Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been numerous iconic nicknames. Air Jordan (Michael Jordan), The Answer (Allen Iverson), Black Mamba (Kobe Bryant), The Worm (Dennis Rodman), The Big Fundamental (Tim Duncan), The Dream (Hakeem Olajuwon), The Round Mound of Rebound (Charles Barkley), The Truth (Paul Pierce), Pistol Pete (Pete Maravich), and The Mailman (Karl Malone) are just a few of the most recognizable nicknames in the sport’s history. Today’s NBA players have no shortage of catchy and creative nicknames given to them by the fans and media.
DISCLAIMER- I am only ranking nicknames that have some creativity to them aside from just the player’s name. Nicknames like Book (Devin Booker), DRose (Derrick Rose), DLo (DeAngelo Russell), and KAT (Karl Anthony-Towns) are definitely memorable, but not creative enough for this list. These names fall in line with classic NBA nicknames such as T-Mac (Tracy McGrady), D-Wade (Dwayne Wade), and C-Webb (Chris Webber).
King James (LeBron James)
While not the most creative nickname ever given, there are very few players in NBA history worthy of the title of King. Since entering the association in 2003, LeBron has had power and control over the league like no player before him. He has the physical abilities to overpower almost any opponent on the court thanks to his combination of speed and size. His power extends off the court also, as LeBron has proven that his career is in his hands and he deserves the right to control where he plays, who plays with him, and who coaches him. Very fitting nickname for the basketball king of this generation.
Durantula (Kevin Durant)
A classic nickname dating way back to his early years in Oklahoma City, Durant has embraced the media’s comparison to a tarantula. Despite four fewer limbs, Durant’s long arms and long legs make his on-court movements appear effortless. Although he has other nicknames, Easy Money Sniper and The Slim Reaper, I believe Durantula is the most popular and most creative. Easily one of the best scorers to ever touch a basketball, it’s only right Durant has an iconic nickname. This should go down as one of the NBA’s most recognizable nicknames whenever Durant’s career comes to a close.
Jimmy Buckets (Jimmy Butler)
Jimmy Butler is not one of the premier shooters in the league, nor is he one of the best playmakers in the league. Despite this, Butler averages roughly 20 points per game over the last several years and always manages to get clutch buckets when it counts. His impressive scoring combined with his elite athleticism, perimeter & interior defense, and basketball IQ make him worthy of All-Star consideration every season. With the game on the line, Jimmy Butler is a great choice to get your team a tough bucket.
Ice Trae (Trae Young)
Easily the most creative nickname so far goes to one of the most creative offensive players on this list. The Atlanta point guard is known for his ice-cool demeanor when shooting the basketball, especially from deep three-point range. His nickname became official when Atlanta’s own Quavo gifted him the diamond-encrusted chain that spells out “Ice Trae” after his rookie season. Quavo also has a song with fellow Atlanta native Lil Yachty titled Ice Tray released in 2017.
The Process (Joel Embiid)
One of the best big men in the game right now, Embiid’s nickname is also one of the best. Stemming from the rebuilding process led by former GM Sam Hinkie, this moniker was started by Embiid himself. Usually a move I would consider arrogant, Embiis is self-aware and funny enough to make it work.
PG13 (Paul George) and CP3 (Chris Paul)
These nicknames go together because they follow the same format, the player’s initials followed by their number. Paul George’s nickname refers to the movie rating PG13 and Chris Paul’s refers to the Star Wars character C-3PO. Both of these players have alternate nicknames, but I’m sure Chris Paul prefers the moniker Point God more than Paul George accepts his unfortunate Pandemic P nickname caused by his disappointing performance in the 2020 NBA bubble.
The Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo)
I know this nickname is overplayed to the point where it doesn’t feel as clever as it once did but is still an iconic nickname for one of the best players in the NBA right now. Former MVP and Defensive Player of The Year, Giannis deserves a nickname as memorable as this one.
The Stifle Tower (Rudy Gobert)
The French-born star has one of the best nicknames in the NBA. Gobert is compared to the Eiffel Tower from his home country due to his height and reach. These qualities have made Gobert a two-time Defensive Player of The Year and one of the most feared shot blockers in the NBA. Gobert looks to add playoff series wins to his already impressive resume.
Dame Dolla (Damien Lillard)
Joining Joel Embiid in creating his own nickname, Lillard’s moniker also works as his rap name. Releasing a full-length album featuring Lil Wayne and other notable rappers, Dame has found off-court success in a big way. Lillard hopes to mirror the careers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, two NBA Champions who have released rap music.