Issue 13: The Coolest Names in NBA History

As long as sports have existed, there have been players with delightful names. Of course, non-athletes have fun names, too, but that’s not the point of this post.

While the NBA never had Key & Peele spoof its unusual names, it’s still got its fair share of memorable monikers. Here are ten favorites.

Fat Lever

Technically, “Fat’s” first name is actually Lafayette. But no one ever called him that, so Fat sticks.

I can’t think of this name without picturing a lever you pull to deliver a barrage of fat to your front door (perhaps emanating from the sky or ceiling), though as far as I know, Fat Lever has never served as a deliveryman.

What he did serve up was a very respectable NBA career. He’s the only player to average 13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals per game for his entire career. That’s a pretty random assortment of stats, but it’s still cool to be the only one to amass them.

Fat — who is 6’3″ and 170 pounds, which you may recognize as not at all being fat — celebrated his 60th birthday earlier this month. Happy birthday, Mr. Lever!

God Shammgod

God Shammgod only played 146 minutes in his entire NBA career, which lasted all of one season. But hey, that’s good enough for this list.

He’s very well-traveled, too. Outside of the NBA, he’s played professionally in China, Poland, and Saudi Arabia.

Walt Hazzard

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Walt Hazzard is the only player from Delaware who’s played more than six seasons in the NBA. He made the All-Star team in 1968 and had a solid 10-year career, suiting up for five teams, including the Seattle SuperSonics in their first-ever season. He’s also got a cool name and could potentially star in The Dukes of Hazzard.

In a game-changing move, though, Hazzard changed his name near the end of his career. He became Mahdi Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam.

However, he felt that people became less receptive to him after the name-change and was adamant that it cost him opportunities during and after his playing days. So he switched back to Walt Hazzard professionally.

I just wonder how confused the DMV got.

Metta World Peace

Metta will see your name change, Walt, and he’ll raise you multiple name swaps. He entered the league as Ron Artest, then changed his name to Metta World Peace in 2011. He later changed it to The Panda’s Friend in 2014, and in May of 2020, he changed it once again to Metta Sandiford-Artest, a combination of his wife’s name and his birth name.

The man has been called a lot of things, is the point. While he may best be remembered for being a major player during the Malice at the Palace brawl, he was also a lockdown defender and has since moved into multiple entrepreneurial endeavors, including a clothing line and a network for finding pickup basketball games.

Pooh Richardson

Our man here’s birth name is Jerome Richardson. But Pooh just rolls off the tongue so much better.

As you may have guessed, Pooh is in honor of Winnie the Pooh. It was a nickname his grandmother gave him because he thought he looked like the honey-loving bear. That’s just very cute.

Popeye Jones

Another pop culture-inspired nickname, Ronald “Popeye” Jones earned his new moniker after his mom brought him home from the hospital and his older brother David was watching the Popeye cartoon.

A few other fun Popeye Jones facts:

  • He once grabbed 28 rebounds in a single game.
  • He never dunked in his entire NBA career despite being 6’8″.
  • While in Dallas, he hosted a movie show with fellow teammate Tony Dumas. Look at that Blockbuster Video in the background!

Sleepy Floyd

Not to be confused with Sleepy from Snow White, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd had a very productive career, averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds over 13 seasons.

He also set NBA records in the 1987 playoffs by scoring 29 points in a quarter, 39 points in one half, and making 12 shots in a row.

But it was another sport that gave Floyd his nickname. He was playing baseball in fourth grade (as many of us did) and a fan supposedly yelled out, “Get that kid out of the game. He’s sleeping!”

That fan sounds like a real treat to be around. But he did give us this wonderful nickname, so that’s a nice plus.

Mookie Blaylock

Perhaps the only NBA player to ever have a rock album named after him, Daron Oshay “Mookie” Blaylock was almost the name of the band Pearl Jam. Yes, Eddie Vedder and crew initially called themselves Mookie Blaylock, but that was quickly shut down. Instead, they named their debut album Ten, in honor of Blaylock’s jersey number.

Mookie has also been featured in the novel Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, on the Homestar Runner cartoon, and is referenced in a CSI: NY episode.

Sindarius Thornwell

The only active player on this list, Sindarius helped lead the South Carolina Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2017.

In the NBA, Thornwell has played for both the Los Angeles Clippers and the G-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers (a frontrunner for best city and team name). He signed with the New Orleans Pelicans as a replacement player during the 2019-20 season restart, though he didn’t make it into any games.

Sindarius Thornwell is his full name; he doesn’t have a nickname like a lot of the other players on here. It’s just a cool first name, last name, and an even better combo.

World B. Free

This is the man’s name today, though World’s birthname was Lloyd Bernard Free.

That’s a pretty solid name on its own, but “World B. Free” is UNIQUE. The day before Free turned 28 years old, he legally changed his name. As he explains it:

“At first, the NBA and people thought it was a “self proclaimed” name. That name was given to me from the streets of Brooklyn, in the Brownsville section, for being one of the talents from there they thought might have a chance to make it in the NBA. Anyone who had a little bit of greatness about them back then, they would nickname … I saw how things were going and I just wanted the world to be at peace and be free. That’s why I made that statement with the name change. I told a lot of reporters back then it wasn’t self proclaimed. That had nothing to do with it. It was just a statement.”

World B. Free also added that if players (or in one case, an announcer) called him Lloyd, it gave him more incentive to score against them. What a champ.

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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