Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's in an NBA Nick-Name? Part V, I-L

For those who liked Parts I, II, III, IV - - here is Part Five of the always
interesting, always memory stoking, always talking point relevant – NBA NICK-NAMES.

Case in point: Boston Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis is looking to change his image and he sees a first step in that direction - - changing/dropping his nickname. What follows are nick-names (and expressions) that have never changed

"I love Waltah" Tommy Heinsohn, Celtic broadcaster, started the unofficial Walter McCarty fan club, coining the catch phrase and creating a national fan club for the likable reserve Celtic forward who now is an assistant coach at Louisville.

"The Iceman" George Gervin was locked into this name for his cool and calm demeanor on the NBA court. One thing he could do was finger roll. The Iceman was the man in the ABA. He was so good that the Spurs stole him from the Virginia Squires through a harsh court battle.

“Indiana Pacers” When the Indiana franchise came into existence in 1967 in the American Basketball Association, the owners said they named the team Pacers because they intended to set the pace in professional basketball. There was also the matter of the famous Indianapolis 500 Raceway. And when Indiana joined the NBA in 1976, the name Pacers went along.

“Jellybean” Joe Bryant is the father of Kobe. He played eight seasons in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers and other teams. The elder Brant had a fondness for jelly beans.
“Jones boys" K.C. & Sam Jones were the great Celtic backcourt in the 60s. K.C. was “Mr. Defense,” while Sam was “Mr. Offense.”

“Kobe” LA star Kobe Bryant was named after a "Kobe" steak listed on the menu of a Japanese restaurant or as the story goes for a Japanese restaurant itself.

"Larry Legend" Boston Celtic superstar Larry Bird could do it all on the basketball floor and was most deserving of this nickname.

“Los Angeles Clippers” In 1971, the City of San Diego lost its NBA franchise when its team moved to Houston and became the Rockets. The franchise that was originally the
Buffalo Braves, from 1970-1978, moved to San Diego. The owners weren't too thrilled with San Diego Braves as a name. So one of those name-the-team contests was staged, and the winning entry was, you guessed it, Clippers. That was because, once upon a time, lots of beautiful clipper ships passed through the great harbor of San Diego. In fact, the Star of India was still harbored in San Diego. In 1984. the franchise moved to Los Angeles from San Diego and the name Clippers came along.

“Los Angeles Lakers” The Minneapolis Lakers made the move to L.A. before the 1960 season and took with it its nickname that comes from the state of Minnesota's motto: "the land of 10,000 lakes".

(to be continued)

Harvey Frommer is his 34th consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his classic "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball."

Frommer's next work is an oral and narrative history of Fenway Park.

Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's in an Nick-Name? The NBA Part IV, E-H

There were so many responses to the last piece on NBA nick-names that here is another batch. Some names come from the physical look of athletes, others from their place of origin, others still from their accomplishments on the court. Nowadays, NBA nick-names are not as colorful and definitely much less in evidence. Kevin Garnett, (”the kid, and the “big ticket” ) for example, has a few but they don’t seem as much in use. Here we go – and as always – reactions always welcomed.

“EASY ED” A lean 6'8", 1 90-pounder, Ed Macauley ranks as one of the top centers in NBA history. A three-time All-Star in a nine-year playing career during the 1950's, Macauley specialized in a smooth, almost unstoppable hook shot and driving layups. His temperament and his performing skills were characterized by an ease and a grace that was reflected in his nickname.

“ERASER, THE HUMAN” Marvin Webster of the New York Knickerbockers in the NBA on earned his nickname for his shot-blocking ability. At seven-feet-plus, Webster's size and timing enabled him to wipe out scoring efforts of opponents by simply batting the ball away from the hoop.

“THE GLIDE” Clyde Drexler’s role model was Julius Erving. “He seemed to fly. I wanted to be like him,'' said Drexler, who earned the nickname “Clyde the Glide'' for his own swooping moves.

"THE GLOVE” Gary Payton, the all-time scoring leader at Oregon State, Payton made a name for himself with the Seattle Supersonics on the other side of the ball - as a defender.

“GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS” In 1925, there was a Philadelphia Warriors team in the American Basketball League. In 1946, when Philadelphia joined the NBA, it took its nickname from that old team. The Golden State Warriors are a descendant of the old Philadelphia Warriors. They've gone through a couple of geographical shifts. Philly became the San Francisco Warriors, San Francisco became the Oakland Warriors and Oakland became the Golden State Warriors.

“GRANMAMA” Larry Johnson, who played for the Knicks and other teams in the NBA – even when he was young he looked grandmotherly.

“HACK- A- SHAQ” Primitive defensive scheme designed to try and stop the ONE-TIME most unstoppable man in the NBA – Shaquille O’Neal. Fouling him put him on the foul line where his skills were sub-par.

“HIS AIRNESS” Michael Jordan seemed to fly in the air and also his play had a touch of royalty about it for some, hence the nickname.

“HORSE, THE” Harry Gallatin starred for the National Basketball Association New York Knickerbockers during the 1950's. Though just 6'6", his bulk and power enabled him to out rebound much taller opponents. In the 1953-54 season Gallatin pulled down 1,098 rebounds, an average of 15.3 per game. His strength and stamina earned him his nickname.

“HOT DOG” Dennis Rodman, master rebounder and man of many hair colors and show off ways.
“HOUSTON ROCKETS “ The Houston Rockets were once the San Diego Rockets (1967-1971). When the franchise moved to Houston in 1971, the nickname went along and fit in a city linked to space programs and industries.

"HUMAN HIGHLIGHT REEL" Dominique Wilkins, passing was not his game but spectacular offensive moves were.

(to be continued)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What's in an NBA Nick-Name? Part IV, A-D

Once upon a time in all sports, nick-names were the thing. Some came from the physical look of athletes, others from their place of origin, others still from their accomplishments on the court. Nowadays, NBA nick-names are not as colorful and definitely much less in evidence. Herewith, a trip down memory lane on a nomenclature ride.

“THE ADMIRAL” Former San Antonio Spur star David Robinson was called this because of his Naval Academy roots and leadership skills on the court.

ALL-WORLD Lloyd Free, National Basketball Association free soul, who learned his basketball on the sidewalks of New York, gave himself this nickname. Free was a little man in a world of giants who considered his "rainbow shot," which went high in the air and down at the basket, worthy of the nickname he dreamed up.

“BAD BOYS” The rough and tough style of play of the Detroit Pistons coached by Chuck Daly in the late 1980s-early '90s that included Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, John Salley, and Dennis Rodman earned the team that name.

BARON, THE A strong-minded individual whose Kentucky teams rank among the greatest in the history of college basketball, Adolph Rupp's nickname came from his imperial manner and his record of success. "I know I have plenty of enemies," he once said, "but I'd rather be the most hated winning coach in the country than the most popular losing one." Rupp's teams made more appearances in the NCAA tournament than any other coach's; he produced more than two dozen All Americans.

"BIG DIPPER" His full name was Wilton Norman Chamberlain. He was born in 1936 in Philadelphia and grew up to be 7-1 and 275 pounds. Voted in as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978. His nickname was the Big Dipper, and he named his Los Angeles mansion Ursa Major, the astronomic term for the Big Dipper constellation. There was a retractable roof over Chamberlain’s bed - Big Dipper watching Big Dipper.

“BIG "E" At 6'9" and 230 pounds, Elvin Hayes was an intimidating performer in the NBA. The former University of Houston All-American, a fine shooter and rebounder, earned his nickname for his size, performance, and appeal.

“BIG FELLA” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had this nickname because of his size. Others were “Cap” and “The Captain” for his leadership.
“BIG GAME JAMES” The former LA Laker star James Worthy rose to the occasion
in prime time moments.

BIG "O" THE Oscar Robertson was big at 6'5" and 205 pounds, but the nickname all of basketball knew him by came more from his big skills than his size. Robertson was a great shooter, a great passer, and a tremendous defensive player. Former Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach once remarked, "He's so great he scares me. He can beat you all by himself and usually does." Robertson was selected to the All-Star team each year of his playing career and that was just another reason for his nickname—the Big "O" stood not for zero, but for oh!

“BIG SMOOTH” The large Sam Perkins played for several NBA teams – always with grace and ease.

“BIG TICKET” Kevin Garnett came into the NBA as a teenager and was called “Da Kid.” His more permanent nickname derived from the skills and showmanship he displayed over the decades.

“THE CHIEF” Robert Parrish starred for the Celtics and took charge, hence the nickname. He had a stern, no-nonsense look on his face reminding teammates of the Indian Chief from the movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

“CLARK KENT” Kurt Rambis wore safety type glasses a la Superman’s alter ego, hence the nickname. He was also called “blue-collar Kurt,” for his lunch pail work ethic.

CLYDE During the late 1960's and early 1 970's Walt Frazier of the New York Knickerbockers epitomized the cool, calculated precision of a daring basketball player. During his prime, the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” about a bankrobbing duo, was popular. Frazier's facial hair, his elegant dress off the basketball court, his flashy car and mod ways, earned for him the nickname Clyde. He would steal the basketball, pass brilliantly, perform best under pressure, display an unruffled manner—all of which were the sporting counterparts to the characteristics of the movie antihero Clyde.

“DR. J.” Agile and talented Julius Erving, one of the premier stars first of the American Basketball Association and then in the NBA, could do tricks with a basketball. Neither his first nor his last name conjures up images of a driving, talented, cool basketball player. Thus, the "Dr." stems from what he did with a basketball.

“DOLLAR BILL” Born July 28, 1943 in Crystal City, Missouri, Bill Bradley was a fine athlete almost from the start. An incredible high school basketball player, he could have probably gone to any college in America on a basketball scholarship. But he chose Princeton and paid his own way since Ivy League schools did not offer athletic scholarships. He led Princeton to three Ivy League titles, averaged 30.1 points a game and was a two-time All-American. The only junior, he was the captain of the 1964 gold medal winning U.S. Olympic team.

His contract with the New York Knickerbockers called for $500,000 for four year’s work, but the nickname given Bill Bradley was not for the money he earned but for the money he saved. While other NBA stars drove flashy cars and sported ever more lavish wardrobes, Bradley lived simply and dressed even more simply. His apartment, one friend said, "looked like a Holiday Inn room before the maid shows up."

Bradley reportedly used paper clips when his cuff buttons gave out. There was a precedent for his behavior. While a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford for two years, Bradley lived out of what was called "a large and appallingly messy suitcase." He had more important things on his mind than style and consumer comforts. Bradley led New York to NBA titles and was the toast of New York. But in his time as a Knick, Bradley never did a commercial. He was very conscious even then of his image. He even had a special clause in his contract that said he did not have to do any endorsements.

"THE DREAM” Hakeem Olajuwon starred for the Houston Rockets, a big man who dominated on both sides of the court with a combination of power and finesse. He is the all-time leader in blocked shots.

“DUNKIN’ DUTCHMAN Rik Smits, former NBA star, earned the nick-name, for his Dutch roots and seven foot plus size.