Most sports stars have nicknames and some have better nicknames than others. Here are some of the most famous nicknames we’ve heard in the world of sports:
Before he was a legend and NBA dynasty maker, Michael Jordan was a high flyer. Jordan’s hang-time was poetry in motion. It appeared like he would suspend himself in mid-air and do whatever he wanted with the ball before he landed on the ground. That’s where the nickname Air came from and from there, Air Jordan became one of the most famous shoes of all-time.
George Herman Ruth, the iconic Yankees slugger was better known as Babe Ruth. He was also known as “King of Swing” and “Sultan of Swat” among others. Ruth was called Babe by his teammates because when he signed his first contract, he was only 19 and needed a guardian. Cardinals owner Jack Dunn signed as his guardian hence he was known as “Dunn’s new babe” and later simply as Babe.
Kobe Bryant was one of basketball’s greatest players and one of its best clutch performers and closers. When a game was on the line, there was no doubt who would take the shot and usually, Bryant made it. Thus he christened himself with this nickname after comparing his basketball excellence with the accuracy of the world’s deadliest snake.
Darrell Griffith was a former Utah Jazz guard. At 6-4, he could get up in the air and dunk in style. Griffith represented the Utah Jazz in the 1984 and 1985 Dunk contests. Although he was more known as a scorer, his dunking prowess earned him the nickname Dr. Dunkenstein.
Michael Jordan’s “Air” nickname isn’t just the three-lettered nickname on this list. The great Julius Erving was known simply as “Dr.J” throughout his legendary career. He was called as such because he was the so-called Doctor of Dunks as one of the original high flyers in professional basketball
Tom Brady would have only half of his rings had not Rob Gronkowski come along. Gronk is taken from his family name and he caught many of Brady’s important passes. Together, they led the New England Patriots to three Super Bowl titles. After winning Super Bowl LIII, he retired at the age of 30 and on top of his game.
The most feared heavyweight champion of all-time was known simply as Iron Mike. It’s a nickname that’s as simple as his ring entrances where he wore black shorts and no socks. But yeah, his fists were iron and Mike Tyson is one of the greatest knockout artists of all-time.
Two players in the NBA shared this nickname. Guard Kenny Smith who won titles with the Houston Rockets in the 90’s was known as jet because of his speed and ability to get up and dunk the ball despite his size. Then came Jason Terry who probably deserves this nickname better because his full name is Jason Eugene Terry or JET. And yes, who could forget Terry spreading his arms sidewards like a jet after each made basket.
When Vince Carter burst to the scene as one of the game’s most vicious dunkers, he was called Vinsanity. When Jeremy Lin became an instant star in New York during a period where he took over the Knicks, that period in time was called Linsanity. Linsanity still lives, interestingly in the town where Vinsanity was born. Now Lin is a champion.
One of the most iconic nicknames in sports was Magic. That’s because Earvin Johnson will always be known as Magic Johnson. Johnson was called Magic because he was a magician with the ball. Remember the no-look passes? Unreal passing angles? Johnson led Showtime to five NBA titles.
Always among the highest paid athletes in the world every year during his career, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was simply known as Money because he was boxing’s money man. His 2015 fight versus Manny Pacquiao is the richest fight ever. His bout with MMA star Conor McGregor ranks next. Nobody can make money better than Floyd.
Reggie Jackson was known as Mr. October because he often came up big during the playoffs which in Major League baseball are played in October. He was a five-time world series champion and two-time World Series MVP, proving indeed that when it was time for the World Series, he was always there.
Pervis Ellison was a former #1 overall pick of the NBA Draft. But he never really became a star. But Ellison got the nickname Never Nervous because, in college, he was the go-to guy for the Louisville Cardinals. Ellison was Most Outstanding Player and NCAA champion as a freshman and his ability to deliver in the clutch earned him the nickname.
Chad Johnson isn’t just dubbed as Ochocinco but he changed his last name to Ocho Cinco in reference to the #85 he wears on his jersey. But while that’s a cool nickname, the Spanish for 85 isn’t even Ocho Cinco. It’s “ochenta y cinco”.
The most prolific scorer in the history of NCAA basketball was aptly dubbed as Pistol because of his ability to score points. Pete Maravich was one of the all-time greats but not only was Pistol Pete, a scorer, but he was also a visionary who delivered some of the best passes we’ve ever seen.
MMA is a violent sport and for a man who rose to UFC fame with sheer physicality, Quinton Jackson was rampage inside the octagon. Jackson won the UFC light heavyweight title by knocking out Chuck Liddell at UFC 71.
William Perry was a big, wide-bodied defensive lineman who played for the Chicago Bears during the ’80s and was a champion at Super Bowl XX. At 6-3 and 350 pounds, he was known as the Refrigerator because of his size.
Shaquille literally means little warrior but by no means was Shaquille O’Neal little. Known as Shaq for short, O’Neal is the most dominant big man the NBA has ever seen. Shaq and Kobe would lead the Lakers to three straight titles. He would move to Miami and win a fourth title with the Heat.
When the Sixers had a problem, they turned to Allen Iverson and more often than not, Iverson delivered. Being the answer to their problems, he was thus known as the Answer. Unfortunately, Iverson couldn’t will his team to win the title in 1991 against Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers.
The Big Fundamental
Shaquille O’Neal gave Tim Duncan this nickname because according to Shaq, Duncan’s basketball fundamentals were perfect. Duncan was never a fancy player and played by the basics. But he was so damn good at what he does that he won five titles in three different decades with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Big Hurt
Frank Thomas was one of the most exciting baseball players to come out of the ’90s. As a designated hitter, he was full of power and his ability to inflict heavy damage on opposing teams earned him the nickname Big Hurt.
The Big Ticket
When Kevin Garnett arrived in Minnesota, he was considered as the Timberwolves’ hope. Garnett would become the first superstar in franchise history and he was such a dominant player on both ends of the court. As the biggest draw in town, he was called the Big Ticket.
The Big Unit
At 6-10, Randy Johnson was very tall for a major league pitcher. But the Big Unit nickname was born in 1988 when Johnson collided head-first with teammate Tim Raines in batting practice. Raines yelled: You have a big unit. The nickname stuck with one of baseball’s all-time great pitchers.
Gary Payton was one of the NBA’s best defenders and as such his hand looked like a glove which caught basketballs every time he got a swipe or steal. Payton was Defensive Player of the Year in 1996 when he led the league in steals. He was also a nine-time member of the All-Defensive first team.
The Golden Boy
Oscar De La Hoya won Olympic gold in 1992 and was also the fighter who brought the luster back to boxing in the United States. De La Hoya later created what is now one of the top boxing promotions in the world and it is also called Golden Boy.
The Great One
Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all-time. Hockey’s all-time leading scorer is simply known as the Great One and no one will ever question that. At the time of his retirement, Gretzky owned 61 NHL all-time records.
The Human Highlight Film
Dominique Wilkins was one of the NBA’s premier dunkers. Not only was ‘Nique powerful but he was also very creative. Each dunk was a highlight worth a poster and the Atlanta Hawks great thus earned the nickname The Human Highlight Film.
Roger Clemens had one of baseball’s most famous fastballs. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third all-time in the majors and he won seven Cy Young awards, more than any pitcher in history. Clemens threw 98 MPH fastballs and a hard breaking ball. As one of baseball’s top power pitchers of all-time, he did have a rocket for an arm.
Like Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods’ nickname has become his first name. He was dubbed as Tiger in honor of his father’s late friend Col. Vuong Dang Phong who was known as Tiger to his friends. Tiger Woods roared like a Tiger when he turned pro winning one title after another. He now has a total of 15 majors, three short of Jack Nicklaus’ record.