With LeBron (King James) and Kyrie (Uncle Drew) pushing Steph and Klay (The Splash Bros) to a game 7 last night, I wanted to get into some of my favorite NBA nicknames of all-time. This list isn’t necessarily a list compiled of the greatest players, but rather ones who’s nicknames fit them like a glove. Here we go.
10.) Kevin Garnett- “The Big Ticket”
Back in 1995 when Kevin Garnett broke into the league, Minnesota wasn’t exactly the most sought out destination to take in an NBA game. In fact, before KG arrived, the Timberwolves had never won more than 29 games in a season. Garnett quickly helped to change the fortunes of the franchise, thus earning the “Big Ticket” nickname in the process. The young, skinny phenom was the biggest ticket in town, and he was the ONLY reason to come out to a Timberwolves game 90’s.
9.) Kobe Bryant- “The Black Mamba”
Only Kobe could give himself his own nickname and actually have it stick. The black mamba is the second largest venomous snake in the world and it is also the fastest. In his prime, Kobe exemplified all the qualities of this deadly reptile. He was cerebral, fast, and could strike at any moment.
8.) Allen Iverson- “The Answer”
When AI first came into the league in ’96, he surprisingly donned only one tattoo. The tattoo was a bulldog with the words “The Answer” etched above it. The number one pick was exactly the answer that basketball fans of a different breed were looking for. He didn’t conform to the cookie-cutter image that most players were forced to portray in the mid-90’s, and people either loved him or hated him for it. AI wore baggy clothes, spoke his mind, and constantly walked the line between edgy and insane. He truly was “The Answer” for the city of Philadelphia, as he helped to turn the team into a contender and eventually led them to an NBA finals appearance in 2001.
7.) Dominique Wilkins- “The Human Highlight Film”
Dominique will go down as one of greatest dunkers to ever lace them up, so this nickname fits him to a T. Anytime he stepped foot on a court, you knew that Dominique was going to do something special. He had a way of making a dunk look effortless and violent all in one amazing, jaw-dropping package. “The Human Highlight Film” provided us with a reel of dunks and athletic plays that we will be watching for years and years to come.
6.) Paul Pierce- “The Truth”
I may be showing my bias here, but Paul Pierce and “The Truth” nickname just does it for me. I grew up watching Pierce carry the Celtics on his back through the late 90’s and 2000’s until KG and Ray finally arrived to help take the load off. He actually earned the nickname from none other than Shaquille O’Neal after torching the Lakers for 42 points on 13-19 shooting. As Shaq famously said “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is The Truth”.
5.) Pete Maravich- “Pistol Pete”
Pistol Pete was Steph Curry before Steph Curry. His handle was untouchable, his court vision was unparalleled, and he could shoot the lights out from anywhere on the court. If the three point line existed during Pistol Pete’s era, we would remember him as the greatest shot maker in the history of the game. When he got going in transition, it was as if he had been shot out of a pistol.
4.) Karl Malone- “The Mailman”
Karl Malone was know as “The Mailman” because he always delivered (except for championships) for his team. He was a rebounding machine, and he and John Stockton were virtually unstoppable in the pick and roll. Growing up I knew two things: The real mailman was going to bring me my SI for Kids every month, and the Karl Malone mailman was going for 20 and 10 every time he stepped on the court.
3.) Julius Erving- “Dr. J”
Julius Erving was one of the smoothest athletes in the history of sports. Everything about his game seemed so effortless. From his ability to glide down the court it what seemed like three giant steps, to his unreal leaping talent that helped him to glide through the air and throw down some of the most legendary dunks in NBA history. He was known as “The Doctor” because his dismantling of opponents was like an operation. He’d put you under, and before you know it, you’d wake up and it’s all over.
2.) Earvin Johnson- “Magic Johnson”
Earvin Johnson was simply…magic. Never before had we seen a ‘6″8 point guard who could do literally everything on a basketball court. His height, vision, passing prowess, and basketball IQ helped make him one of the greatest players in NBA history. Much like an audience at a magic show, fans oohed and awed at Magic’s unreal talents as he led the Showtime Lakers to five championships.
1.) Glen Davis- “Big Baby”
The reason why Big Baby comes in at number one on this list is because his nickname has become his actual identity. He looks like a big baby, he whines and cries like a big baby, and his play at times is reminiscent of an infant who doesn’t quite have fully developed motor skills. I remember watching KG berate Big Baby on the bench and bringing him to tears when they both played for the C’s. Big Baby couldn’t hold back his tears, and in that moment, he was no longer Glen Davis. He was now Big Baby.