Top 10 Nicknames in Los Angeles Lakers History

November 26, 2011

With the NBA's 149-day lockout apparently coming to an end this week, we have had plenty of time to ponder about the game while the rich folks battled it out in negotiations.  One question that came to mind during our reflections: what are the top 10 nicknames in Los Angeles Lakers' history?

To narrow down our list, there must be some criteria.  First, a great nickname should not incorporate the player's actual name or initials.  Therefore, fan favorites such as Michael "Coop" Cooper, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins, and Bob "Doo" McAdoo will be eliminated from the discussion.

Second, any nickname created by a player for himself is just too corny on general principle to be included. Under this category, Kobe's self-proclaimed "Black Mamba" does not make the list.

Third, players whose nicknames are more strongly affiliated with another NBA team cannot be included in this Laker list. Under this rule, Karl "The Mailman" Malone and Gary "The Glove" Payton will be eliminated.

So what factors are important? Whether the player received his nickname while on the Lakers, or during his pre-NBA days.  Whether the player actually is referred to by his nickname more often than his true name.

Also, does the nickname fit the individual, or is it more sarcastic in nature? This factor eliminates "The Machine" Sasha Vujacic from the discussion, since he was a walking brick festival, not a shooting machine. Finally, is the nickname unique, or is it the type that can be applied to other players?

Here are the DSH's top 10 Laker nicknames of all-time:

10. "The Kobe Stopper" Ruben Patterson

Patterson originally was a Laker draft pick who had a brief stint with the team, but he still managed to leave an impression, particularly in team practices.  Patterson's athleticism, energy, and refusal-to-back-down attitude on D brought an increased intensity and physicality to team scrimmages, especially when he matched up with Kobe Bryant. It was those one-on-one battles that inspired Patterson to come up with the nickname.

Although this is the one self-created nickname on the list, "The Kobe Stopper" deserves to be included just on its sheer bravado alone. After all, it is not often that you find a second-round draft pick brash enough to claim that he can shut down the team's star player. Moreover, the name stuck with Patterson throughout his career.

9. William "Smush" Parker

Smush came to the Lakers having already had his nickname, but oh what a nickname it was.  This nickname was such an inherent part of his identity that one would be hard-pressed to find a dozen fans who knew his actual name. Throw in his signature vehicle -- a Cadillac Escalade he dubbed the "Smushcalade" -- and it becomes clear that this nickname had some staying power.

Unfortunately for Laker fans, Smush's game was not nearly as interesting as his nickname, as fans had to endure a full season with him starting opposite Kobe Bryant in the backcourt.

8. Nick "The Quick" Van Exel

Nick the Quick was the life's blood of the Lake Show era, with his herky-jerky moves, long distance threes, and clutch, game-winning shots. Van Exel's nickname fit his game nicely too, as the speedy lefty consistently was able to break his man down off the dribble and create havoc for the defense.

Since his departure, the franchise still has yet to find a starter at the point who can match up defensively with the league's quicker lead guards. That was never a problem when the flashy Nick the Quick was on the job.

7.  "Big Shot Rob" Robert Horry

This nickname gets props for two reasons: (1) it originated with the purple and gold as it was bestowed on Horry by his Laker teammates, and (2) it was appropriate given Horry's ability to consistently hit clutch threes late in games.

There is also another nuance to this nickname that warrants some recognition.  Much like how the 90's Lakers called themselves the "Lake Show" to both show respect to the Showtime era and also give their generation its own identity, the "Big Shot Rob" moniker similarly is both an homage and an adaptation, but this time to another famous Laker nickname listed below.

6.  Jamaal "Silk" Wilkes

Silk was a smooth 3 with soft hands and that one-of-a-kind, behind-the-head release on his jumper. Chick Hearn used to call his outside shots "20-foot layups" because of his accuracy and smooth-as-silk stroke. Silk deserves a high ranking on this list because his nickname not only rhymes with his surname, but also accurately describes the smooth and efficient way that this cerebral star approached the game.

5.  "The Captain" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

"The Captain" or "Cap" was fitting for Kareem on several levels.  First, the name commanded a regal air of respect and prestige for a player who just happened to conduct himself with the same dignity and class that one would imagine from a captain. Second, from the day he arrived from Milwaukee up until Magic Johnson's 1986-1987 MVP season, Kareem was the driving force, leader, and captain of the Laker ship.

There have been numerous team captains for the Los Angeles Lakers over the years, but when someone refers to "Cap," only one individual -- Kareem -- comes to mind.

4.  "Big Game" James Worthy

"Big Game James" deserves inclusion on this list because the nickname not only is catchy, but also describes how Worthy consistently rose to the occasion in the playoffs. One of the most underrated players in NBA history, Worthy was a true offensive force with a blazing first step, a devastating spin move on the block, reliable range out to 20 feet, and thunderous tomahawk finishes at the rim.

His ability was put on full display in the 1987, 1988, and 1989 Finals, as he averaged 23, 22, and 25 points per game, respectively.  In 1988 he earned Finals MVP honors against Detroit, icing the series for the Lakers with a monster Game 7 effort of 36 points, 16 boards, and 10 assists.

3.  Jerry "Mr. Clutch" West

Before discussing why this nickname deserves such a high-ranking, it is necessary to first establish that "Mr. Clutch" is indeed his Laker nickname.  The reason why this determination must be made is because  West had multiple nicknames.

One such nickname was "Zeke from Cabin Creek," and while many of his Laker teammates would use this name in good humor, it was not truly associated with him on a mass scale by the fans.

More recently, long after West retired, modern day fans and media have started referring to him as "The Logo." However, this nickname was never affiliated with West during his Laker playing days.

West also was sometimes referred to as "Mr. Outside" (with Elgin Baylor being "Mr. Inside"), but that too became short-lived once Chick Hearn started calling him "Mr. Clutch."

Known for his late game heroics -- including his famous 60-foot bucket against the Knicks which sent that game into overtime -- this nickname ranks high because it fit his game and originated with the Lakers. Critics might argue that he lost too many Finals series to be called Mr. Clutch, but it certainly was not for lack of individual effort on his part.  After all, West remains the only Finals MVP in history to be on a losing team.  Indeed, Mr. Clutch delivered in the clutch.

2.  Francis "Chick" Hearn

Chick got his nickname from his days at Bradley when teammates gave him a dead chicken as a prank.  From that day forward, the name "Chick" stuck. When someone mentions the name "Chick," no last name needs to be mentioned to understand who the speaker is referencing.

The greatest play-by-play announcer in basketball history, Chick's rapid fire delivery was ideal for describing the uptempo sport of basketball.  More importantly, the terminology he invented -- slam dunk, air ball, finger roll, boo birds, dribble drive, charity stripe, garbage time, to name just a few -- became the modern day vocabulary of the game.

The nickname "Chick" was such an inherent part of his identity that his patented basketball phrases were given their own nickname -- "Chick-isms."

1.  Earvin "Magic" Johnson

Magic. The name says it all.

This nickname deserves the top spot for so many reasons. First, the nickname "Magic" essentially supplanted the name "Earvin" to the point that some might not even be aware of his true name.  Moreover, this nickname is so identifiable that one need not say the last name "Johnson" to know who is being discussed.  Simply by mentioning "Magic" the subject of the conversation is instantly recognized.

More importantly, the name fits the game.

Magic was arguably the most exciting player in NBA history, leading end-to-end fast breaks at the unheard size of 6'9", while setting up his teammates with his patented no-look dimes. Not only did he make mere finishers, such as Michael Jordan, seem dull by comparison, but he also had observers astonishingly scratching their heads after throwing one of his how-did-he-see-that-guy passes.

But "Magic" also fit the man's personality too. With his larger than life smile and charm, Johnson is the ultimate people person who has that rare type of charisma that is, well, magical.

Although naysayers might point out that the name Magic originated from his high school days in Michigan, and that within the Laker locker room his teammates actually called him "Buck", Magic still is the most fitting, appropriate, and descriptive nickname in team history. It remains the ultimate Laker nickname.

Honorable Mention

Hot Rod Hundley
Happy Hairston
Sedale "The Thief" Threatt
"Big Smooth" Sam Perkins
Gail "Stumpy" Goodrich
"The Big Dipper" Wilt Chamberlain
"The Diesel" Shaquille O'Neal
Anthony "Pig" Miller
"Fall Back Baby" Dick Barnett
"Clark Kent" Kurt Rambis
"The Big Fella" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald

6 comments:

  1. I think "The Thief" Sedale should get more love. He was among the league leaders in steals when he was with LA and was a baller compared to Smush

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tough to beat "Hot Rod". That name even brought copycats with Hot Rod Williams years later.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Van Exel also had another name, "Cancun"!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Many thanks to our readers for the comments. Just a few quick thoughts:

    1. Raiduhs & Tebowed,
    Both names you pointed out were great. That's why they made the honorable mention list. With so many good choices, we could not put everyone in the top 10.
    2. Bakshan,
    Mad Dog is another good nickname, although he had it long before his NBA days. Due to a numbers game we had to cut him out.

    ReplyDelete
  5. show the "eleven o'clock machine" some love.

    ReplyDelete

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

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