I doubt I have to tell any NBA fan just how important a personal brand is. Earning a nickname has long been a rite of passage for any player who hopes to achieve traction in this fickle league. Without one, players are doomed to never be featured in Twitter hashtags, /R/NBA memes, and never having their likenesses transferred onto 1-night-only t-shirts handed out at home games. In fact, the only NBA player of recent note lacking a nom de cerceaux who managed their own signature shoe is the now-retired Al Harrington, and it wasn’t with Nike or Adidas—it was with Kmart. So you can see the absolute necessity I’m preaching here.
I will be assigning nicknames in an earnest (and highly selfless) attempt to save some of the NBA’s brightest stars from being lost in the shuffle of time. I ask nothing in return for my intellectual property, except maybe season tickets or a cash bursary from Adam Silver himself.
It’s a mystery to me why the ultra exciting, ultra redheaded Griffin hasn’t managed to land on a good nickname yet. He’s been jumping over every European “rim protector” in the league for the better part of 7 seasons now. I’ve got a few suggestions for him:
1) Blanka – a grotesque vision no doubt, but the green humanoid from the Street Fighter series matches the animalism and electricity of Blake perfectly. Both wildly buff, both with shocks of red hair, both utter threats to equipment managers everywhere. Blanka Griffin is the untamable beast of the NBA.
2) Curly McClain – The charmingly naïve and handsome romantic lead of the stage musical Oklahoma! fits Blake to a tee…I assume. Admittedly I know nothing about this Hammerstein production, but Blake is originally from Oklahoma, has curly hair, and possesses the powerful baritone voice to make this ranch hand’s songs come to life on the NBA floor. Probably.
3) Canelo – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a handsome Mexican who really, really loves to punch dudes; so much so that he does it for a living. He owns the WBC Middleweight belt and has knocked out 34 of his 49 opponents in the ring. Blake “Canelo” Griffin is a handsome Clipper who really, really broke his hand punching one of his friends in the face; so much so that it sidelined him for all but 34 regular season games. These two are as good as twins.
C.J. is a nickname in itself right? But I can’t write about him looking like Urkel if you’re gonna let your “sound logic” get in the way—so can it for now. McCollum had a coming out party last season, both as a member of the Blazers backcourt and as a member of the media. He’s a grounded, likeable guy who plays every game like his last; and his nicknames reflect that, sort of.
1) Urkel – Noted poet and “Kardashian” Kanye West once claimed “Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your wins-low”, but McCollum is here to dispel that. Now, it’s not exactly C.J.’s fault that he looks like the protagonist of ABC’s hit sitcom Family Matters, but I would like to thank him for it anyway. It’s made the following daydream possible for me: Game 7 of a playoff series. McCollum open with the ball, he sinks the shot and, while being rushed by his teammates, exclaims “DID I DO THAAAAAT???” like a man possessed.
2) The Worldwide Leader – C.J. has made it well known that he wants to work as a broadcaster or journalist as soon as he retires, let’s make the transition as easy as possible by giving him a nickname ESPN already has.
3) Stefan Urquelle – Stefan Urquelle is Steve Urkel’s hyper-cool alter-ego. He doesn’t do slapstick comedy, just looks cool and talks even cooler. C.J. possesses a bit of that sly dog himself, flashing 18 shots per game versus just 7 assists. We could have “Lillard Time” and “Boss Sauce” (the juice Urkel drinks to become Urquelle) on the same team.
It should be against the law to have a franchise center without a good nickname. No truly great big man has gone without one. I think he tried to call himself “The Big Penguin” a few seasons back; but that doesn’t make me want to offer him a max contract extension, so let’s give him some new choices:
1) Model A – This one was so easy and perfect I’m sort of upset that Detroit’s media team didn’t think of it on draft night. Playing in the cradle of motorized civilization grants you so much opportunity for cute car puns and stuff; you woulda thought “The Pistons” could have realized this one. I want to see t-shirts with a caricatured Andre Drummond in 1900’s driving goggles piloting a Ford Model A come opening night next season.
2) The Big Hoffa – Jimmy Hoffa is a famous Detroit teamster and known mafia affiliate who uh, went missing in 1975. But before he plundered his unions, went to prison for fraud, and (allegedly) got buried deep in the meadowlands of New Jersey (S/O The Nets) Jimmy Hoffa was a folk hero and an activist for the people of Detroit. 40 odd years later The Big Hoffa is doing the same for his basketball cohorts of Detroit. Plus, The NBA is simply more fun when somebody has a nickname starting with “Big”.
3) Sufuri – The word translates to zero in Swahili, which is super cool. That’s all there is to this nickname to be honest. Find a big bullying center like Andre Drummond and Google around until you find the coolest translation of his jersey number. Thank me later, Andre.
Lowry probably didn’t deserve a nickname for the first two thirds of his career. He was a pouty bench presence with a big ass, but not too much more. Since joining Toronto though, Kyle has been absolutely hooping. 3 All-Star nods and the rejuvenation of Toronto under his lead means it’s about time Kyle was assigned a cartoonish moniker that matches his attitude and playing style.
1) Killa Kyle – Kyle Lowry, (with DeMar DeRozan serving as his Juelz Santana) are here to bring glory back to Rap-Set. We need 1000% more mid 00’s hip-hop references in the NBA today, and there is not one more fitting than Lowry taking on Cam’Ron’s honorific. Whether he’s sinking threes off the bounce and slashing to the rack, or jumping passing lanes and taking charges—Kyle plays like a Killa.
2) Baby Phat – I hope you remember Phat Farm’s female clothing division Baby Phat from the early 2000’s ? Can I ask, who in the world hasn’t been mesmerized by the 6 foot point guard wheeling up court like a blur, only to be shocked once you he slows down and you see the ass he’s carting behind him? Who else at 6 foot can box out like Kyle? Nobody. It’s all in the Baby Phat, baby.
3) Pocket Dog – It’s no question that Kyle Lowry has the dog in him, but at his heights it’s sorta hard to imagine he’d equate to a pit bull or a bull dog. More fittingly, it’s one of those yappy purse dogs who nips at your ankles and somehow makes it to the Eastern Conference semis while in a shooting slump and a bad hind leg. Kyle has the soul of an extremely brolic Pomeranian.
All hail the always-coiffed white hope of The NBA. He’s athletic, handsome, and as of this year, an All-Star! After leading The Jazz into the playoffs as the 5th seed, for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, the time has come to grant Gordon a nickname to call his own.
1) Pomade – Hayward turned a corner a few years back when he ditched his (terrible) boyish bowl cut and came back with his now trademark slicked back ‘do. Seemingly impervious to the exhaustive nature of the 82 game season, this new hair is never not perfect, and has added 5.7 ppg to his scoring average. Pomade hair products are the main ingredient in Hayward’s continued improvement, and you cannot tell this fan otherwise.
2) Macklemore – Building directly off of his hairstyle, It’d be so lazy for me to not compare him to white “rapper” and fellow hair-boy Macklemore. Any white guy with slicked back hair can choose to be compared either to a Hitler Youth, or the Seattle hit maker. It’s really your choice, Gordon, I say double down on this and start showing up pre-game dressed in your grandpa’s clothes.
3) MLG – Hayward is a self-professed “gamer”, finding time between practices and haircuts to play StarCraft with Korean teens on his custom-built PC. MLG is a professional gaming league that hosts competitions to see who’s the best at competitive video games. Once Hayward’s ball playing career is all said and done, I hope we look back at him as a legend in two games, like Pee Wee Kirkland.