The Greatest Top 25 Nickname List in the History of Sports
Nicknames are the nectar of sports. They raise mere mortals to Herculean heights and cement their places in the pantheons of greatness. Do you think Yankee fans would love Greg Gossage as much as they loved “Goooooose?” Do you think Nike would have sold nearly as many sneakers if Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway’s alter ego had been “Little Anfernee” and not “Little Penny?” I don’t think so. It's all about the nickname.
So given the incredible importance of nicknames, I and the staff at The Odds Factory have burned the midnight oil and created the definitive top 25 nickname list employing 3 main criteria.
First and foremost: the quality of the nickname itself is the most important thing. Great nickname/lousy career trumps great career/lousy nickname.
Second criteria: is the nickname iconic? Magic, Sweetness, Doctor J. You say the name you know who it is.
Third in the voting: Playing career. It’s a nickname list, not Hall of Fame voting.
So drum roll please, I present to you… The Greatest Top 25 Nickname List In The History Of Sports.
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25. Jason “White Chocolate” Williams
Randy Moss’ high school teammate burst on the scene like a supernova with the Sacto Kings, setting SportsCenter ablaze with highlights on a nightly basis. His career didn’t blaze for too long, but the nickname will endure.
24. “Mr. Irrelevant”
Okay, okay it’s not a nickname for one guy, but the name given to the last player in the NFL draft. It’s stuck so well and is of such a high degree of imagination, I’m going to let “Mister Irrelevant” make the cut.
23. “Jelly Bean” Joe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was “The Mamba”. Joe Bryant was “Jellybean”. Kobe “The Mamba” Bryant is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. “Jellybean” Joe Bryant is on the “Top 25 greatest nicknames in the history of sports list”.
22. Bobby “The Golden Jet” Hull & Brett “The Golden Brett” Hull
The name fit the father and the name fit the son: both had the golden hair and streaked down the wing to unleash devastating shots. On their own, they may not have made it, but extra points for two generations of perfect nicknames get them the #22 spot.
21. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson
The greatest end zone dancer ever and the 21st greatest nickname.
20. Walter “Sweetness” Payton
I think they should change the NFL man of the year award from the “The Walter Payton Award” to “The Sweetness award”.
19. Jake “The Raging Bull” LaMotta
“You fucking my wife. You fucking my wife.” He was The Raging Bull. Might be a hair higher if ORDINARY PEOPLE hadn’t beaten out his life story RAGING BULL (how in the world did that happen?).
18. Randy “The Manster” White
Half man/half monster = “The Manster.” Fantastic name for this Cowboys Hall of Famer, bonus points for porn ‘stache.
17. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway
His nickname spawned “Lil Penny” and that gets him on the list.
16. Dominique “The Human Highlight Reel” Wilkins
He was a better dunker than Michael Jordan, there I said it.
15. Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson
He was given the name because of how quickly he could heat up coming off the bench for the Pistons. On pure nickname alone he would be much higher on the list, but if you ask sports fans of any era who “The Microwave” was, you’d get a lot of blank faces.
14. Chuck “The Bayonne Bleeder” Wepner
They made 2 movies about this guy’s life and they both bombed. You know why? Because they didn’t name either one of them The Bayonne Bleeder.
13. David “The Admiral” Robinson
We have to salute the man and the nickname.
12. Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig
You ask how a man gets a nickname like “The Iron Horse?” You play 2103 games in a row, that’s how.
11. Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas
He could hurt you on the football field at Auburn, he could hurt you on the diamond in his Hall of Fame career with the White Sox, and now he can hurt you in the boudoir with his commercials for the testosterone booster Nugenics.
10. Dick “Night Train” Lane
This Lions Hall of Famer and one-time husband of the great Dinah Washington got his nickname dancing to the R&B tune “Night Train” at his first training camp. Amazing that one moment a guy starts calling you some rando nickname, and the next thing you know it’s on your HOF bust.
9. Julius “Doctor J” Erving
“Hey Doctor J, where’d you get those moves?” The Doctor leaps to #9 on the list.
8. Marvin “The Human Eraser” Webster
He got this fantastic name during his junior year in college when he averaged 8 blocks per game. But during his pro career, the Knicks wanted to erase the big-money contract they gave him in free agency.
7. Earvin “Magic” Johnson
He said he was 2 people: “Earvin” and “Magic.” Earvin was more introverted and Magic was the smiling, dishing leader of The Showtime Lakers.
6. Ted “The Splendid Splinter” Williams
The greatest hitter of all time, the greatest fighter pilot of all time, the greatest fly fisherman of all time, and the 6th greatest nickname of all time.
5. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson
Is it crazy to put “Megatron” so high on the list? I don’t even like TRANSFORMERS. But the image of him Megatron-ing defensive backs in his short-sleeved Lions shirt won’t leave my head.
4. Karl “The Mailman” Malone
"The Mailman" performed like the United States Post Office when he bricked two free throws in the 1997 NBA Finals.
3. William “The Refrigerator” Perry
He was an explosion in 1985, going from gap-toothed back-up linemen to maybe the most famous person in America.
2. George “The Ice Man” Gervin
He was the coolest. The “Ice Man” finger-rolls his way all the way up to #2 on the list.
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1. Daryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins
He was from the planet Lovetron and had a dunk in a game called “The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”
A friend of mine once attended the Darryl Dawkins basketball camp. With a dozen 12-year-old Jewish kids showering in the gang shower at Temple University, Dawkins and his hulking 6-11 300 pound frame appeared at the entrance to the shower in a long white terrycloth robe. Darryl shouted out to the boys “Now I’m gonna show you why they call me ‘Chocolate Thunder’ and dropped his robe to the ground.
I don’t think there is a boy that was in the shower that day that would argue that “Chocolate Thunder” isn’t the all-time greatest nickname in the history of sports.