• Cameron Tabatabaie

'Do a 180' and Other Great Nicknames in Today’s NBA

Joel Embiid has a new nickname thanks to an odd moment on Jeopardy! Always one for flare, Embiid quickly posted on social media about the moniker, changing his twitter to Joel “Do a 180” Embiid.

Nicknames have always been a big part of NBA culture. Hondo, Magic, Dr. J, Air Jordan. The Answer, The Truth, The Big Ticket, the Black Mamba. The King, The Slim Reaper, Chef Curry, The Beard.

This current era has its own fantastic sobriquets. I broke down the best nicknames in the NBA today.

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Jayson Tatum - Taco Jay

As best I can tell, Tatum gave this nickname to himself out of the blue on Snapchat. He often posts pictures of him eating tacos with too much cheese or St. Louis-style pizza. Looks like the tacos won out.

Taco Jay just has a nice zing to it. It’s not trying too hard, nor is it overly complicated. And it helps that he won the Taco Bell Skills Competition last year.

Nicknames must run in the Tatum family. Taco Jay’s son has already earned the title “Deuce,” which as far as nicknames go is much cooler than Jr.

Klay Thompson - Big Smokey

This one was news to me, but it’s undeniably awesome. And like so much else about Klay, it’s a total enigma.

It was presented without context during a 2016 appearance by Andrew Bogut on the Bill Simmons podcast. To borrow a phrase, the “hippies out in San Francisco” seem to think they know what it means.


Splash Mountain

This origin of this nickname seems to be a Bucks fan on Twitter back in 2018. Not only is it perfectly apt, but Lopez seems to be on board.

“I’m pretty partial to that honestly,” Lopez said “I’m a pretty big Disney geek … I wear it with pride on my sleeve.”

During the 2015-16 season, Brook Lopez took 0.2 threes a game at a 14.3 percent clip. The following season he was taking 5.2 a night, shooting 34.6 percent from deep. Splash Mountain, indeed.

Though his outside shooting has cooled off this season, Lopez’s willingness and ability to launch threes has been a critical part of the Bucks offense.

Pascal Siakam - Spicy P

This one shouldn’t be on our list. Not only did Siakam come up with it himself - he originally was trying P-Skills on for size - but he doesn’t even like spicy food.

That said, Spicy P is still one helluva nickname. Siakam supposedly talks a lot of trash on the court, which is tremendous considering he’s only been playing basketball for a few years. The cockiness is enough to keep Spicy P on the board.

Danilo Gallinari - The Rooster

Like Spicy P, the merit of this nickname is a little suspect. Gallinari quickly becomes “Gallo” in any locker room. Gallo means “rooster” in Italian. Complete chalk.

But Gallo gets the nod here for two reasons. One, animal nicknames are inherently more fun. Think the Worm, Sea Bass, or Golden Bear.

Second, I feel as if he and the Thunder aren’t getting the praise they deserve. Left for dead following the departure of Paul George and Russell Westbrook this summer, this Island of Misfit Toys is on pace to win 50 games in a crowded Western Conference.

Kelly Oubre Jr. - Wave Papi

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of this one before, here’s how Oubre explained it:

"That’s my alter ego. Wave Papi is all about good vibes. He’s about staying cool, calm and collected.”

It’s quite clear that Wave Papi isn’t always the lead ego on the basketball court. Just ask Kelly Olynyk.

That said, Oubre is having something of a banner year. Across the board he’s having one of his most productive seasons as a pro.

LeBron James - Washed King

LeBron calling himself the Washed King is one of the funnier subplots of the season. Yes, he’s in year 17 and players like Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo have encroached on LeBron’s otherwise rarified air.

But who exactly called Lebron “washed?” As far as motivational tools go, this one really puts a smile on my face. I sure hope I’m doing the writing equivalent of this when I’m washed: