Top 10 best NBA nicknames of all time

Michael Jordan won six NBA titles in his career
Michael Jordan holds up six fingers for each Bulls championship as he addresses the crowd at the Petrillo Music Shell at Grant Park on June 16, 1998, in Chicago (Imago)

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Let us look at the top 10 best NBA nicknames of all time

Players from all over the world are called dearly by their nicknames and NBA players are no different. If you are an NBA player, you are guaranteed to have a cool nickname, on and off the court.

This nickname of players eventually becomes a regular name and fans at times, forget what is the real name of the player!

NBA is full of iconic nicknames that perfectly match their respective owners. It can be the player’s playing style or the physical appearance, the nicknames perfectly complement them all.

Here are the top 10 best NBA nicknames of all time.

1. Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson

Magic Johnson won multiple titles with the LA Lakers
Owner, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Dodgers attends the NLDS game 1 against the Washington Nationals on Thursday October 3, 2019 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Imago)

Johnson really was a ‘Magic’ while playing on the court. He is aptly honored as one of the greatest point guard of all time. His stats prove his legacy without any doubt.

His nickname is so famous that barely anybody knows or calls him by his real name. Magic Johnson is best known for his playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson is a five-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, three-time NBA MVP, and is a twelve-time All-Star. He has also won a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. His resume surely reveals why he is called ‘Magic’.

2. Karl Malone – The Mailman

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Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone displays his muscle to the New Jersey Nets fans in 2001.(Associated Press)

Nicknamed ‘the Mailman’, Karl Malone is one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the NBA. He spent his entire career averaging exactly 25 points per game and retired with a mammoth 36,928 points in the NBA.

Malone has never won an NBA Championship, but he always delivered a superb performance. This earned him the perfect nickname of ‘the Mailman’. Surprisingly, as the legend goes, Malone always delivered — except on Sunday and national holidays, just like the U.S. Postal Service.

3. Hakeem Olajuwon – The Dream

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Hakeem Olajuwon is a two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, one-time NBA MVP, and is a twelve-time NBA All-Star. He achieved all of this while playing for the Houston Rockets.

Born in Nigeria, Olajuwon was given the nickname ‘The Dream’ due to his graceful footwork and silky-smooth ball-handling skills while shaking off defenders with ease. In other words, he was a dream to watch while he played.

4. Paul Pierce – The Truth

Paul Pierce header
NBA, Basketball Herren, USA LEGEND VISITS NRL FAN FEST, Former NBA player Paul Pierce speaks on stage at the NRL Fan Fest event at Martin Place in Sydney, Friday, October 4, 2019. ACHTUNG: NUR REDAKTIONELLE NUTZUNG, KEINE ARCHIVIERUNG UND KEINE BUCHNUTZUNG SYDNEY NSW AUSTRALIA PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xDANxHIMBRECHTSx 20191004001424247476

Paul Pierce’s nickname ‘The Truth’ was given to him in March 2001. The nickname was given to him by Shaquille O’Neal. It was during Pierce’s third season when the Boston Celtics lost to the LA Lakers 112-107 despite Pierce putting up 42 points and a 13-19 shooting record.

O’Neal then mentioned Pierce as the ‘Truth’ because of his performance, and honestly, the nickname suits him.

Pierce is a one-time NBA champion, one-time NBA Finals MVP, and a 10-time NBA All-Star.

5. Dennis Rodman – The Worm

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Photo Credit: Rex Shutterstock (Chicago Bulls, 1997)

When he was a kid, Dennis Rodman was reportedly bestowed with this nickname by his mother. Apparently, he used to wiggle like a worm while playing pinball. Needless to say, the name suits him well.

Rodman is known for his famous rebounding skills and he was one of the best defenders in the NBA. His skills helped Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls win three championships!

The Worm was also known for his notorious off-court antics. He once famously did not return from a Vegas trip during the Bulls’ playoff series against the Phoenix Suns after being permitted for a 48 hours vacation.

Rodman has won five NBA championships and was a two-time All-Star. He has made an astonishing 11,954 rebounds with an average of 13.1 rpg in his NBA career.

6. Allen Iverson – The Answer


Allen Iverson was popularly called ‘A.I. and ‘The Answer’. Out of the two, ‘The Answer’ really has a ring to it. And, Iverson really was the answer for his team, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Iverson redefined how to play as a point guard and this brought a significant change in the NBA. Unfortunately, the Answer never won an NBA championship.

He was the NBA MVP of 2001 and has been an eleven-time All-Star. Iverson has also won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

7. Giannis Antetokounmpo – The Greek Freak

Giannis is one of the best players in the NBA
March 6, 2020, Los Angeles, CA, USA: LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 06: Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo 34 warms up before the Milwaukee Bucks vs Los Angeles Lakers game on March 06, 2020, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. /Icon Sportswire Los Angeles USA – ZUMAi88 20200306zafi88079 Copyright: xJevonexMoorex

Giannis Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece and currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. His raw athletic ability, mixed with unusual physical features quickly earned him the name of ‘The Greek Freak’. And Giannis really owns it.

The two-time NBA MVP won the 2021 NBA Finals by defeating the Phoenix Suns. He also won the NBA Finals MVP. The five-time NBA All-Star has also been the NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020).

In short, the Greek Freak is destined for greatness.

8. Kawhi Leonard – The Claw

Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard missed the first meeting between the Clippers and the Jazz

This is one of the most iconic nicknames of the current NBA era and Kawhi Leonard received it due to his amazingly huge hands.

Leonard is one of the best two-way players the NBA has ever witnessed and his recent stint with the Toronto Raptors is a prime example. He has won two NBA championships and is the NBA Finals MVP two times. Leonard is a five-time NBA All-Star and currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers.

9. Kobe Bryant – The Black Mamba

Kobe champion
Kobe Bryant June 17, 2010 – Los Angeles, CA, USA – Kobe Bryant enjoys a championship moment after the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant Final Laker Home Game – ZUMAo44_

Kobe Bryant was one of the most famous players the NBA has ever produced. Bryant has left behind a legacy that is unmatched by any other basketball player.

Bryant named himself as ‘The Black Mamba’ during the early 2000’s to address his professional basketball career. He is known for his famous ‘never give up’ attitude and it is popularly called the ‘Mamba Mentality’.

The LA Lakers legend has won five NBA Championships, was the two-time NBA Finals MVP, and was the NBA MVP of 2008. He has also won two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing and the 2012 London Olympics.

 The eighteen-time All-Star has scored 33,643 points in his NBA career and is the fourth-highest scorer in the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

10. Michael Jordan – Air Jordan

Michael Jordan cards
Michael Jordan

Basketball and Michael Jordan are synonymous. Jordan has earned the moniker of ‘Air Jordan’ because of his impressive hang time. His exceptional gameplay and athletic ability have made him a living legend.

Also known as the ‘Jumpman’, Jordan has won six NBA titles, six NBA Finals MVP and has been five times NBA MVP. The fourteen times All-Star has also won two gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

A billionaire athlete and businessman, Jordan is also famous for his ‘Jordan’ sneakers.

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