Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Top 5 All-Time Greatest Nicknames in the NBA

It seems like a right of passage for NBA players. When a player has proven himself in the league, he is granted a nickname, a "knighting" of sorts by his peers and fans. Some are more creative and catchy than others. 

Some players earn a nickname from their style of play, or from appearance or a quirk, and for others we just shorten the name or use initials. Maybe it's because attention spans have shrunk so much that we can't wait long enough to call players by their full names. Regardless, most elite players have nicknames that are used so often we sometimes forget what their actual names are. "King" James, D-Wade, Melo, CP3, Durantula, The Black Mamba, "Big Baby" Davis, Superman, and so on.

In honor of yesterday (Aug. 14) being the birthday of Ervin "Magic" Johnson, we are counting down the top 5 greatest nicknames in the NBA. If you agree, thank you. Think someone was snubbed? Let us know who you would make your top 5.We have a comments section and Twitter feed just for that.

Dr. J (

No. 5 "Dr. J" - Julius Erving
Dr. J played with a certain elegance and ease about his game. Watching him, you would think he just knew what was going on a little sooner and better than his opponents. The story goes that a friend in high school gave him the nickname, after Erving dubbed the friend "Professor." The nickname suits him well - not to mention opening doors for a Dr. Pepper endorsement after retirement - because Dr. J made the difficult plays look easy. You can trust him on the court, he's a doctor.

Karl Malone (

No. 4 "The Mailman" - Karl Malone
Where else is the term mailman held in such a high regard? There lies the true greatness of the name. It epitomizes Malone's ability to make plays and has a gritty toughness about it. No matter what the circumstances, the Mailman delivered, or at least that was the idea. And thankfully for both Malone and the post office, the shorts grew longer with time.

Pete Maravich (

No. 3 "Pistol Pete" Maravich
Alliteration? Check. Longevity? Check. A headline writer's dream? Check. In a sport that involves "shooting" a ball, Pistol Pete is the perfect nickname for an unbelievable scorer, who didn't have the luxury of a 3-point line. You can imagine the fear of opponents when seeing "Pistol Pete" walk onto the court, much like if he would be entering an old-west saloon. You'd better watch out if ol' Pistol Pete is around. 

Michael Jordan (
No. 2 Michael "Air" Jordan
So maybe "Air Jordan" isn't the most creative nickname in the world. But when it's namesake sparks a global marketing boom, can you really leave it out? Jordan did a lot well on the court, but his best trick was hanging in the air for what seemed like an eternity; switching hands on the ball, splitting defenders, ordering room service for after the game. The most exciting play in basketball is the slam dunk and the world sat up in it's seat when Air Jordan got ready for takeoff.

Magic Johnson (
No. 1 Ervin "Magic" Johnson
Magic. In sports circles that's all you need to say and everyone will understand. This wasn't just a nickname those who followed the team knew. He will always be Magic Johnson, with lesser references to Ervin sounding more like the nickname. Just think about the person. Johnson was a 6-foot-8 point guard who could do it all: pass, dribble in traffic, and of course, score. And he legitimately played the position, unlike a LeBron or Durant, who will occasionally walk the ball up the court. How many 6-foot-8 players do you see wanting to run the point and you have to look away and cringe, knowing it can't end well? Johnson was magical on the court, and how he's been able to overcome an HIV-positive diagnosis for 20 years is pretty magical in itself.

Honorable mention: "The Admiral" David Robinson, "The Worm" Dennis Rodman, "The Big Aristotle" Shaq, "The Truth" Paul Pierce and "The Answer" Allen Iverson, "Spud" Webb and "Larry Legend" Bird

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