If you’re not hip to the story of the Mavericks’ 27-year-old rookie, Bernard James, then you absolutely must read Jonathan Abrams’ Grantland profile of the military veteran turned professional basketball player. From high school dropout to Iraq and Afghanistan to junior college national champion to Florida State University to the NBA draft, it’s an incredible story and it’s impossible to pick the good parts since the whole thing is the good parts.
That being said, there is one important anecdote that we all need to be aware of heading in to the NBA season. It regards a nickname that might change the power structure of nicknames in the NBA.
One day, Staff Sergeant Rob Grey, a regular running mate of James’s, witnessed the best basketball play he has ever seen. James lost the ball and a scrum ensued. Out of nowhere, he emerged from the crowd with the ball and delivered a two-handed, rim-rattling dunk. “He was literally the equivalent of Shaq in the military,” Grey said. “There was nothing anybody could do.”
Even though he’s only listed at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, wouldn’t “Shaq of the Military” or “Military Shaq” or something that combines the fact that he’s both a war veteran and a huge, fierce human instantly be one of the best nicknames in the league? It makes your D-Wills and your LMAs and your Flashes look so sissy in comparison. Like who cares about comic books when there is a guy who came from the Air Force and just likes dunking all over the place? It would be awesome. There aren’t many better combinations than paying respect for military service while giving a favorable comparison to an NBA legend.
Sure, there’s a worry that this nickname ends up being a curse, like when Gary Trent was “The Shaq of the MAC,” but it’s still worth it for the time being. If the guy can go from serving three tours overseas to dunking in the NBA, the least we could do is hook him up with a wonderful moniker right when he enters the league. (It is literally the least we could do. There is nothing less than a blog nickname.) And hey, it’s certainly better than “Lomax” or whatever this idiot came up with.
So yeah, “The Shaq of the Military” — I can work with that. Considering the real Shaq comes from a military family, I think he’d be fine with it too. Now go read about Bernard James. You’ll be happy you did.