From Baseball to Boxing, one thing that all sports have in common is that athletes, and coaches alike get nicknames. Some nicknames are just plain funny, but many demonstrate sheer dominance in the sport. Alias’s in NBA are as prominent as in any other sports and with nicknames like, “The Round Mound of Rebound” “The Black Mamba” and “AK47” the entertainment, The NBA boasts some of the most intriguing nicknames of all the major sports. Here is a list of the 25 greatest NBA player nicknames.
This list is compiled based on how impactful the nicknames are, originality, and how the nicknames were acquired.
#25. Glen “Big Baby” Davis: The appellation for Glen Davis came from his time in college at Lousiana State University where many compared him to Shaquille O’Neal, but smaller. The nickname followed him into the NBA, but he told reporters that he didn’t like the name. The name stood the test, and the nickname stuck like glue.
#23. “Metta World Peace” “Ron Artest” “Ron Ron”: Not real sure which is the nickname. Artest changed his name legally in 2011 to Metta World Peace. Interestingly enough Ron Artest has not had the most peaceful career, notably the big fight and drinking in the locker room during games, but order was restored when the LakeShow was eliminated from the Playoffs last year when he was the one ushering Andrew Bynum off the court. Maybe, Ron has turned over a new leaf, but probably not.
#22. Earvin “Magic” Johnson: Magic is the greatest player to ever put on a Lakers uniform. Magic’s nickname originated when he was in high school, when a local Michigan announcer referred to the star as “Magic.” His mom did not like it originally, but I think it eventually grew on her, when her son became the greatest Laker to ever play the game.
#21. Andre “AK47” Kirielenko: Kirielenko, who is Russian born and has played on the Russian National team got his nickname from the Russian made firearm and his initials being AK. This nickname is about as awesome as you get. Anytime, a guy is named after a firearm, that is pretty cool, especially one that actually coincides with his initials and nationality.
#20. Larry “Grandmama” Johnson: Johnson was in a series of Converse commercials in which he played his own grandmother, and the nickname stuck.
#19. Clyde “The Glide” Drexler: Drexler’s game was a smooth as any, and that is where the nickname comes from, his impressive ability to glide through the air towards the basket.
#18. Tim “The Big Fundamental” Duncan: Duncan is arguably the best Power Forward to ever play the game of basketball and that was thanks to his propensity to play fundamental basketball. Coaches from all levels preach the fundamentals, and it is something that gets lost in transition quite a bit in the NBA, but Duncan was able to succeed and have a Hall-of-Fame career because of his ability to be a student of the game.
#17. Steve “Hair Canada” Nash: The nickname is pretty straight forward. Nash is Canadian born, and has hair to die for. Nash currently ranks 6th all-time in assists and the Suns PG also has incredible ability to knock free-throws down, with a career free-throw percentage of .902 (2nd all-time)
#16. Allen “The Answer” Iverson: In his prime, Iverson was arguably the most dominant player in the NBA for his ability to propel his 76er’s to feats unimaginable. Iverson boasted many tattoos through-out his NBA career, but when he entered the league, he had a single marking on his right arm of a bulldog with the inscription. “The Answer” on it. He won rookie of the year, and was able to answer any calling with his incredible skills and talents.
#15. Lebron “King James”:Lebron has many other nicknames as well, including “The Chosen One” or my personal favorite, “The Akron Hammer” Lebron has been scrutinized by many for his media tactics, just adding more fuel to the fire of the nickname.
#14. Marvin “Human Eraser” Webster: Webster was an animal on the defensive end of the floor with huge, long arms, that allowed him to get some big-time blocks. He had 162 blocks in the 1977-78 seasons, which is the 7th highest block total of all-time.
#13. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues: The back story for Muggsy’s nickname is one of the most play related nicknames, but still established by the media. With 1369 career steals, Tyrone, who only stood at a generous 5 foot 3, got the nickname from his defense, which was much like “mugging” the offensive player.
#12. “The Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant: There are a ton of great basketball nicknames and there will be a lot down further on this list, but this one needs to be on the list. Kobe gave himself this nickname, and that alone puts him on the list, because it actually describes him well and is a pretty awesome animal to associate oneself with. The Black Mamba is the largest venomous snake in the world.
#11.Kevin “Durantula” Durant: KD got the nickname in a fan contest that takes an NBA superstar without a nickname and gives them a nickname. This is insanely creative and nobody really knows exactly how the name came about, but it is an awesome one because it plays off his actual name is extremely creative.
#10. Tony “The Croatian Sensation” Kukoc: Kukoc is one of the less heralded stars from the 90’s Bulls Championship run. Kukoc was from Split, Croatia, which earned him the nickname.
#9.Pete “Pistol Pete” Maravich: Marovich was the NCAA Naismith Award Winner in 1969-1970 and his shooting prowess played a big part in that title. The nickname comes from his ability in high school to shoot from his hip, much like drawing a gun.
#8 Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain: Wilt got his nickname due to his incredible height, standing at 7’1, and his skinny legs, that looked like stilts when he wore the short basketball shorts that were the norm of the time. The Stilt is one of the greatest players in the history of the game, leading the league in total points 7 straight seasons, from 1959-1967, while averaging 22.9 rebounds per game, which is the best all-time. Chamberlain was the first player to ever score 100 points in a single game in a victory over New York in 1962, 169-147. He capped off the incredible feat with a 31-point 4th quarter.
#7. Larry “The Hick from French Lick” Bird: Larry Bird got this nickname because of his reserved personality and “aww shucks” personality. Bird heralded from French Lick, Indiana so the nickname was formed. Bird was
also known as “Larry Legend” because of his Hall-of-Fame career. He ranks in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category and all but single-handedly turned the Celtics into an elite NBA franchise.
#6. Karl “The Mailman” Malone:Karl Malone displayed sheer finesse while part of the Utah Jazz’s All-Star tandem with John Stockton in the 90’s. He was tagged, “The Mailman” because he delivers. Malone is second on the all-time points list while solidifying himself in the NBA Hall-of-Fame as one of the best Power Forwards ever.
#4. Domonique “The Human Highlight Reel” Wilkins: Wilkins was a highlight reel to say the least. He all but invented the thundering dunk and elevating above and around a defender.
#3. Michael “Air” Jordan: This one is pretty self-explanatory why it is so high.
The Air Jordan trademark has become one of the most iconic symbols in sports, fashion, and footwear (Nicershoes.com), standing for basketball dominance and pure competition. The nickname stuck with Jordan through his entire career because of his ability to elevate his game as well as his body to higher levels than any other player. Jordan has demonstrated one of the most competitive personas and drives of any athlete in any sport and some consider him to be the greatest athlete to ever play competitive sports.
#2. Charles “The Round Mound of Rebound” Barkley: “Sir Charles” (his more common nickname) was one of the most prolific basketball players in the NBA. He earned this nickname while playing college ball at Auburn due to his immense size at 6’5, 250 lbs. In his NBA career he averaged 12+ rebounds per game, and he was known for his eating habits and large belly.
#1. Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal: Shaq idolizes the NBA persona and entertainment aspect of the sport. He has more nicknames than I have fingers and many of those nicknames were self-given, which makes them hilarious. He was one of the most dominant big men to ever strap on sneakers and hit the hardwood. Some of his other nicknames are: “Shaq Diesel” “The Big Aristotle” “Superman (before Dwight Howard)” “Shaq-Fu” “The Big Agave” “The Big Shaqtus” “The Big Baryshnikov” “Wilt Chamberneezy” and every single one of them is awesome in its own right.
Honorable Mention: Brian “The White Mamba” Scalabrine, Kevin “Big Ticket” “Go Go Gadget Arms” Garnett, Julius “DR. J” Erving, Gilbert “Agent 0” Arenas, Chris “CP3” Paul, Bob “The Houdini of the Hardwood” Cousy, Phil “Zen Master” Jackson