Tuesday, March 1, 2011

State of the Nick-Nation

What happened to all the cool nicknames in basketball? I feel like we’re in the middle of a nickname drought right now. I mean, people have nicknames, but it’s not like Magic Johnson, where he was his nickname. The old nicknames just sounded so great: Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwan, “Air” Jordan and so on. What are we calling these guys now? Most of the stars in the NBA are just going by some combination of their name and number. CP3, DWill, DRose, D12, CB4 (back when Bosh was in Toronto)…those aren’t nicknames! Nicknames are supposed to be colourful and cool, not sound like a barcode. Has the human race’s creative spark been so blunted by technology that this is what we’re reduced to?

No doubt we have to step up our name-game, that’s the fans and the media, cause you can’t give yourself a nickname…that’s elementary nickname etiquette. Did you ever just kind of sidle up to someone at school and say, real casual, “So…people are calling me T-Bone now, you hear about this? It’s stupid…but…yeah you can call me T-Bone I guess.” No you didn’t. Because if you did that, your friends and everyone else would be well within their rights to give you any nickname they wanted; punishment for a blatant nickname foul.

Speaking of nickname fouls, how did we let Dwight Howard get away with calling himself Superman? Not only did he give himself that name, he did it while there was still another Superman running around the schoolyard. He’s lucky we’re not calling him Princess right now.

But there are a few good nicknames kicking around the NBA, all is not lost. I love the Black Mamba for Kobe because that’s what he is on the court: a deadly assassin. Ray Allen is Jesus, Glen Davis is Big Baby, Sasha Vujacic is Machine (not, “the Machine”, just, “Machine”), AK47 is just a name and number, but the fact that Andrei Kirilinko is Russian and looks like an AK47 toting bad-guy from central casting helps, LeBron James is the King.

Just a side note for those of you thinking, “How is LeBron the King? What has he done for the crown?” Don’t be so quick to think that being called the King is such a great thing. That nickname, like so many things associated with LeBron these days, is a poisoned chalice. It could very quickly take on a mocking tone if his career doesn’t go the way he wants it to. If I was him, I’d way rather go by L-Train, which is what the Cavs colour guy used to call him. Nevertheless, I think the name fits him…King James sounds right and he has the bearing and confidence (arrogance?) to pull it off.

It’s easy to criticize, but I feel like I should at least attempt to make a contribution to this supposed dearth of good nicknames that I’m claiming. It’s tough, because obviously the best nicknames come from really knowing someone and their idiosyncrasies, but I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, it’s really too bad that Chris Bosh left the Raptors, not because he was their key to success, but because he looks exactly a dinosaur. To be more specific, he looks exactly like Littlefoot from the Land Before Time movies. Google it. Even better, his

girlfriend, I don’t know if they’re still together but the girlfriend he had in Toronto, the one that heckled LeBron, looks exactly like Sara, the triceratops from Land Before Time. Google that too. But Chris left Toronto, robbing us of the nicknaming material of dreams, so I won’t even try to think of a dinosaur name for him. It’ll just make me sad that it doesn’t apply anymore. Velocabosh. What a waste. What a waste.

Another one I’ve been thinking about lately doesn’t really sound that great, but it has some potential, I think. I saw this picture of Rondo guarding LeBron and it really brought home something I’ve kind of thought all along. That Rajon Rando looks like a goblin. He’s short (relatively) and he’s got the long arms and his face is just…gobliny. Rajon Rondo is The Green Goblin. He’s throwing pumpkin bomb dimes on the regular. The ball is orange and everything. At the end of the day, I really just want to hear Marv Albert say, “Oh my goodness! There’s a goblin in the garden!”

Who is the Green Goblin’s arch nemesis? It’s Spiderman and for the sake of symmetry I will now force that nickname down some players’ throat. Spiderman as a basketball player has to be able to hang around in the air, weave around people and he should probably be wearing a red suit. Don’t Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo have kind of a strained relationship, a little bit of a rivalry? Beautiful, because Derrick Rose is Spiderman. Boom. We got a little momentum going now. Dwight Howard can be Mary Jane.

I got a couple more to run by you:

Dwight “Disney” Howard – Because he plays in Orlando and he has cartoon muscles and a huge smile.

Delonte “Rambo” West/Delonte “Wild” West – The man was pulled over on a three-wheeled motorcycle with a pump action shotgun, a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver. Something like that needs to be commemorated. Other options could include “The Matrix”, or any reference to someone who would conceivably roll in on a three wheeled bike packing a shotgun.

Kevin “The Ant” Durant – Because he looks weak but he can carry a lot on his back. Pretty weak but it rhymes.

Sonny “Money” Weems – A favourite of mine, both the name and the player.

That’s all I got. It’s not a lot, but it’s a start. Can you think of a good one?

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