The Brooklyn Nets take on the Miami Heat for the second time this season at home tonight, after a 101-100 stunner. But more importantly, it marks the first “Nickname Game” in NBA history: both teams will wear jerseys with nicknames on the backs of their jerseys, rather than their standard last name. It’s not the first time that NBA players have worn nicknames, but it’s the first time the NBA has set up such a game.
So to preview tonight’s game, we’re going to judge the players the only way I know how: by doing a deep, comprehensive breakdown of each team’s nicknames by position. I judged each nickname by overall creativity (did you just use your initials, make a pun, or go the extra mile?), lasting appeal (is it a classic nickname, and should it be?), and appearance (how cool will it look on a jersey?). Unfortunately due to injury, Deron Williams’s “D-Will” and Brook Lopez’s “Brooklyn” (Brooklyn on the front, Brooklyn on the back) were not considered.
The final judgments:
Bench Mob (Joker, Plums, JET, Кириленко, ????) vs. Heat Bench (J. Shuttlesworth, Birdman, Doc, B Easy, Cole Train, UD, JJ, Sweet Lew, Money Mase, G.O.)
This one’s hard to parse, because the Nets have only released a few nicknames, but the Heat will likely get the edge on this one either way. Yes, UD, JJ, and G.O. are copouts, and B Easy is a terrible choice over Super Cool Beas. But J. Shuttlesworth is a legendary nickname borne from Ray Allen’s character in He Got Game, Birdman is a classic NBA nickname from the guy that got Free Bird tattooed on his neck, and Cole Train, Doc, Money Mase, and Sweet Lew are all winners.
Joker is a solid choice, and Кириленко will look cool on the back of a jersey, but other than that there’s not a lot of creativity. Though if Mirza Teletovic ends up going with Fearza, he wins this blog for life.
Shaun Livingston (“S-Dot”) vs. Mario Chalmers (“Rio”)
Already we’re off to kind of a rough start. Rio and S-Dot are career-long nicknames for both point guards, but they’re also incredibly unoriginal. Rio is just the last three letters of Mario’s first name, while Livingston’s is just The “S.” in “S. Livingston.” (Note: this is what Livingston said, with conviction, would be his nickname jersey on media day. The Nets haven’t confirmed it yet.)
Since they’re both used nicknames, I give Livingston the slight edge, if only because he actually changed his name slightly. Rio is just 60% of Mario.
Joe Johnson (JJ) vs. Dwyane Wade (D.Wade)
This may be the weakest backcourt in nickname history.
I give it to Wade, solely because Joe Johnson has about 500 cool nicknames (Joe Cool, Tippy Toe Joe, Clutch, Iso-Joe, and the recently anointed Joe Jesus) and he went with JJ. It’s not even a nickname! It’s an acronym! No one has ever called him JJ. Shame on you, Joe Johnson.
Alan Anderson (???) vs. Shane Battier (Battle)
Hard to really judge this one, because Anderson hasn’t officially released his nickname as of noontime on game day. My guess is he’ll go with A-Squared or A-Sqared. Battier originally wanted to go as “Batman,” but copyright claims put the kibosh on that idea. (Reggie Evans still was able to go as “Joker.”)
I don’t really like Battle as a nickname. Your nickname should clearly define you, not an action you may take or an event that once happened. You’re the Battler, not the Battle, and Battler would work better since his name is almost Battler already. Choosing “Battle” is like choosing “Childhood.”
UPDATE: I’ve since learned that “Battle” was Battier’s family name from generations ago, which is awesome. I am, as always, a dummy. Giving this one to Miami.
Paul Pierce (Truth) vs. LeBron James (King James)
That’s more like it. This is a battle of magna opera. In one corner, you have pure, unadulterated truth, in the other, you’ve got the king at his throne. You hear the nickname and you know what you’re getting from both.
I love Truth as a nickname. Pierce’s process may be deceptive and crafty, but you always see the truth in his results. His game is just the Truth, which isn’t quite The Answer but it might not have been the answer you were looking for. King James is great, too, if only because it’s the Truth: James, the league’s reigning MVP and Finals MVP, is at the height of both his career and the NBA.
I give Truth the slightest of edges for creativity, but tonight’s matchup may get decided on these backs.
Kevin Garnett (The Big Ticket) vs. Chris Bosh (CB)
Come on. This one isn’t even close. Bosh gets railroaded. It’s like he knew he didn’t stand a chance and just figured he should fold before the flop came out.
The Big Ticket isn’t just the best nickname in this game (with apologies to J. Shuttlesworth), it’s one of the best nicknames of all time. It’s incredible. It rolls off the tongue, can be shortened easily (Ticket), is creative enough that it could only apply to Garnett and always apply to Garnett no matter what his name was. It’s reminiscent of baseball nicknames from the 50s. Ted Williams or Josh Gibson could’ve easily been called The Big Ticket. Garnett, win or lose, stud or dud, is always worth the price of admission.
With as funny and innovative as Chris Bosh can be, CB is a huge misstep. Such high potential wasted.
Final Tally: Brooklyn 3, Miami 3
Based on our final tally, I can only come to one conclusion: it’ll be a close one, but the Nets should pull off the nickname upset.