The Least Creative Nicknames in Sports History
One of the perks of being an athlete, or just being part of a team, is that you are part of an exclusive fraternity that condones—and even encourages—the kind of goofball antics most people and places find unacceptable.
Congratulatory butt-slaps, improvised spontaneous dancing, bizarre rituals to satisfy completely irrational superstitions and other countless social amenities are just a few examples of what athletes can indulge in (usually) without fear of reprisal.
If not near the top of the list of these perks, the nickname certainly is one of the most culturally and historically significant in sports.
Consider all of the nicknames that are nearly as influential as the person who inspired them: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Magic Johnson, Refrigerator Perry, Bear Bryant...the list can go on and on.
However, with the desire to capture an athlete's place in the sport comes the risk of giving them a nickname that may stand the test of time, but not history's judgement. Whether lame, offensive or just plain bizarre, the nickname can be a gift or a curse.
Somewhere lost between bad and good are those nicknames that..well, seem lazy. These are the least creative nicknames in sports history.
Name/Sport: Ben Roethlisberger, NFL
Nickname: Big Ben
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is big and his name is Ben. BOOM! Big Ben! Why bother striving for gold when someone hands you the bronze for doing nothing—right?
Sometimes I wonder if the clock tower in London considered having its attorneys send a cease and desist letter when Roethlisberger was at the height of his…legal problems.
Name/Sport: Dwyane Wade, NBA
Nickname: WOW (Way Of Wade)
Talk about a misfire. When Heat star Dwyane Wade attempted to give himself an acronym nickname in early 2013, even his friend and teammate LeBron James couldn’t even pretend to be excited about it.
The King called the acronickname “corny,” which you know was the nicest possible thing he could muster in the moment. Wade somehow managed to simultaneously try way too hard and not try hard enough.
Name/Sport: Robert de Wilde, BMX Rider
Dutch BMX rider Robert de Wilde is known for de wild hair. On his Oakley sponsorship page, it’s described as “long, wild, uncombed hair.”
Although his hair is in no way, shape or form an afro, that is apparently where the “Afro-Bob” nickname was derived.
Name/Sport: Billy Johnson, NFL
Nickname: White Shoes
Former NFL wide receiver Billy Johnson was nicknamed “White Shoes” because he wore—you guessed it!—white shoes, while other players of the day wore black shoes.
Like Tom “Girl Boots” Brady, Robert “Endless Supply of Special-Occasion Socks” Griffin III, Bill “Cutoff Sweatshirt” Belichick and Jim “Pleated Khaki Pants with Way Too Much Room in the Crotch” Harbaugh.
Name/Sport: Marc-André Fleury, NHL
Penguins goalie Marc-André Fleury is called “Flower” by teammates and fans alike.
A not-so-great nickname made even worse by the fact that it’s just the English translation of his last name.
Name/Sport: LeBron James, NBA
To be fair, this isn’t LeBron James’ fault. He never refers to himself as “LBJ,” probably because his middle name is Raymone and he’s not as stupid and lazy as the members of the media that insist on trying to make “LBJ” happen.
I don’t mean to get all Regina George here, but it’s not going to happen. First of all, the “B” isn’t even his freaking initial—it’s just another letter in his first name. More importantly, we already have an LBJ! A pretty important one, too.
How about we let President Lyndon B. Johnson rest in peace and stop trying to rip off his initials for an athlete who isn’t hurting for a cool nickname.
Hick from French Lick
Name/Sport: Larry Bird, NBA
Nickname: The Hick from French Lick
This is a commonly used nickname trick. You take the place where an athlete is from and find a rhyming word that vaguely relates to aforementioned athlete.
In Celtics legend Larry Bird’s case, it’s both unfortunate and kinda derogatory.
The Heater from Van Meter
Name/Sport: Bob Feller, MLB
Nickname: The Heater from Van Meter
Here we go again. The late Bob Feller was a pitcher, and pitchers throw fastballs, also known as heaters. He was born in Van Meter, Iowa.
A thing vaguely associated with Feller + place of birth = The Heater from Van Meter.
Name/Sport: Shaun White, Snowboarder
Nickname: Flying Tomato
This is absolutely one of the most unfortunate and lazy nicknames in sports. Shaun White is a ginger, therefore he has red hair—ya know…like a tomato! And he’s a snowboarder, therefore he occasionally flies.
Obviously that makes him a…Flying Tomato.
Name/Sport: Kobe Bryant, NBA
Last year, Lakers great Kobe Bryant decided to give himself a nickname that acknowledged what we all know about him—he’s getting old—while at the same time denying what else we all know about him—he’s not as good as he used to be.
Which is why Bryant eventually landed on “Vino,” the Italian word for wine, a beverage said only to get better as it ages. He probably thought he struck gold with this superficial attempt at being deep, but he didn't. He really, really didn't.
Name/Sport: B.J. Raji, NFL
Nickname: The Freezer
The Packers’ B.J. Raji supposedly gave himself the nickname “The Freezer” as an homage to former Bears defensive end William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Well…an homage and a marketing opportunity.
Then again, is it really an homage to a Hall of Fame player on a hated division rival team? When they say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” they’re really just trying to sugarcoat the fact that you just got ripped off.
The Owl Without a Vowel
Name/Sport: Bill Mlkvy, NBA
Nickname: The Owl Without a Vowel
This one is just weird. Bill Mlkvy’s nickname doesn’t even describe him—it describes the alphabetory structure, and lack of vowels, in his name. Well, in his last name.
Calling him “The Owl Without a Vowel” is ridiculous because: 1. His first name actually has three vowels and 2. Even if it had zero vowels, it’s still a stupid nickname.
The Owl, Whose Last Name Is Without a Vowel.
Name/Sport: Andy Roddick, Tennis
The real problem with Andy Roddick’s nickname “A-Rod” is that it’s Alex Rodriguez’s nickname. It wasn’t particularly great the first time around, and it’s even worse recycled by Roddick.
I’ve got a much better nickname for Roddick anyway: One-Hit Wonder. It’s mean, but sadly appropriate.
Name/Sport: Björn Borg, Tennis
Nickname: Ice Borg
Swedish tennis great Björn Borg’s nickname was, apparently, “Ice Borg.”
See what he did there? It’s like iceberg, but two separate words and with an “o” instead of an “e”!!!
Name/Sport: Chad Ochocinco, NFL
Nickname: Ocho Cinco
Chad Ochocinco has the dubious distinction of being the only athlete on this list to legally change his real name to the real stupid nickname he gave himself.
He called himself “Ocho Cinco” because his jersey number was 85. But the Spanish translation isn’t actually 85, it’s the number 8 and the number 5.
Name/Sport: Burleigh Grimes, MLB
Nickname: Ol’ Stubblebeard
Baseball nicknames back in golden days of yesteryear were, more often than not, self-explanatory. I suppose when you live through the Great Depression, as Burleigh Grimes did, there’s less of a tolerance for fun and games.
Grimes never shaved on days he was scheduled to pitch, making him stubbly. He was born in 1893 and lived to be almost 100, making him old. Even when he was young, he was probably old—the nature of the times. Old + beard stubble = Ol’ Stubblebeard.
The Big Dipper
Name/Sport: Wilt Chamberlain, NBA
Nickname: The Big Dipper
Back in the day, people were absolutely obsessed with the largeness of basketball great Wilt Chamberlain. Most of his early AP photos are taken from strange angles meant to emphasize his size.
That’s how he ended up with ridiculously unimpressive nicknames like “Wilt the Stilt” (Get it? He’s tall!) and “The Big Dipper” (Get it? He’s a big star!). It’s like naming a brown dog “Cocoa” or a white fluffy cat “Fluffy.”
Name/Sport: Kevin Durant, NBA
Nickname: The Servant
Recently, Thunder superstar Kevin Durant told Grantland’s Bill Simmons that his new nickname is…”The Servant.” The only thing worse than the name was the explanation.
You see, KD wants to be known as “The Servant” because…wait for it…he likes to “serve everybody.” And it sounds like he means in the Jesus way, not in the You Got Served way.
Name/Sport: Lou Gehrig, MLB
Nickname: Biscuit Pants
Poor Lou Gehrig. This nickname always reminds me of when Paris Hilton said Kim Kardashian’s hindquarters were like a trash bag stuffed with cottage cheese.
In this case, Gehrig is Kardashian and his former Yankee teammates are Hilton. “Biscuit Pants” was a reference to his ample posterior and what it looked like in the uniform.
Pulled Muscle Face
Name/Sport: Darryl Strawberry, MLB
Nickname: Pulled Muscle Face
According to Jeff Pearlman’s book The Bad Guys Won!, the 1986 Red Sox came up with colorful, though not particularly clever, nicknames for many of the Mets players they faced in the World Series.
Darryl Strawberry “was ‘Pulled Muscle Face’ because he was so lean he could pull a muscle in his face at any time.” They really went the long way to call a dude skinny.
Sid the Kid
Name/Sport: Sidney Crosby, NHL
Nickname: Sid the Kid
Superstar Sidney Crosby’s name is Sidney, or “Sid” for short. He was just 18 when drafted by the Penguins in 2005, still a kid by most standards. Having part of his name rhyme with kid made it far too easy for people to be lazy on this one.
Can’t imagine Crosby is too fond of the nickname anymore, assuming he ever was.
Name/Sport: Lester Hayes, NFL
Nickname: The Molester
Lester Hayes played cornerback for the Raiders in the late '70s/early-mid '80s. It’s a position that requires an athlete to be “all over” opposing wide receivers—or even molesting them. ::Shudder::
Adding the word “molest” to anything is a great way to make things uncomfortable. Which is why it’s such a shame that Hayes was given one of two names in the world that rhyme with molester.
Lester “The Molester” isn’t creative or tough or even the slightest bit endearing. It’s obvious, weird and creepy. Is it too late for Hayes to file an official grievance with the NFLPA?
Name/Sport: Craig Ehlo, NBA
If there wasn’t such a boring explanation for Craig Ehlo’s ridiculous nickname, it wouldn’t be on this list. Unfortunately, there is. Apparently Ehlo got the nickname “Eggs” because he used to buy breakfast a lot.
Too bad he and his former teammate didn’t compete for dinners, too—then he could’ve been “Steak and Eggs.”
Name/Sport: Ryan Lochte, Olympic Swimmer
Nickname: The Lochtenator
American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte isn’t known as the sharpest pencil in the box—more like a broken crayon with the paper missing. Which explains the feeble attempt at a nickname.
“The Lochtenator” is reminiscent of Rob Schneider’s “Making Copies” character from SNL: “Ry-annn! Ryan Lock-teeee. The Lock-box, making some copies! The Lochtenator, done making his copies.”
The Big [Insert Super Random Noun Here]
Name/Sport: Shaquille O’Neal, NBA
Nickname: The Big Aristotle, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Cactus, The Big Daddy, The Big Banana, The Big Shamrock, The Big Conductor, The Big Baryshnikov, The Big Twitterer, The Big IPO, The Big Cordially, The Big Field General, The Big Galactus, The Big Agave
Get it? Shaquille O’Neal is big.
The + Big + Noun = Shaq Nickname.
Mr. Consistent Yankee
Name/Sport: Roy White, MLB
Nickname: Mr. Consistent Yankee
Roy White played all 15 seasons of his career with the Yankees. Over that time, he missed very few games and his stats fluctuated only marginally from year to year.
He was good, not great. He was consistent. He was a Yankee. He was a man. White was…Mr. Consistent Yankee. Bet that nickname felt appreciated.