Top 10 NBA Names

December 10, 2008 | Lists,Sports

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As anyone who’s been stuffed into a locker knows, athletes are bigger and stronger than anybody else and there is no better example of this than basketball, where even the average player can set a drink on top of the head of the biggest guy you know and if he objects, punt him in the ass with a giant shoe not seen outside the confines of a circus big-top.


Not just in sports but in life, being taller has its advantages—better pay, a greater likelihood of becoming president than if you were a leading light in the airborne half of the national dwarf tossing circuit, a magnet to attractive women, but all of these benefits are literally short-lived — you’ll notice there are no 8-foot-tall geriatrics. At some point your knees give out, and you spend the rest of your short life being carted around in a giant sled by a grumbling lot of the aforementioned dwarfs, now retired.

In every other sport, being tall is, much like our stock market investments of late, an issue of diminishing returns. Big fighters have to punch down, then face the embarrassment of being bested by someone who looks like they shop in the children’s department, too tall baseball players have a massive strike zone and giant tennis players, like the vending machine that’s stolen your quarters, lack lateral mobility. In basketball however, the sky (and the constraints of modern eugenics) is the limit and players can enjoy a lengthy career if they’re tall enough— even if their posteriors climate control the end of the bench for league minimum.


Being able to put your teacher in a headlock, shave and duck under subway doors in 7th grade has got to make those formative years tough— but when you combine being the gangly ostrich who people are always asking for piggyback rides along with a name that does what would have seemed impossible and makes you stand out even more, well we’re surprised that these guys didn’t end up in prison, or say professional wrestling.


Like our Best NFL Names list, rather than careful examination of hard-court minutiae, which you could get from the bore at the end of the bar, but only if you promised to buy him a round (a conversation which would glaze over the eyes of even the most habitual dope smoker, i.e., any starter on a typical NBA team), we figured we’d highlight one of two areas over which ballers had no control—not their pituitaries, but their names. We’ve scanned current rosters, examined every bench and have dubbed the following the Best Names in the NBA!




10) Roko Ukic (Rock-o Ooh-Kitsch) (Toronto Raptors)

A custom coffin would be required for this stiff, an obscure backup on the Toronto Raptors, who, in keeping with their name, are perennially on the verge of extinction. The Dinos once boasted the worst sports uniforms (right) since the Houston Astros of the 1970 / 80s (Warning: turn down the glare on your monitor first. Clearly, Nolan Ryan got all those strikeouts by dazzling the batters with his terrible duds).

Roko Ukic sounds like dialogue from Quest for Fire and his middle name ‘Leni’, the guy slurping cream of mushroom down at the soup kitchen. Not to be confused with Beno Udrih. His name is satisfying to pronounce and could be used as a mantra for meditation. “In with the good air: Rock-o. Out with the bad: Ooh-Kitsch.” He was given the No. 1 to wear in what must have been an ironic slight on the part of Raptors management as empty beer containers chucked from the stands after an inevitable Toronto loss see more court time than this guy.


9) Royal Ivey (pronounced Roy-AL) (Philadelphia ’76ers)

Ivey was given what we’d think would be one of the worst nicknames you could get that wasn’t describing a bodily function — “Cheese” by his teammates. The name had little to do with body odor or the fact that he pairs nicely with crackers and a good bottle of wine –it was derived from the infamous bit of Pulp Fiction dialogue involving a Royale with Cheese. As usual, we prefer the Simpsons parody:

Lou: at McDonald’s you can buy a Krusty Burger with cheese, right? But they don’t call it a Krusty Burger with cheese.

Chief Wiggum: Get out! Well, what do they call it?

Lou: A Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Chief Wiggum: Quarter Pounder with cheese? Well, I can picture the cheese, but, uh, do they have Krusty partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages? An Ivey League name here.

Royal also has the benefit of having two first names to choose from. Depending on who is on the other end of the line — be it girlfriend, wife, or creditor — he could go by Roy, or Al. This is to be preferred over hyphenated names like Billy-Bob etc.

8) Travis Outlaw.(Portland Trailblazers)

In a league dominated by more gunslingers than an NRA banquet (where if the food arrives cold, you don’t have to tell the waiter twice) it’s fitting that there’s a guy running the court who sounds like they’d say ‘this town ain’t big enough for the both of us’, which might be true as he’s 6’9 and well over 200 lbs. Like many on this list, Outlaw seems to have a hang-up when it comes to some good old fashioned law-breaking, though we’re hoping one day he lives up to his excellent moniker.




7) Stromile Swift / Rasual Butler (Stro-mile and Ra-sue-uhl) New Jersey Nets/New Orleans Hornets

During Muhammad Ali’s famous pummelling of poor Ernie Terrell he taunted, ‘what’s my name?’ and if Stomile or Rasual goaded their opponents similarly the answer would be ‘huh’?  Our names, Noel and Christopher are derived from the nativity of Christ and one who carried him (origin French and Greek, respectively) but it’s great that there are parents unbound by historical/cultural precedent (and what might be typos at city hall) to spirit lists like these, although pound for pound, nobody can touch the ones in the NFL. [For our Top 10 List of NFL Names, click here]. Stromile’s name sounds like a constipation treatment, while Rasual (unfortunately does not rhyme with Casual, otherwise it might be No. 1) Butler once appeared in a music video by the rapper Trina, in which he thankfully, given his size, did not dance.


6) Luther Head.Houston Rockets

His assistant coaches and agent have probably unfortunately said “You’ve gotta give head a chance”. We really need to stop this one here.


5) Rudy Gay / Quincy Douby Memphis Grizzlies/Sacramento Kings

Some might say that putting a guy on this list because his last name is “Gay” or his surname is 70s slang for a joint is both childish and cheap. Well some of the greatest laughs of our lives were had on the schoolyard at other people’s expense, so we don’t mind being called childish, and as for cheap, the extra-value meals at Denny’s are also cheap and they, quite frankly, are delicious. Rudy Gay is 6’8 and weighs 222 lbs, which makes him big enough to be his own float at a pride parade. Out of all the players in the NBA, YouTube inexplicably sought him out for a promotion that has the most questionable name of any sporting competition we can think of: The Rudy Gay Slam Dunk Contest.

 The film Rudy, meanwhile, is about a runt with negligible athleticism who lands a spot on the Notre Dame football team, an inspiration to Mr Gay if he’d been born short and white—which would crush anyone’s NBA dream. According to Josh Howard, meanwhile, ‘most of the players in the league use marijuana’. He didn’t specify if it was during the game, but that would explain the basement crawlspace-dwelling Oklahoma City Thunder.



4) OJ Mayo Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo.Memphis Grizzlies

A decade ago, Michael Jordan famously made the life of Bryon miserable, hitting a game-winning shot over Mr. Russell and during the series, erroneously referring to him as ‘Byron’ during interviews, (which was Bryon Russell’s own fault for not using a more conventional spelling of his name). The same thing would never happen with Mayo, as if you were matched up against him, you’d think ‘Oh yeah, there’s that (finally) convicted felon, French condiment guy’. Anyone named OJ should have a killer crossover and knife their way through the opposition, and with this, we’d like to finally bid adieu to all those cheap gags relating to OJ Simpson (for now…). And then there’s his surname, that jar of spreadable fat that will send you to an early grave. All in all, a tough handle to handle.


3) Von Wafer Houston Rockets

First, we did not needlessly truncate the name of a European player just to save on keystrokes. This guy’s complete name is Von Wafer, not Albrecht Hapsburg Wafer of Saxony. A wafer is a very thin, dry biscuit that crumbles easily, not exactly a name that’ll strike earthly fear into opponents in the western conference unless they have horrible memories of Holy Communion. ‘Von’, is short for ‘Vakeaton’, which sounds like something that was trimmed out at the editing phase when L Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics.


2) Nene (Born Maybyner Rodney Hilario) Denver Nuggets

One word names are mostly uncommon in professional sports because no sane athlete would want to be associated with the primadonnas — and in one case a Madonna —  who go by only one name like Cher, Enya, and the worst offender of all, Sinbad. (Even worse are those who have a repeated first name. We’re talking to you Zsa Zsa Gabor and Boutros Boutros Ghalli). But we can understand perfectly well why “Nene” did it. He was born with the name Maybyner Rodney Hilario, and even if you move different parts of that name around, it still doesn’t improve it. ‘Nene’ then is a huge improvement, even if it’s voiced with a tongue sticking out on the schoolyard after pelting the fat kid with snowballs at recess.


1) Carlos Boozer Utah Jazz (in first pic)

We reckon this name might have come up when we were thinking of alternative titles for our book The Man Who Scared a Shark to Death: and Other True Tales of Drunken Debauchery. Certainly it’s a thematic fit for us and while we have no idea whether Mr. Boozer lives up to his name, we’d like to think he does. Basketball needs more spare-tire sporting, slow moving tipplers who might not be the first one’s to the ball, but who will make your eyes water with the 100-proof seeping out of their pores.

Amazingly, CB is the second ‘Boozer’ to have ever played in the NBA, the first being Bob Boozer, who has the interesting distinction of having a street named after him in Omaha, Boozer Drive — which we don’t encourage you to do [Check out our Top 10 Driving and Driving Songs of All Time: Contents May Shift in Transit].

Honorable mentions to Thaddeus Young (Thaddeus Griffin, from the Family Guy pictured here), Rajon Rondo, Cuttino Mobley…this is not an exact science.

Honorable mentions to the ALL RESTAURANT NBA TEAM: OJ Mayo, Morris Almond, Von Wafer, Brian ‘Veal’ Scalabrine (actually a scallopini) , Royal (“Cheese”) Ivey, Brandon Bass, Brian Cook, Eddy Curry, Channing Frye, Corey Brewer, Ronnie Brewer, John Salmons, and Calvin Booth.


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4 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Maybyner Rodney Hilario blew his lock on #1 when he changed his name.

  2. Just to be pedantic for a moment, one-word names are not so uncommon among Brazilian soccer players: think Pele, Jairzinho, Garrincha, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Jô.

  3. You forgot Carniverous Jones – look it up

  4. I wonder if people in India, China, Russia, Greece, Turkey, and most African nations all sit there and make the same lists and say that names like “Ryan Williams, Dave Malone, Paul Jones” are all really strange sounding.

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