Nicknames are usually indicative of someone’s personality. It’s an odd stamp. No matter how hard an individual tries, the person can not give themselves a nickname because it comes across as arrogant. NBA Nicknames are no different.
Advertising companies sometimes have to launch monstrous promotional campaigns just to get the general public to accept an athlete’s nickname.
Sometime ago my son walks up to me with The Basketball Book by Sports Illustrated in his hands and says to me;
“Pop! What’s your favorite NBA Nickname?”
I was surprise as hell to see a book in his hands and not a cell phone, but I still managed to answer;
I knew full well this particular nickname would pique his interest and that the explanation wouldn’t be inside the book he was holding in his hands.
Parents know their kids have very short attention spans and questions such as this one have a two or three minute shelf life span at the most.
I successfully extend the shelf life of the question for an additional 15 or 20 minutes, and got a chance to drop some NBA history knowledge on the kid… Merry Christmas to me!
Vinnie Johnson was a shooting guard who played for the Detroit Pistons and a member of The Bad Boys Crew.
Vinnie got the nickname The Microwave because he would come off the bench and instantly start scoring. He had this awkward release that made his shot nearly impossible to block, even for players much taller than him. He was built like a boulder, so he was a tough match defensively for any guard.
Vinnie was no Speed Merchant by any means. This was even more embarrassing for defenders because The Microwave would take them apart in slow motion. It was hilarious to watch defenders turn away in disgust as he just continued to make shot after shot on them. Even Detroit Pistons’ Head Coach Chuck Daly would sit and look away from game action at times to keep from laughing while on television. Injuries and changes to his roster forced Chuck Daly to insert Vinnie in the starting lineup diminishing his effectiveness, but for a long while in the NBA instant offense was spelled… Vinnie Johnson!
Another nickname, I really liked, was… Eric Sleepy Floyd.
Folks had been calling him Sleepy since he was in the second or third grade because when he was a kid, Floyd tried to play baseball, but was terrible at it and grown ups use tell him;
“Eric! Wake up! You’re sleeping out there!”
Everybody called him Sleepy Floyd. The media, other players and fans. Even the NBA Commissioner called him by his nickname when he was drafted out college;
“… with the 13th pick, the New Jersey Nets select from Georgetown University, Eric Sleepy Floyd!”
He turned out to be a solid player.
Another of my favorite NBA Nicknames is… Mr. Crossover, Tim Hardaway.
He earned the nickname ( you guess it! ) because of his crossover moves. Timmy had these nasty crossover moves that would embarrass defenders. The thing about Timmy was that he was born with the ability to make these moves while running at full speed, while other players had to slow down to make them.
Timmy Hardaway was a talker too, sometimes he would tell defenders what he was going to do and then proceed…to do it to them!
The man was a character, he even talked while shooting free throws!
But in my personal opinion the best of all NBA nicknames belongs to Doctor J, Julius Erving.
During a television interview, Erving shared that when he was a youngster playing one-on-one with a neighbor they would get into these arguments over the fine points and rules of basketball. His neighbor got fed up one day with all the arguments and said;
“What?… you gonna be a Lawyer or a Doctor someday?!?”
And that’s how Julius Erving’s legendary nickname was born!
I can still hear the public address announcer voice over the loud speakers at the Philadelphia Spectrum;
“Ladies, gentlemen and kids…put your hands together for The Doctor!…Julius Eeerrving!!!”
Written By: Julio Olmo
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