The NBA is full of great nicknames, but which are among the leagues’ best?
Tier 1: Transcendent
Nickname: The Logo
Jerry West was one of the most influential players in the NBA. His jersey is retired by the Los Angeles Lakers, he won an NBA Finals MVP while playing on the losing team and most importantly, he is “The Logo.” West has transcended being a great NBA player — he’s become the literal face, or rather body, of the NBA.
Tier 2: Iconic
Nicknames: The Beard, El Chapo
The first one is explanatory. The second one is a bit more obscure, and by obscure I mean I have no idea how he got that name. But still, being named after one of the biggest drug lords of all time is pretty badass. Or maybe, just maybe, the reason he has the beard is to disguise himself from the authorities. Ignore logic here for a second and think about this. Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is 5’6”, and James Harden is 6’5”. Now if you squint hard enough, those numbers start to look the same. Is Harden really an international drug smuggler? If he is, can he still play for my fantasy team? These are the questions the Drug Enforcement Administration should be asking.
Nickname: The Brow
Anthony Davis has the potential to be an all-time great, all while sporting the second-most recognized unibrow in the world. He’s putting up historic numbers for his age (24), but even then, my floormate still only knows him as “that seven-footer with a unibrow.”
Nickname: Swaggy P
Nick Young is the definition of iconic. Whether he’s bombing or clanking threes, Swaggy P knows that his job first and foremost is to entertain — and god damn is Swaggy entertaining. His gun-slinging style of play may be polarizing, but I’m never going to stop hate on the man who gave reporters comedic gold. With antics like that, and the fact that the “P” has no real meaning — I, and most other fans, hope to never see a Nick Young-less NBA.
Tier 3: Absurdly Great
Nickname: Parisian Torpedo
No you’re not being punked, someone actually called Tony Parker the “Parisian Torpedo” — and I love it more than almost anything else in the world.
Nickname: China Klay
Klay Thompson is an artist. How else could you explain one of the most beautiful shots that has created some of the most mesmerizing moments in NBA history? The orchestrator behind two of the most memorable performances in league history — 37 points in a perfect quarter and 60 points in only three quarters — Thompson has created masterpieces on the court. Despite all that, most in the NBA community know him for his antics in China. And deep down, we all want to be China Klay.
This one is especially great because I can just imagine the Ricola man launching basketballs out of his horn in the middle of the Swiss Alps. But more than that, can you imagine Nikola Mirotić swishing a three followed by Ricola cough drops falling from the ceiling, while at the same time the announcer is just going wild and yelling “THREEEEEKOLAAA”? Because that’s exactly the type of atmosphere I’m looking for during a regulation basketball game.
Tier 4: Too soon to say
Nickname: Frankie Nicotine, Frankie Smokes
Frank Ntilikina may be the future heir of Giannis Antetokounmpo for the most mispronounced last name in the NBA. But the best part about difficult to pronounce names are the fantastic nicknames that follow. Having already gone from “Frankie Nicotine” to “Frankie Smokes,” I can’t wait until the Knicks rookie finally realizes his full New Yorker self and becomes the one true “Frankie Bogies.”
Nickname: The Finnisher
My love for Lauri Markkanen has gone through many stages. In Arizona, he was the next Dirk Nowitzki — tall and European, with a jumper prettier than his luscious locks. Then when he got drafted over the likes of Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk, everyone, including me, immediately turned on him. But now with Markkanen putting up historic numbers from three, I can’t think of a nickname more fitting for the man whose shot is going rip apart opposing defenses for the next decade.
Nickname: Dougie McBuckets
Doug McDermott has the best job in the NBA. He’s a bench player who plays for the New York Knicks and is getting paid millions to do nothing else than score some quick buckets off the bench. Too bad he got traded from Oklahoma City, because the nickname “Dougie McThunderbuckets” might be better than anything else in the NBA today.
Nickname: The Menace
The 1993 movie “Dennis the Menace” has a 22 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d still rather put that on than Dennis Schröder and the 2017-18 Atlanta Hawks. But team record aside, this is still a damn good nickname.
Harshil Desai covers track and field. Contact him at