t good enough to embody all that we know and love about them. We need something more.

Naturally, I decided the only fair thing was to give these noms de hoops a ranked list of their own. Not all of them have become as pervasive as “Rip” or “Birdman,” but they’ve all come to at least partially color our perception of a player, and in some cases, even if they don’t replace their own parentally-given names, they at least compound and add depth to them. As with my real name list, I worked off the active players in ESPN’s Top 500 list, and used every nickname I could think of (or found and could corroborate were in fact legit, in-use nicknames). I also pared them down using the following criteria:

1. I didn’t use any nicknames that were just abbreviations of the players’ names (KG, Melo, J-Rich) unless they somehow adapted the original name (Iggy, CP3, Bassy).

2. I didn’t use any nicknames that were only really associated with a player when they were on a previous team (Mo Gotti, CB4) or that they’ve since asked to be retired (Flash).

3. I didn’t use any nicknames that were too recent or locker-room-specific to have really gained any long-term traction (Gatsby, J-Teeth), or could really only be traced back to one non-league personality in particular (Trick-or-Treat Tony, SANDERS!)

Ultimately, I was left with just 81 nicknames. You’d think there would be more, but you’d be surprised some of the big-name players — Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Jason Kidd — that we never seemed to come up with acceptable nickname for, besides boring abbreviations. And then of course, someone like Donald Sloan or Greg Smith might secretly be nicknamed “White Zinfandel” for no particular reason, but we probably wouldn’t know unless they or their teammates made a big deal out of it.

Anyway, using those 81 names, I ranked using these guiding principles:

1. How iconic is your nickname? Are even casual fans familiar with your nickname? Can your name not be mentioned multiple times without your nickname coming into play at least once? If someone refers to you by your nickname alone, is there any doubt who they’re talking about?

2. How accurate is your nickname? If George Hill was nicknamed “Bonecrusher,” that wouldn’t be nearly as good of a nickname as if Ivan Johnson was. It might still not be that great, but point is, technical accuracy goes a long way.

3. How was your nickname acquired? Did it come about in an organic or semi-organic way, devised by your fans or teammates/peers? Have you had it since childhood? Or did you just decide to give it to yourself one day? The first two are almost always cooler than the third.

4. How does your nickname relate to your real name? Does it complement it? Has it totally supplanted it? Or is it sort of unnecessary, considering how already perfect and iconic your real name is?

All that in mind, here we go. Again, too many names to explain each, but will answer specific questions in the comments or on Twitter. (And yes, this will be my final name-related list. No middle names or wife names or derogatory Skip Bayless nicknames to follow.)

81    Iggy    (Andre Iguodala)
80    Junkyard Dog    (DeMarre Carroll)
79    EJ    (Eric Gordon)
78    Big Al    (Al Jefferson)
77    Bogey    (Andrew Bogut)
76    McBob    (Josh McRoberts)
75    Superman    (Dwight Howard)
74    The Man From Sudan    (Luol Deng)
73    Boss    (Ed Davis)
72    CP3    (Chris Paul)
71    Joker    (Reggie Evans)
70    Black Falcon    (Harrison Barnes)
69    Pooh    (Derrick Rose)
68    Il Mago    (Andrea Bargnani)
67    Super Mario    (Mario Chalmers)
66    Swish    (J.R. Smith)
65    Young Money    (Brandon Jennings)
64    Born Ready    (Lance Stephenson)
63    Batman    (Danny Granger)
62    Bassy    (Sebastian Telfair)
61    Novakaine    (Steve Novak)
60    Sarge    (Bernard James)
59    Serge Protector    (Serge Ibaka)
58    Sweet Lou    (Lou Williams)
57    The Dream    (Hasheem Thabeet)
56    JerBear    (Jerry Stackhouse)
55    Candyman    (Lamar Odom)
54    Chuck Wagon    (Chuck Hayes)
53    Big Ticket    (Kevin Garnett)
52    Captain Kirk    (Kirk Hinrich)
51    Mini-LeBron    (Eric Bledsoe)
50    Dragon    (Goran Dragic)
49    Human Pogo Stick    (Jeremy Evans)
48    Flight    (James White)
47    Sideshow Andy    (Anderson Varejao)
46    The Beard    (James Harden)
45    Big Turkey    (Enes Kanter)
44    Big German    (Dirk Nowitzki)
43    Captain Jack    (Stephen Jackson)
42    B-Easy    (Michael Beasley)
41    Fresh Prince    (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute)
40    Linsanity    (Jeremy Lin)
39    Mel Mel the Abuser    (Jamaal Tinsley)
38    Red Rocket    (Matt Bonner)
37    Roddy Buckets    (Rodrigue Beaubois)
36    Durantula    (Kevin Durant)
35    Boobie    (Daniel Gibson)
34    J-Smoove    (Josh Smith)
33    Jet    (Jason Terry)
32    Juice    (OJ Mayo)
31    Air France   (Mickael Pietrus)
30    Boogie   (DeMarcus Cousins)
29    Mr. 500    (Lavoy Allen)
28    Michael Jordan of Turkey    (Hedo Turkoglu)
27    Chandler Bang    (Chandler Parsons)
26    King James    (LeBron James)
25    Pierre    (JaVale McGee)
24    Vanilla Gorilla    (Joel Przybilla)
23    The Rooster    (Danilo Gallinari)
22    STAT    (Amar’e Stoudemire)
21    Black Mamba    (Kobe Bryant)
20    Brazilian Blur    (Leandro Barbosa)
19    Polish Hammer    (Marcin Gortat)
18    Rip    (Richard Hamilton)
17    Unibrow    (Anthony Davis)
16    Big Fundamental    (Tim Duncan)
15    Jesus Shuttlesworth    (Ray Allen)
14    Crash    (Gerald Wallace)
13    Mr. Big Shot    (Chauncey Billups)
12    Psycho T    (Tyler Hansbrough)
11    The Villain    (Evan Turner)
10    Half-Man, Half-Amazing    (Vince Carter)
9    Birdman    (Chris Andersen)
8    Z-Bo    (Zach Randolph)
7    Manimal    (Kenneth Faried)
6    The Matrix    (Shawn Marion)
5    Swaggy P    (Nick Young)
4    AK-47    (Andrei Kirilenko)
3    Big Baby    (Glen Davis)
2    Tuff Juice    (Caron Butler)
1    The Truth    (Paul Pierce)

Comments (173)

  1. Fantastic work, as always!

  2. ‘Wild ass’ Chuck Hayes and ‘Sexual’ Favors are MIA. and now for some meaningless opinion: I think Pierre is wildly underated as a nickname. Unibrow is weak. I thought Joel was the Ghostface Pryzbilla?

    • Never heard the Hayes one, not convinced anyone actually calls Favors that. In retrospect I may have ranked “Unibrow” too high—it’s certainly not very creative, but I think it might become quickly iconic. I’ve heard both for Przybilla but prefer “Vanilla Gorilla.”

  3. As soon as I saw the title of this post, I knew The Truth would be number one. All-around great nickname.

  4. What? No love for The Mississippi Missile (Monta Ellis)?

  5. Tuff Juice is way too high.

    • “I`m gonna go ahead and disagree with that.” Tuff Juice is exactly where it should be : in the top five.

  6. Hahaha Michael Jordan of Turkey hahahahaha

  7. Mel-Mel the Abuser is far and away the best nickname on that list. Not even close.

    • Possibly, but I had never even heard of it until Trey noted it as an omission from an early draft of my list. Lack of exposure hurts.

  8. Chandler Bang is the worst nickname in the NBA

  9. i think Asik ” The White Howard” nickname should be in the list.

  10. I feel like CP3 should be higher, along with JR Swish. Very happy to see Swaggy P in the top five though…

    • Yeah I mighta lowballed CP3. Dunno about Swish, tho—does J.R. Smith really need a nickname? I say no.

      • Great list. There are some awesome nicknames.
        CP3 got lowballed, so did Novakaine.
        Personally I love the nickname “The Brazilian Blur”, especially when Barbosa was in his prime– he really was a blur. It’s like he was always using Whirlwind Sprint from Skyrim.

  11. “Dame” – Damian Lillard

  12. Disappointed in the lack of Isaiah “Pizza Guy” Thomas.

  13. No love for the retired White Mamba

  14. JaVale McGee having Pierre as his nickname is priceless. He so much not a Pierre that he almost is a Pierre.

    Best name AND best nickname

    • I agree wholeheartedly. I definitely want the story on this one.

      “Pierre” is so awesomely not appropriate for McGee at all. And that’s why, it is.

      • ““Pierre” is so awesomely not appropriate for McGee at all. And that’s why, it is.”

        exactly. you nailed it.

  15. “Big Al” is ranked way too low, and Big Baby is the greatest and most appropriate nickname in the history of sports.

    • Big Baby was originally my #2. I felt skittish about it for some reason. Really, I was very satisfied with my #1, but I wasn’t happy with any nickname at #2.

  16. I agree with “Tuff Juice” being too high, with “Durantula” being far too low.

    • “Durantula” would be higher if I felt like he in any way needed the nickname. He doesn’t, though.

  17. Where’s the Big Ticket????

    And I agree that The Truth = the best

  18. Wait. J.R. Smiths nickname is ‘Earl’

  19. What about Quincy “Cookie Monster” Acy?

  20. Since McRoberts is technically plural, should it actually be McBobs?

  21. what about the latest movement dubbing the king, Lebron “Video Game” James??

    • Video Games is kind of a lazy nickname for any player (I liked it better, though still not a lot, when Trey suggested it for Kyrie Irving a couple weeks ago), and LeBron is at a point in his career where it’s a little late for him to be picking up new nicknames unless they pertain to something specific and new to him.

  22. Was the Serbian Gangster disqualified for being waived?

    • Oooh, that’s a miss on my part. Shoulda been Top 30.

      • Isn’t Darko not in the league? So “Serbian Gangster” shouldn’t count.

        I’m a big fan of “Pek-tacular” or Big Pek for Pekovic.

        • I counted “in the league” as “having played this season.” So Darko is fair game (and ranked quite high on my real names list).

    • Nathan, shouldn’t you have some epic nickname? Outback Shaq has been thrown around…

  23. No love for Super Cool Beas?!

  24. I don’t think any team offers more obnoxious fans than the Lakers.

    • Does anyone know who the guy is in the picture? I see him every game behind the TV analysts and he just has such an unforgettable face, it drives me nuts. Obviously if he has season tickets that close, he’s rich, but is he famous to any extent?

  25. The Truth is #1 with a bullet.
    Great list.

  26. I know it’s only from this season, but “Young Nathan”,” as dubbed by Novakaine

  27. Beasley was robbed! Could’ve also gone w/ “Supercool Beas,” which I would argue is a top-10 name.

  28. AK47 will always be my favorite NBA nickname. It’s just perfect.

  29. What about J Crossover for Jamal Crawford. It’s been his nickname for a long time. It’s even his twitter handle.

  30. I’m fully on board with ignoring Big Baby’s request to retire his nickname.

  31. How did Javale McGee get the nickname Pierre?? For whatever reason I find it hilarious and quite accurate though. Some you forgot: Chris Kaman(The Caveman), Dirk Nowitzki is also (Disco Dirk), Rodney Stucky (Young 50), Tayshaun Prince ( Paper Thin), Kwame Brown (Coffee with No Cream), Jason Maxiell (The Baby Eater), Nikola Pekovic (The Butcher) Nate Robinson (Kryptonate) Luke Walton ( Uncle Luke), Trevor Ariza (Cobra), Marco Belinelli (Beli), Grant Hill (G-Money), Ty Lawson (Roadrunner), William Parker (Smush), and Rasheed Wallace (Roscoe) ……

  32. How bout Large Marge for the fat lady create a player from NBA Jam? Or Pongo?

  33. I would pay good money to hear Leigh Ellis read these in an unbroken list like his twitter shout outs.

  34. I’m shocked and appaulled Uncle Drew did not make the list.

    • yea, probably should’ve been on there. I would’ve put it on the bottom half though because it still hasn’t quite caught on.

      • additionally, as discussed previously, “Kyrie” is an awesome name in itself, making the nickname somewhat unnecessary.

  35. No room for Bynumite?

  36. Monrobocop, dammit!

  37. I like to call Jerryd Bayless “Jay Bay Bay.” When he starts his 3 stroke, you stand with hands in the air as if signalling a touchdown and yell; “Jay BAY BAY!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTPAkRETm7c

  38. Big Turkey is hilarious. Jrue Tha Damaja is a good one. Again 10 minutes thinking of classics:

    The Round Mound of Rebound – Barkley
    The Big Dipper – Wilt Chamberlain
    The Dream – Clyde Drexler
    Clyde – Walt Frazier
    The Pearl – Earl Monroe
    The Big Nasty – Corliss Williamson
    Big Dog – Glenn Robinson
    The Big Sleep – Tracy McGrady
    The Big O – Oscar Robertson
    Big Country – Bryant Reeves
    Monster Mash – Jamal Mashburn
    Thunder from Down Under – Dan Marleje
    His Airness – Michael Jordan
    The Mailman – Karl Malone
    Mighty Mouse – Damon Stoudamire
    White Chocolate – Jason Williams
    The Glove – Gary Payton
    The Kangaroo Kid – Billy Cunningham
    Dr. J – Julius Erving
    Magic – Ervin Johnson
    Iceman – George Gervin
    Sky – Kenny Walker
    Kandy Man – Michael Olawakandi
    The Admiral – David Robinson
    Sleepy – Eric Floyd
    The Answer – Allen Iverson

  39. Think Novakaine should be a bit higher. Ill Will for Wilson Chandler is kinda nice. MozGod for Mozgov (maybe I’m the only one who called him that)?

    • I do love Clyde’s insistence on referring to him as “Novakaine” at every possible opportunity. Otherwise, not sure it’s that great a nickname.

  40. Marc Gasol- Big Spain
    Tony Allen- GrindFather

    • But does Marc have the corner on Big Spain? I feel like I’ve heard some people call Pau that.

      I like “GrindFather” but that doesn’t really fit Tony’s attitude.

      The list is missing Hamed “Hot Daddy” but that might only be known to Memphis fans.

  41. No love for Moose?

  42. How can anyone forget about Corey Magettes’s nickname? Bad P*rn. I give him top ranking.

  43. i good nickname should tell you every about a player without ever watching him play.

    The Manimal, Ak-47, Crash, The Matrix, and Michael Jordan of Turkey are all classics

  44. Can I call for a move to switch Davis’ “Unibrow” to “Unibro?”

  45. lol, I forgot all about bad por n, best nickname ever

  46. Didn’t “The Human Victory Cigar” catch on while Darko was in Detroit, or was that just a Kenny Smith creation?

  47. kobe, the black mamba should be waaayyy higher, contrary to popular belief, he did not give himself that nickname, someone else gave it to him, he talks about in his espn interview a couple months ago…..BLACK MAMBA!

    • Still, when a player doesn’t get a nickname until 12 years into his professional career, how much a part of his core essence can it really claim to capture?

  48. I really want Rudy “Not This Guy” Gay to catch on.

  49. Vince will always be Air Canada Carter to me

  50. The only one I strongly disagree with is Chauncey Billups as “Mr. Big Shot” being so high. The dude has a terrible clutch percentage, and the name isn’t all that original or really that fitting. Otherwise, good work. I, for one, think tuff juice is the perfect nickname for caron butler.

  51. “Cold-Blooded” for Isaiah Thomas. “Tuff Juice” is incredible and properly ranked. I prefer “Point God” for Chris Paul, CP3 isn’t a real nickname.

  52. I feel like “Disco Dirk” or the “Dirkus Circus” are far superior names to the Big German, not sure how many people call him that though. Plus Dirk Nowitzki is a solid name in and of itself.

  53. Maybe you can clear something up for me… I’ve always thought of a nickname as being a suitable replacement for the name itself. A lot of these work…. I’ve heard announcers use the matrix, big baby, z-bo, manimal, etc., in the normal flow of calling a game. But I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone use “The Truth” in a broadcast, except when explaining the origin (e.g. “Paul Pierce, nicknamed “the truth” by Shaquille O’neal back in such-and-such year,” never “And The Truth pulls up for a 3″) I always hear the phrase “And that’s why they call him [nickname]!!” but never actually hear someone use the handle as a replacement for their name… so most of these read less like nicknames to me and more like… i dunno, descriptive titles or something.

  54. Isn’t Ibaka more commonly known as Air Congo or Serge Iblocka?

  55. Always loved Lance Stephenson’s nickname; it’s made a comeback this year for sure.

    As for the classics and keeping the Pacer theme – Reggie Miller = Knick Killer.

  56. you forgot Gordon Hayward – G time

    his rap alias: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHTey3uHFDE

  57. Greg MonROBOCOP !!!!!

  58. Holy shit I haven’t heard many of these. I need to watch some league pass and hear old commentators saying some of these hilarious nicknames

  59. The Serge Protecter for Ibaka …..really can’t believe that is his nickname…..Called him CHEWBAKKA since his rookie year

  60. Since when has Nick Young been Swaggy P? Never heard of him being referred to that once.

    • never heard him referred to as that? so you’ve never watched/listened to the basketball jones?

    • Yeah, even Doug Collins refers to Young almost exclusively as Swaggy P at this point.

  61. How could you leave out The Nashty One?

  62. I like Roddy Buckets, shoulda been higher.

  63. You forgot about The Battery, Alan Anderson (Double A).

  64. Great read, Psycho T has to be a top 5 nickname but then who do ya bump down? The top five is very solid and Dirk Nowitzki could have been Dirk Diggler which should put him a lil higher.

    • Feel like Psycho T has been out of use for a little while. Maybe we just need more Tyler Hansbrough prominence in the league. Hopefully he’ll do something wacky in the playoffs this year.

  65. Great, great work. I really enjoyed browsing through the list. I’ve always enjoyed the following nicknames for (extremely) various reasons :
    - Rip Hamilton (haven’t heard “Richard” in 33 centuries or so, closest thing to “Spud” or “Magic”, in terms of nicknames, in the league today) ;
    - AK47 (Speaks for itself, everything about it is perfect) ;
    - The Matrix (always been a huge Marion fan, nickname fits exquisitely).

    Another one I haven’t seen : Hair Canada. I used to call Steve Nash that during his MVP years. After the “other” Air Canada left (Vince Carter).

    For some reason I really enjoy the nickname Pierre, but it has to be pronounce like any english speaker would, not like I would naturally do it (I’m from Quebec, so french is my first language).

  66. Imma let you finish but swaggy p is one of the best nicknames ever.

  67. David West = Westicles

    Top 10 easy

  68. Dont forget “The Human Victory Blunt” for Rasheed

  69. Where’s Eric Gordon’s real nickname – HOBBIT?? http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/One-on-One-Eric-Gordon-talks-LA-IU-and-ho?urn=nba,141161

    Moose has to be in the top 10; Andy Varejao’s real nickname is “Wild Thing” which is solid as well.

  70. The Omen is catching on in Portland as Damien lillards nickname. It will become universal. Anthony Davis’ nickname is just “the brow”. Skynet is his new one though, and its way cooler.

  71. From an Q & A with Dirk on grantland:
    “Rumor has it the team calls you the Big Mummy now. .”

    Has at least top ten potential!

  72. “the baby eater” jason maxiell should have made this list.. also “cake hands” kwame brown

  73. I don’t know about everyone else, but Jerome Williams will always be “The Junkyard Dog”, forget Demarre Carroll

  74. Great list. I would say that Birdman might might transcend this list entirely. I feel like its the only nickname here where some casual fans would know the nickname and not Chris Andersen’s real name. Also, the fact that Chris Andersen refers to himself as the Birdman has to count for something. Its in a category all its own.

  75. I think my two favorite nicknames that were omitted are Brandon Bass’s “No Pass Bass” and Tony Allen’s “Trick or Treat Tony” (though I’m not really sure how widely known/used that is outside of Simmons).

    • I know locker room specific is out……but in Boston they were calling Mike P aka Air France, Peaches. And for whatever reason, I think this is the greatest nickname of all time.

      • Wasn’t just a locker room specific thing, most of the Celtics fans I know called him that (I still do). I agree, it’s a fantastic nickname.

  76. How is Mel Mel The Abuser not in the top 10?

  77. What about vegetable Lasagne or Primo ? Nobody except chuck swarsky, Matt devlin and the raptors marketing team refer to Bargs as Il Mago.

  78. OJ Mayo’s nickname is really just his full name, which is Orange Juice Mayonaise.

  79. Big fan of Taj Mahal while it does not make a ton of sense which makes it not eligible the way Stacy King say’s anything makes it great.

    • Also loul’s new nicknames loul-dengerous and Lieutenant Deng

      • Agreed here… Those are Deng’s nicknames. Also, I rarely hear anyone refer to Rose as pooh… I think that’s more a family and friend thing. Fans and announcers go the DRose route.

  80. I thought Serge Ibaka was known more for “IBLOCKA” and Michael Beasley was called “Super Cool Beas” , and he has that tattooed on his body.

  81. Wasn’t Nene the Brazilian Hammer?

  82. Awesome list! But where is Dirkules for Dirk??

  83. The Thunder have a serious nickname deficiency. Serge Ibaka is such an awesome sounding name to begin with. Nick Collison needs a good nickname. After the Russell Westbrook Dog or Cat discussion, I think we need to push for something like Jack Russell Westminister or Russcat Dingo.

    Although I have no idea why Kevin Martin can’t be branded “Angles”. Everything he is and does is and angular.

  84. Emanuel Ginobili = Manu
    ppl dont even think its a nickname whats better then that

  85. I prefer Lou for one for Lou Williams, and think that’s about 35…

  86. Durantula should have been higher IMO. Great list though!

  87. Come on son Black Falcon is hands down the worst nickname in the league haha

  88. i dunno about lamar bein candy man i thought that was that olawakandi fellow he used to play with, and superman i find bunk for howard since he won the dunk contest wit dat cape but didnt even really dunk the damn ball…. but whatever i like to call tim duncan t double d’s and nowitzki dirk mcgirrt haha but good list anyways!

    • & also dont really like vince carters 1/2 man 1/2 amazing as its actually an and1 street ballers name, and jus kenny smith called vc that in the dunk contest so shouldnta made da list…

  89. what about the beaubonic plague for Rodrigue Beaubois????

  90. “Bones” Brent Barry.

  91. What about jorts for josh harrellson, cool name, cool story

  92. The Bayou Bomber – Marcus Thornton?

  93. Pau Gasol “The White Swan” missed out

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