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Hoop Names and How They Got That Way (I)

With the basketball season upon us, with all kinds of news being made, with the college and pro game making news 24/7, itís enjoyable to re-visit how some hoop names  came to be. 

ALL-WORLD Lloyd Free, National Basketball Association free soul, who learned his basketball on the sidewalks of New York, gave himself this nickname. Free was a little man in a world of giants who   considered his "rainbow shot," which went high in the air and down at the basket, worthy of the nickname he dreamed up.

BIG DIPPER His full name was Wilton Norman Chamberlain. He was born in 1936 in Philadelphia and grew up to be 7-1 and 275 pounds. Voted in as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978. His nickname was the Big Dipper, and he named his Los Angeles mansion Ursa Major, the astronomic term for the Big Dipper constellation.  There was a retractable roof over Chamberlain's bed and made for Big Dipper watching Big Dipper.                                                                               
40 MINUTES OF HELL University of Arkansas. Nolan Richardson's nonstop pressure defense earned Arkansas a national championship in 1994 and got them to the championship game in 1995. 

"the GLIDE"  Clyde Drexler's role model was Julius Erving. "He seemed to fly. I wanted to be like him,'' said Drexler, who earned the nickname "Clyde the Glide'' for his own swooping moves.   

KOBE   LA star Kobe Bryant was named after a "Kobe" steak listed on the menu of a Japanese restaurant or as the story goes for a  Japanese restaurant itself.

OWL WITHOUT A VOWEL (Bill Mlkvy)  Bill played forward for the Temple University Owls basketball team. Since his last name does not contain a vowel, he became "the owl without a vowel."

PISTOL PETE  From 1967 to 1970 Louisiana State University's Pete Maravich, a skinny guard with floppy socks, was the leading collegiate basketball point-scorer in the United States. He scored nearly 4,000 points, averaging almost 45 points a game, during his varsity career. Press Maravich, his father and also his LSU coach, gave him his nickname. It was a reference to the young Maravich's quick-trigger shot release and his scoring ability. Pistol Pete continued his illustrious career with the Atlanta Hawks and then the New Orleans Jazz of the NBA. Scoring, passing the ball between his legs or behind his back, showing off a bewildering variety of shots, Maravich became one of the top guns in pro basketball. He was immortalized in "The Ballad of Peter Maravich," written by Woody Jenkins:

Maravich, oh Maravich, Love to fake, love to score, Love to hear the people roar. Just a boy of 22, You made a name at LSU.

PODOLOFF CUP A trophy awarded annually to the National Basketball Association's Most Valuable Player, it is named in honor of Maurice Podoloff, the height-challenged first commissioner of the NBA, who was, curiously, just five feet tall.

"YES"  Broadcaster Marv Albert's signature call for a shot made.

"X"  Xavier McDaniel had some moments of glory for several different NBA teams.

"Z"  Zydrunas Ilgauskas of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a 7-foot-3, $60 million investment with a name that for some is tough to pronounce. 

"ZO"    Abbreviation of long time power forward/center  Alzonzo Mourning's given name.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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