How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames
How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Basketball fans remember the best players not only for their awesome plays on the court but also for their memorable nicknames. These superstars build their brands around their nicknames, especially when they have their own endorsement deals and signature sneakers. Some nicknames are better than others, while others tend to be less than ideal. Whatever the case, let’s look at how these modern NBA players got their nicknames.

Anthony Edwards: Ant-Man

Anthony Edwards is one of the fastest-rising players in the league. In just four seasons, he’s become a household name, leading one of the best teams in the league in the playoffs. But he’s also known for his nickname, Ant-Man. Of course, we know that Ant-Man is an equally popular character in Marvel Comics because of his ability to either shrink or grow his size. In Edwards’ case, however, he tends to become bigger during the playoffs, dominating his way through tough Western Conference teams.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

But he didn’t get his nickname because of his basketball skills. In fact, he got his nickname from his father. No, we’re not talking about Michael Jordan, but his actual dad. Edwards’ dad started calling him Ant-Man when he was just a child, well before he started showing superhero-like abilities on the court. It’s just perfect that he became a real-life superhero on the hardwood floor.

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Luka Dončić: Luka Magic

When he’s out on the court, Luka Dončić looks like he’s going to bust out a magic trick. He’s been doing that since he was a young teenager because basketball looks natural to Dončić, and his ability to do spectacular things when the ball is in his hands. That’s why fans often remember him for his nickname, Luka Magic.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Dončić got his nickname not because he can pass the ball like Magic Johnson, but because Mark Followill, the Dallas Mavericks’ longtime play-by-play commentator, first started calling Dončić Luka Magic during the phenomenal guard’s rookie season. The Slovenian sensation can’t help but do magical things when he’s dominating opposing teams with his scoring and playmaking, and he does it in such an effortless way, as if he’s capable of magic.

Nikola Jokić: The Joker

The three-time MVP is one of the most accomplished centers in the history of the NBA, despite being drafted in the second round during a Taco Bell commercial. Nikola Jokić is known for his triple-doubles and dominant plays on the court, but he’s also known by his nickname, The Joker. The truth is that Jokić isn’t the funniest guy on the court. Sure, he can bust out a joke every now and then to entertain his teammates and the media, but he’s mostly a stoic big guy who doesn’t show a lot of emotion. So, how did he end up with the nickname The Joker?

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Jokić got his nickname from Mike Miller, who played his final two years in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. Miller struggled with Jokić’s pronunciation, so instead of calling him by his actual name, Miller started calling him The Joker, and the name just stuck with the big guy on his way to three MVPs and a championship.

Donovan Mitchell: Spider

Donovan Mitchell is one of the most electrifying scorers in the NBA. He entered the league with all the athleticism in the world but has now developed into a complete scorer at the guard position. He’s also called Spider, which is perfect for his playing style because he’s crafty, elusive, and downright explosive. But Mitchell got his nickname very early in his career when he was just a young boy playing in a youth league.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Surprising everyone in the building with his athleticism and defensive abilities, he was such a pest on the defensive end, getting his hands in the passing lanes and stealing the ball from different angles. One of the parents watching him commented that he was a spider out there on the court. The nickname stuck with him, and it’s perfect for Mitchell because he can be a defensive pest with his 6’10” wingspan at just 6’3″.

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Kevin Durant: Slim Reaper

Kevin Durant is one of the greatest scorers in the world and is known by many nicknames. He’s called KD and Durantula, but the one nickname that fans love the most is Slim Reaper, which perfectly embodies the kind of player that he is on the court. He’s had this nickname for a long time, but it took a while before someone had the guts to ask KD how he got his name. In a segment with The Boardroom on Twitter or X, KD revealed the true reason why he’s called The Slim Reaper.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

It’s really simple: he said that he’s slim and he does his work at night. It’s the most KD-like answer you’re ever going to get, but it’s more than just a nickname because it embodies the way he plays. He’s slender and long but plays with a deadly level of precision. KD buries his opponents with his unstoppable scoring, kind of like what the Grim Reaper does to people.

James Harden: The Beard

James Harden has had an incredible Hall of Fame career because he’s still one of the most anomalous offensive players in league history. James Harden is already on the older side of things, and he’s no longer capable of playing at a superstar level, but the one thing that’s remained constant with him is his iconic beard. The iconic beard is why James Harden is called The Beard. No one knows when he got this nickname or who gave it to him, but we do know that he’s had that nickname since his OKC Thunder years.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

During his third season with the Thunder, he became a household name and one of the most recognizable players in the league because of the beard. So, it’s likely that people started calling him The Beard during the 2011-2012 season, and he’s never shaved it ever since because it’s probably where he gets his basketball skills, just like how Samson got his strength from his hair.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson: Splash Brothers

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have their own nicknames, but they’re collectively known as the Splash Brothers. This nickname has become a household term in the NBA as Curry and Thompson worked their way to four NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors. Of course, we all know why they’re called the Splash Brothers.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Curry and Thompson have jumpers that are so wet that they always make that splash sound when they’re shooting the lights out. They don’t have a center, so they’re playing small. Steph with a running one with the right.

They got this nickname in 2012 when the idea of two backcourt players capable of shooting three-pointers at a high level was very new to the NBA. Brian Witt, a writer for the Golden State Warriors’ website, started calling them the Splash Brothers in a tweet. The nickname caught fire, ultimately becoming synonymous with one of the greatest backcourts in NBA history.

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Jimmy Butler: Jimmy G. Buckets

We’ve heard the Michael Jordan comparison when it comes to Jimmy Butler. He may not have Jordan’s incredible numbers during the regular seasons, but he takes his game to a new level during the playoffs because he’s just so darn competitive and he knows how to get buckets.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Butler’s Jimmy G. Buckets is a nickname that embodies what he does in the playoffs. For some reason, he just knows how to get buckets against any kind of defence. He’s always been like that, as he’s shown his penchant for getting buckets during his earlier days with the Chicago Bulls. Butler was playing garbage minutes for the Bulls and showed that he was actually a good scorer.

Stacey King, the Bulls’ play-by-play announcer, saw him making three buckets in a row and instantly gave him the nickname Jimmy G. Buckets. The G, of course, stands for “gets.”

Russell Westbrook: Westbrick

Russell Westbrook is one of the greatest players in NBA history because he’s done so much for the game. He showed what an athletic point guard can do on the court, putting on shows with his dunks and compiling triple-double records that no one thought was possible. It’s all because he was arguably the most explosive point guard in league history.

How NBA players got their Nicknames: Unlocking the Secrets of NBA Nicknames

Of course, Westbrook has had his fair share of nicknames. He’s called Brodie, Beastbrook, and Mr. Triple Double. But the name that has stuck with him in recent years is Westbrick, which isn’t the nicest nickname anyone can have. No one knows who started the nickname, but we all know why he’s called Westbrick.

During his time with the Lakers from 2021 to 2023, he was shooting bricks from the floor because he wasn’t making any of his jump shots. People blamed it on the Lakers’ lack of spacing, but we all know that Westbrook was never a good shooter his entire career. So, when he got older and lost his explosive athleticism, the bricks became more obvious, making it clear that his best days were already behind him.


Nicknames in the NBA are more than just catchy monikers; they encapsulate a player’s style, personality, and sometimes their journey in the league. From Anthony Edwards’ “Ant-Man” to Russell Westbrook’s “Westbrick,” each nickname tells a unique story, reflecting how fans and the media perceive these athletes. These nicknames can boost a player’s brand, adding to their marketability and legacy.

For players, nicknames can be a badge of honor or a mark of notoriety, influencing their identity both on and off the court. They highlight the players’ skills, quirks, and sometimes their struggles. Whether derived from childhood, inspired by their playing style, or bestowed by commentators and fans, these nicknames stick with them throughout their careers.

As basketball continues to evolve, so will the nicknames that capture the imagination of fans worldwide. They remind us that the NBA is not just about the games played but also about the colorful personalities and stories that make the league so compelling. So, the next time you hear a nickname, remember that there’s often an intriguing tale behind it, contributing to the rich tapestry of NBA history.


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