Every great athlete has a nickname. Some are more well-known than others, of course, whether it’s because they just roll off the tongue or because they so perfectly fit the player. But almost every athlete has picked one up somewhere along the line, and NBA players are no exception.
Unfortunately, not everyone is a Hall of Famer, and not everyone has a Hall of Fame nickname. For every “Hakeem the Dream” or “Air Jordan” there’s probably two nicknames that make you tilt your head and wrinkle your brow in suspicion. And today, we’re taking a look at those—the stupidest, weirdest, most unfortunate nicknames in the history of the NBA.
Some of them are bad because they don’t even come close to describing the players to which they are assigned. Others are bad because they simply sound terrible or unflattering. But one way or another, they all suck. So have a look, and by all means let us know if we missed any good (i.e. awful) ones.
I know the 50s and 60s was a different era with a different style and different sensibilities. But I'm pretty sure they spoke essentially the same version of English as we do today, and I'm pretty sure "ack-ack" would have sounded like someone coughing up a loogie then just as it does now. So I'd say this Celtics legend and Hall of Famer deserved better.
(FYI, "ack-ack" is supposed to be the sound of a machine gun, the idea being that Tommy would fire off shots indiscriminately like a machine gun. But wouldn't "Machine Gun Tommy" have been better?)
21. 'Ack-Ack' (Tommy Heinsohn)
"The Worm" certainly was an accurate description for Dennis Rodman, who had a way of getting under opponents' (and fans') skin like a parasite. But surely we could do better for a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest defensive players of all-time.
20. 'The Worm' (Dennis Rodman)
"The Machine" would be an awesome nickname is Sasha Vujacic were actually a really good basketball player. Unfortunately, he is not. So I propose we call him "The Guy Who Used to Be Engaged to Maria Sharapova." Cool?
19. 'The Machine' (Sasha Vujacic)
They called this former UNLV standout and NBA journeyman the "Plastic Man" because he had an amazing ability to stetch.
I think the word/material they were going for was rubber. Rubber stretches, guys.
(In fairness, it's likely that somebody named Augmon after the old-timey DC Comics character Plastic Man, who had his own comic book from 1941-56. But that's still stupid because, again, plastic has the physical characteristic known as plasticity, not elasticity.)
18. 'Plastic Man' (Stacey Augmon)
Who would have thought a guy who called himself "The World's Greatest Shooter" would never make an All-Star game and play with 10 different teams over his 11-year career?
17. 'The World's Greatest Shooter' (Damon Jones)
Apparently this 3x NBA All-Star acquired his nickname because—you got it—he enjoyed eating butter (a.k.a. lima) beans.
At least his favorite food wasn't couscous.
16. 'Butterbean' (Bob Love)
Boston media types nicknames the little-used Stojko Vrankovic the "Human Victory Cigar" because—like the legendary victory cigar of the great Red Auerbach—he only appeared in the final minutes, when the Celtics had the game won.
Funny? Sure. But it's a little clunky for a nickname. Maybe they could have called him "The Stogie" or something, and then used "Human Victory Cigar" as a kind of explanatory nickname subtitle.
15. 'Human Victory Cigar' (Stojko Vrankovic)
They started calling Harold Miner "Baby Jordan" in high school because he could air it out like MJ. However, being compared to the greatest basketball player that ever lived is only setting you up for disappointment, and that's pretty much what he was in the NBA.
Oh sure, Baby Jordan won the Slam Dunk Contest two times, but lasted only four seasons in the league before getting cut by the Cavaliers in 1996.
14. 'Baby Jordan' (Harold Miner)
They called Vinnie the "Microwave" in Detroit because he could get hot almost instantly.
Clever? Sure. But is it just me, or does that imply the rest of the time he's ice cold? Personally, I'd rather be called the "A-Bomb" or something like that. It connotes explosiveness but also sounds a little more menacing than the appliance you use to make popcorn.
13. 'Microwave' (Vinnie Johnson)
"Skip to My Lou" is a children's song. No grown man should ever be named after a children's song—even if he is an all-style no-substance D-Leaguer who never could make it in the NBA.
12. 'Skip 2 My Lou' (Rafer Alston)
Pretty much any time you call someone the "x" version of "y," it's going to be problematic. Obviously, it implies you are kind of like that really good thing...but not quite.
And of course, it's worse when we're talking about race. "Hey, David Lee, if you were black, then you'd be really good, because black people are better at basketball!"
Could you imagine this nickname in reverse? "Hey Brandon Phillips, you're like a black Dustin Pedroia!"
Yeah, that would not go over well. I say we avoid nicknames that refer to race.
11. 'DaWhite Howard' (David Lee)
If you're a "big paper daddy," that means you're affluent—the "paper" here being money, of course, and the "big" meaning you have lots of it in large denominations. Why this nickname was applied to Ricky Pierce, a bench player for his entire career, is a mystery to me.
Also, it just sounds really stupid.
10. 'Big Paper Daddy' (Ricky Pierce)
Lafayette Lever never had a weight problem. Instead, he got his nickname from his little bro, who had trouble saying Lafayette and always spit out "Fat" instead.
Cute story. Awful, awful nickname.
Just think about it for a second—fat lever.
9. 'Fat' (Lafayette Lever)
"Would you say Marcin Gortat is like a gazelle?"
"Well, maybe a Polish gazelle, which is a regular gazelle that's slower and less graceful because it's been fattened by pierogis."
8. 'Polish Gazelle' (Marcin Gortat)
Okay, so Earl "The Goat" Manigault never played in the NBA, which means I'm breaking the rules. However, he is one the most legendary street ballers of all-time, and at the end of his career Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said Earl was the greatest player he ever played against. (Keep in mind, Kareem played with and against Wilt, Oscar Robertson, Dr. J, Bird, Magic, and MJ.) So how could I ignore him and his legendary nickname, "The Goat"—which of course is so terrible because it's what you call the guy who totally blew it for his team.
7. 'The Goat' (Earl Manigault)
How does a man go through life allowing people to call him "Boobie"? Please, explain this to me.
6. 'Boobie' (Daniel Gibson)
Ditto what I just said about "boobie"—please explain how a self-respecting man allows people to call him Pooh.
5. 'Pooh' (Jerome Richardson)
Is Bimbo really worse than Boobie and Pooh? Hell, I don't even know anymore.
I do know it would have been amazing if they'd played on the same team. "Boobie passes to Pooh who dishes it to Bimbo for the three!"
4. 'Bimbo' (Vernell Coles)
Get it? Barry Carroll turns into Barley Cares?
That's what happens when you're a huge draft bust who played with utter indifference.
3. 'Barley Cares' (Joe Barry Carroll)
Corey Maggette received the nickname "Bad Porn" from Golden State Warriors fans before he'd even played a game in a Golden State uniform. You see, they thought he was a tad overrated and likened him to—yep, that's right—bad porn.
"Sure, there's penetration and scoring, but are you really happy with what you're seeing?"
Of course, this only highlights how hilarious it is that we use the word "penetration" so much in sports.
2. 'Bad Porn' (Corey Maggette)
Depending on who you talk to, "crib midget" is might simply be street slang for "kids," or it might be street slang for particularly whiny, annoying kids. Either way, the fact that Dwight Howard gave this nickname to his own teammate (back when he was with Orlando) kind of makes Dwight look like a huge douche.
Of course, that makes sense, given that Dwight actually is a huge douche. In fact, why don't we all call him "The Big D-Bag"?