What's in an NBA Nick-Name?
Part IV, A-D
Once upon a time in all sports, nick-names were
the thing. Some came from the physical look of athletes, others from
their place of origin, others still from their accomplishments on
the court. Nowadays, NBA nick-names are not as colorful and
definitely much less in evidence. Herewith, a trip down memory lane
on a nomenclature ride.
"THE ADMIRAL" Former San Antonio Spur star David Robinson was
called this because of his Naval Academy roots and leadership skills
on the court.
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.
"BAD BOYS" The rough and tough style of play of the Detroit Pistons
coached by Chuck Daly in the late 1980s-early '90s that included
Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, John Salley, and Dennis Rodman earned the
team that name.
"BARON, THE" A strong-minded individual whose Kentucky teams rank
among the greatest in the history of college basketball, Adolph
Rupp's nickname came from his imperial manner and his record of
success. "I know I have plenty of enemies," he once said, "but I'd
rather be the most hated winning coach in the country than the most
popular losing one." Rupp's teams made more appearances in the NCAA
tournament than any other coach's; he produced more than two dozen
"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 - Big Dipper watching Big
"BIG "E" At 6'9" and 230 pounds, Elvin Hayes was an intimidating
performer in the NBA. The former University of Houston All-American,
a fine shooter and rebounder, earned his nickname for his size,
performance, and appeal.
"BIG FELLA" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had this nickname because of his
size. Others were "Cap" and "The Captain" for his leadership.
"BIG GAME JAMES" The former LA Laker star James Worthy rose to the
in prime time moments.
BIG "O" THE Oscar Robertson was big at 6'5" and 205 pounds, but the
nickname all of basketball knew him by came more from his big skills
than his size. Robertson was a great shooter, a great passer, and a
tremendous defensive player. Former Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach
once remarked, "He's so great he scares me. He can beat you all by
himself and usually does." Robertson was selected to the All-Star
team each year of his playing career and that was just another
reason for his nickname--the Big "O" stood not for zero, but for oh!
"BIG SMOOTH" The large Sam Perkins played for several NBA teams
always with grace and ease.
"BIG TICKET" Kevin Garnett came into the NBA as a teenager and was
called "Da Kid." His more permanent nickname derived from the
skills and showmanship he displayed over the decades.
"THE CHIEF" Robert Parrish starred for the Celtics and took charge,
hence the nickname. He had a stern, no-nonsense look on his face
reminding teammates of the Indian Chief from the movie, "One Flew
Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
"CLARK KENT" Kurt Rambis wore safety type glasses a la Superman's
alter ego, hence the nickname. He was also called "blue-collar
Kurt," for his lunch pail work ethic.
CLYDE During the late 1960's and early 1 970's Walt Frazier of the
New York Knickerbockers epitomized the cool, calculated precision of
a daring basketball player. During his prime, the movie "Bonnie and
Clyde," about a bankrobbing duo, was popular. Frazier's facial hair,
his elegant dress off the basketball court, his flashy car and mod
ways, earned for him the nickname Clyde. He would steal the
basketball, pass brilliantly, perform best under pressure, display
an unruffled manner--all of which were the sporting counterparts to
the characteristics of the movie antihero Clyde.
"DR. J." Agile and talented Julius Erving, one of the premier stars
first of the American Basketball Association and then in the NBA,
could do tricks with a basketball. Neither his first nor his last
name conjures up images of a driving, talented, cool basketball
player. Thus, the "Dr." stems from what he did with a basketball.
"DOLLAR BILL" Born July 28, 1943 in Crystal City,
Missouri, Bill Bradley was a fine athlete almost from the start. An
incredible high school basketball player, he could have probably
gone to any college in America on a basketball scholarship. But he
chose Princeton and paid his own way since Ivy League schools did
not offer athletic scholarships. He led Princeton to three Ivy
League titles, averaged 30.1 points a game and was a two-time
All-American. The only junior, he was the captain of the 1964 gold
medal winning U.S. Olympic team.
His contract with the New York Knickerbockers called
for $500,000 for four year's work, but the nickname given Bill
Bradley was not for the money he earned but for the money he saved.
While other NBA stars drove flashy cars and sported ever more lavish
wardrobes, Bradley lived simply and dressed even more simply. His
apartment, one friend said, "looked like a Holiday Inn room before
the maid shows up."
Bradley reportedly used paper clips when his cuff
buttons gave out. There was a precedent for his behavior. While a
Rhodes Scholar at Oxford for two years, Bradley lived out of what
was called "a large and appallingly messy suitcase." He had more
important things on his mind than style and consumer comforts.
Bradley led New York to NBA titles and was the toast of New York.
But in his time as a Knick, Bradley never did a commercial. He was
very conscious even then of his image. He even had a special clause
in his contract that said he did not have to do any endorsements.
"THE DREAM" Hakeem Olajuwon starred for the Houston
Rockets, a big man who dominated on both sides of the court with a
combination of power and finesse. He is the all-time leader in
"DUNKIN' DUTCHMAN" Rik Smits, former NBA star, earned the
nick-name, for his Dutch roots and seven foot plus size.
(TO BE CONTINUED)