If the Nicknames of NBA Legends Duked it Out, Tournament-Style, Who Would Come Out on Top?

Comparing basketball players across eras is futile and played-out. Any “top 10” list leads to hours upon hours of debate endlessly circling back to into itself. But what if we were to solve that? What if there was a better way to figure out who’s best? Well, now there is. Introducing The NBA Legend Nickname Tournament Duel Extravaganza (Patent-Pending). Because there’s one factor always overlooked in these discussions: Nicknames. Monikers. If the players suddenly became their nicknames, and fought, off the court, who would come out victorious?

The Participants

Using ESPN’s (admittedly flawed) “Top 100 Players of All Time” list, meet the 36 who will be competing for title of GOAT.

The top 28

  1. Michael Jordan: Air Jordan
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Cap
  3. Lebron James: King James
  4. Earvin Johnson: Magic
  5. Wilt Chamberlain: Wilt the Stilt
  6. Larry Bird: Larry Legend (This nickname gets the benefit of the doubt over “The Hick from French Lick”)
  7. Bill Russell: None. But he’s Bill Russell. It’s enough
  8. Tim Duncan: The Big Fundamental
  9. Shaquille O’Neal: The Big Diesel (Chosen over: The Big Aristotle, The Big Shaqtus, Shaq Daddy, Shaq Fu, Superman, etc.)
  10. Hakeem Olajuwon: The Dream
  11. Oscar Robertson: The Big O
  12. Kobe Bryant: The Black Mamba
  13. Jerry West: The Logo
  14. Julius Erving: Dr. J
  15. Moses Malone: Chairman of the Boards
  16. Karl Malone: The Mailman
  17. Dirk Nowitzki: None, really. “Irk” is the first that comes up on Google. Going with this.
  18. Charles Barkley: The Round Mound of Rebound
  19. John Stockton: Stock
  20. David Robinson: The Admiral
  21. Kevin Garnett: The Big Ticket
  22. Kevin Durant: Durantula
  23. Steph Curry: Chef Curry
  24. Elgin Baylor: Mr. Inside
  25. Scottie Pippen: Pip
  26. Isiah Thomas: Zeke
  27. Dwyane Wade: Flash
  28. John Havlicek: Hondo (John Wayne)

Wild Card Tag-Team Duos

  1. Gary Payton: The Glove/Kawhi Leonard: The Klaw
  2. Dominique Wilkins: The Human Highlight Reel/Bob Cousy: Houdini of the Hardwood
  3. Paul Pierce: The Truth/Allen Iverson: The Answer
  4. George Gervin: Iceman/Dwight Howard: Superman
  5. Pete Maravich: Pistol Pete/ Andrei Kirilenko: AK-47
  6. Dikembe Mutombo: Mt. Mutombo/Vince Carter: Air Canada
  7. Darryl Dawkins: Chocolate Thunder/Shawn Kemp: Reignman
  8. Matt Bonner: The Red Rocket/Brian Scalabrine: The White Mamba

Wildcard Round

The Glove and The Klaw vs. The Red Rocket and The White Mamba

On a basketball court, Kawhi & Gary Payton would wax the floor with these two guys. But that’s not what this is about. This is a quarrel of nicknames, of monikers manifested. This is important. How could some accessorised hand beat a rocket rode by a poisonous snake? Point team Rocket.

The Truth and The Answer vs. Mt. Mutombo and Air Canada

The Truth Hurts. A mountain is big. A mountain is strong. A mountain also just stands there. The other opponent, cold air, is met with the answer.

The Answer

Nature takes the L.

The Human Highlight Reel and Houdini of the Hardwood vs. Chocolate Thunder and Reignman

Highlights and fake magic won’t help these two against the elements. Between 1975 and 2000, over 170 thousand people were killed by flooding (that’s something rain should take care of). Houdini never killed anyone (citation needed).

The Iceman and Superman vs. Pistol Pete and AK-47

This one’s interesting. The firepower of Pistol Pete and AK-47 could hold off plenty of human opponents. Iceman might be shattered. But Superman is an alien, and he’s an almost invincible one at that.

Poor shot selection

Round of 32 (North Side)

No particular reason it’s North. Just needed a side.

Air Jordan vs. The Red Rocket & The White Mamba

You may be asking yourself, “What the hell can air do?”
Here are some quick facts about air.
1. Everyone who has come in contact with air has either died or will die at some point in the future.
2. Tornadoes (completely capable of destroying a rocket) are made up of air.
3. Fish and other aquatic animals will die if they breathe air.
4. Some people who have breathed air: Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Martin Shkreli, anyone who pronounces it “To-mah-to,” and, (this one surprised me) Roger Goodell. Who knew?
5. It rhymes with “scare,” “despair,” “warfare,” and “electric chair,” among other things.
What do a flying box and a glorified piece of string have against that?

The Mailman vs. Irk (?)

Mail-people don’t get enough credit. An irk is a mild inconvenience. Sorry irk. Maybe next time.

The Big Fundamental vs. Pip

According to Google, a ‘Pip’ is a “small hard seed in a fruit.” Conversely, ‘Fundamentals’ are a “central or primary rule or principle on which something is based.” Fundamentals are how things are done. Isn’t that amazing? Now imagine that, but big. Get it done against a pip. Crush that. Timmy moves on.

The Big Diesel vs. Mr. Inside

They say sea level rise by 5 feet every time someone looks at this image.

Imagine this. But Bigger. Now imagine being (Mr.) inside this. You would die.

Magic vs. The Truth and The Answer

There is a very good chance Magic would have won the entire competition had it been placed in any other seed. But Magic had a severe disadvantage here. It isn’t real. Unless, of course, you are talking about the Orlando Magic. But for the next five years, they won’t be real either. The Truth (and The Answer) win this round.

The Logo vs. The Admiral

Hundreds of millions of people have died at war. At least 1% of those had to have been at sea, (as a result of an Admiral’s orders) right? Even the most formidable of logos don’t really stand a chance against the masterminds behind sea warfare.

Wilt The Stilt vs. Hondo

For those that don’t know, “Hondo” is a character (played by John Wayne) in a movie by the same name from the 1950s. He’s an excellent gunman who kills many other characters throughout the movie. On stilts, Wilt is just a clumsier, larger target. Hondo advances.

The Black Mamba vs. The Big Ticket

When it comes down to it, that ticket could be as big as a cow, a bus, a skyscraper, whatever. It’s still a just a piece of paper. A bite from a black mamba, if untreated, can kill a human in 7–15 hours. Even the world’s worst papercut couldn’t match that.

Round of 32 (South Side)

Cap vs. Chocolate Thunder and Reignman

A simple baseball cap should prove effective enough against some rain and a loud noise. (I really ought to be paid to write stuff this breath-taking).

Chairman of the Boards vs. The Round Mound of Rebound

Using PEMDAS, both rebounds and boards cancel out, leaving a chairman and a round mound.

Andre Roberson on offense (colorized)

We get something like this, but at a board meeting. There’s no way out. Chuck wins.

Bill Russell vs. Zeke

What kind of nickname is Zeke? Gotta go with ol’ 11 rings.

The Dream vs. Chef Curry

Sure, chefs are good with knives. Sure, they can poison your food. But if a cartoon rat can do it, I’m picking the other guy. Crazy stuff happens in dreams all the time. Anything you could possibly imagine can and will occur in a dream. People say “stuff of nightmares” to indicate when something is horrifying or frightening. No one says “stuff of chefs”. That would be weird.

King James vs. The Iceman and Superman

Iceman and Superman would easily beat the measly King James, who ruled England from 1567–1603. However, as the third highest seed (and to make things more interesting), King James is given the benefit of the doubt. By these changed parameters King James becomes the aggregate of all kings, ever. How cool is that? Do you realize how many people kings have had killed throughout history? How many obedient servants kings have had under their control? King(s) (James) wins by a hair over the super-duo.

Dr. J vs. Stock

Doctors have one of the most intricate and complicated understandings of the human body on Earth. People die around doctors all the time. Stocks are stakes in a company, worth money. Lots of it. But money, by itself, is worthless. And who’s ever heard of a doctor crashing? Dr. J proceeds to the Round of 16.

Larry Legend vs. Flash

Flash has to take this one. Even without nicknames, most of these guys are legends. Larry’s indistinguishable. The Flash is capable of moving at 10 times the speed of lightning. Mach 2942. Flash runs circles around the competition.

The Big O vs. Durantula

A big circle with a hole in the middle. Wow. How frightening. He’s a basketball hoop.

A KD-Tarantula-Snake hybrid, on the other hand, is one scary thing to imagine. This mutant monster destroys hoops everywhere it goes, and with supersonic speed, it flees before any damage is taken, more than can be said for Shaq.

Round of 16 (North Side)

Air Jordan vs. The Mailman

They say the mailman’s creed is “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” But it doesn’t say ‘nor tornado’. It doesn’t say ‘nor suffocation, nor wind, nor air pollution’. Sorry Mailman.

The Big Fundamental vs. The Big Diesel

Matchup of bigs. The Big Fundamental breaks down The Big Diesel into smaller and smaller parts, until Diesel has become its most basic ingredients. Turns out that it’s made up of these things called hydrocarbons. Which are made up of atoms. Which are made up of protons, and neutrons, and electrons, etc. But splitting an atom is when it gets deadly. It takes both these characters out. But there has to be a winner, and this one goes to The Big Diesel for not having to destroy itself to destroy others.

The Truth/The Answer vs. The Admiral

What do a bunch of conceptual ideas mean to a powerful expert of oceanic warfare? Not much. But the Admiral is destined to make one fatal flaw: never declare war on a noun. Let alone two. If the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on terror, and, a personal favorite, the war on christmas, all didn’t work, what would make this any different? The Admiral eventually sees all their supplies depleted, and has nothing to fight for.

The Answer finishes off the Admiral.

Hondo vs. The Black Mamba

Hondo’s the best shot in all the land. However, Black Mambas are a small target, and quite agile, moving at 7 mph. To add to this, John Wayne, who played Hondo, expressed racist sentiments through his life, and thus would simply be scared of this Black Mamba and ran away.

Hondo solves his problems like this.

How’s he supposed to survive a venomous snake? Get bitten?

Round of 16 (South Side)

Cap vs. The Round Mound of Rebound

A Round Mound of Rebound is an oddly specific descriptor, that can be only be synonymous with Charles Barkley. If there’s one thing Charles Barkley fears, it’s analytics. If there’s a second thing, it would be having something (such as hair) atop his head. Luckily, there is actual photo evidence of this scenario playing out in real life.

Above, we see Charles Barkley, holding onto a dresser for his life, bags under his eyes, fists clenched in agony, as he tries not to be defeated by the mighty cap. This isn’t a good look, mound.

Bill Russell vs. The Dream

Lack of a nickname will only take you so far.

King James vs. Dr. J

Now this is a tricky one. Doctors possess the ability to kill just about anyone, right? But so do kings. However, there’s gotta be one doctor out there that’s so incredibly loyal to a king they wouldn’t kill them, right? But couldn’t the same be said vice versa? How would we even settle this? Because kings have lots of loyal subjects. But, in a way, don’t doctors as well? And you have to be smart to be a doctor, and not at all to be a king. But kings have families to carry on their legacies from the moment they die, leaving an endless stream of family members coming at the doctors. Sure, there are more doctors, but medical school gets expensive. Chalk this one up for King James.

Flash vs. Durantula

Durantula quickly runs from the battle, and tries to join the chef. But the chef is long gone, and Flash is quicker. On to the next chapter. (Talk about beating a dead horse, right?).


Air Jordan vs. The Big Diesel

Two words. Air Pollution. Two more words. Isn’t enough. And The Diesel meets its demise. Diesel tries to pollute the air, but air is pretty big, if you haven’t heard. With enough air pressure, air can pack all the Diesel away someplace else.

The Truth and The Answer vs. The Black Mamba

The concepts finally meet their match. There’s no existential question to match, no war to be waged. It’s just a freaking snake. There's no truth or answer to beat the mamba. The Truth, Answer, and Mamba coexist, but as a result of being the more tangible competitor, the Black Mamba moves on.

Cap vs. The Dream

Sorry Cap. You’ve made it far enough. Dreams can imagine an entire world where caps don’t exist. Caps can’t imagine at all (unless they’re a thinking cap, which would be useless without anyone to put it on).

King James vs. Flash

The collective powers of all the kings have to take this one. Flash would make it through a few Kings, but eventually, the Flash has to get worn out. Kings have been awful, awful people (and basketball players, for the past decade). They would not hesitate to have the Flash killed.


Air Jordan vs. The Black Mamba

How many times are we gonna go through this. Suffocation.

King James vs. The Dream

And here you were thinking the classic GOAT discussion would be solved. Sorry. This is serious. Nightmares and sleep paralysis for all the Kings make them never want to sleep again. They may hallucinate about rings, but they’ll never really get there.

The Finals

The Final Showdown. It’s Finally here. Air vs. Dreams. Dreams are reliant on people, who are reliant on air for their existence. But a tornado can’t stop a dream. Everyone who’s had a dream has breathed air. They reach a stalemate. Each are allowed to call upon their most recently faced opponent. And thus, the King faces the Mamba. The matchup we never got to see because superman had to interfere in ’09. And what happens. King James absolutely destroys the Black Mamba. Mambas can fly with the air carrying them. But with all the resources their dreams provide them, Kings can easily kill Mambas.

Winner: The Dream