“Once you gain a nickname in this league, that’s the ultimate respect” – Paul Pierce
In many cases, what Pierce said was true (see what I did there?). Many guys on this list earned their nicknames for great play on the court, and by no coincidence most of the best players in the history of the league appear on this list. Others earned their nicknames from funny commercials or movies, while still more earned them for just funny looks. We stayed away from shortening of names like “T-Mac” and “J-Kidd” or initials like “KJ,” focusing simply on the best nicknames.
Here are the 50 best in NBA history.
Joel Przybilla “Vanilla Gorilla”
David Lee “Da White Howard”
Luke Ridnour “Frodo”
Corey Brewer “The Drunken Dribbler
Mike Dunleavy, Jr. “The Natural” ??
Darko Milicic “Human Victory Cigar”
Steve Nash “Hair Canada”
Corey Maggette “Bad Porn”
Brook Lopez “Bropez”
“Chairman” Yi Jianlian
Eric “Sleepy” Floyd
Caron Butler “Tuff Juice”
Matt Bonner “Red Rocket” and “Red Mamba”
Kenny “The Jet” Smith
Stephon Marbury “Starbury”
Oscar Robertson “The Big O”
Isiah Thomas “Zeke”
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues
Walt “Clyde” Frazier
James Worthy “Big Game James”
Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland “McFilthy” and “McNasty”
“Dollar” Bill Bradley
Marvin Webster “The Human Eraser”
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50. Brian Cardinal “The Custodian”
There isn’t much of an explanation for this one. Just take a look at Cardinal and the way he plays – he just cleans up. He is the custodian.
49. Shawn Marion “The Matrix”
This one is a little more obvious. Shawn Marion is an athletic freak who can guard anyone from a point guard to a power forward, and used to be a steals and blocks machine (and still is to some degree in Dallas). He thrived with the Seven Seconds or Less Suns with his slashes to the basket and always seemed to slip backdoor and finish his cuts incredibly fast. This is one of those nicknames that just works.
48. Glen Davis “Big Baby”
Talk about the perfect nickname. The guy is huge, has chubby cheeks, and he’ll never be in the running for the most mature player in the league. This video needs no description.
47. Marcin Gortat “The Polish Hammer”
This nickname is just funny. Gortat is a solid NBA center who will throw down a mean dunk from time to time, and he hails from Poland. The Polish Hammer it is.
46. Corliss Williamson “Big Nasty”
Corliss Williamson was never a star in the NBA, but that didn’t stop him from having one of the great NBA nicknames. He won a championship in 2003-04 with the Pistons, and his unpleasant (to put it lightly) demeanor on the court was well worthy of this great nickname.
45. Robert “Tractor” Traylor
Robert Traylor was a mammoth person, at 6-8 and 300 pounds with enormous hands and feet. He was as big as some tractor-trailers. The enormity of Traylor’s stature did not stop at just his size, as he had a big personality as well, described by many who knew him as a gentle giant.
44. Gerald Wallace “Crash”
Gerald Wallace plays with reckless abandon and this name fits him perfectly. Wallace always plays with no regard for his body, which has been to his detriment in some situations by leading to injury issues. However, at the end of the day, it is hard to fault a guy for giving 100 percent all of the time.
43. Rafer Alston “Skip to my Lou”
This nickname was earned on the AND1 Mixtape tour, but transferred to the NBA hardwood as well. Skip did suffer from the more stringent travel calls in the league, but was still a solid player in the Association. Regardless, people will always remember his fantastic nickname (that he got after one of his moves) and what he did as one of streetball’s brightest stars.
42. Chris Kaman “The Caveman”
Another one that needs no description. This dude looks like a caveman.
41. Dennis Rodman “The Worm”
Dennis Rodman’s friends nicknamed him “The Worm” after watching him squirm playing arcade games as a kid. The moniker doesn’t exactly translate to great defense or rebounding, but the name just seems to fit Rodman. Sorry about the music but this video is great.