The Sultan of Swat, Joltin’ Joe, The Great One, Broadway Joe, Magic. Those are just some of the famous sports nicknames which have become iconic not only among sports fans but within all of pop culture. Sadly, however, our propensity to bestow memorable nicknames on our sports heroes doesn’t end with the iconic. No, it seems like we just can’t help but to slap a nickname on anyone who throws on a uniform. Sometimes, this leads to the utterly ridiculous, the inane and even the occasionally offensive. And it is these horrible, godforsaken nicknames which we celebrate (okay fine, mercilessly make fun of) here today. So, without further ado, here are 10 of the worst sports nicknames of all time.
The Nickname: Booger
Unless you’re an iconic nose-picking movie character from an ‘80s flick, the nickname Booger isn’t exactly one to be proud of. Especially if you’re a 300 pound defensive lineman. Look, Anthony McFarland may have been an elite athlete worth millions of dollars, and he may have won a couple of Super Bowls with the Buccaneers and the Colts, but at the end of the day poor Anthony has to look in the mirror and see a fat guy who everyone calls Booger. Do you think his wife calls him Booger? Does she moan “Booger” when they’re making love? I just freaked myself out so let’s just move on, okay?
The Nickname: Gentle Ben
Ben Poquette was a journeyman forward/center who managed to last a decade in the NBA, most notably with the Utah Jazz, for whom he started and provided rebounding and shot blocking in the early ‘80s. But I’m guessing that he wasn’t quite that effective, given that his nickname was Gentle Ben. Gentle Ben? Really? For a dude who supposedly made his living doing the grunt work inside, the nickname Gentle Ben seems like it’s the last one you’d want to be saddled with. Besides, it’s just dumb. Whoever called him Gentle Ben for the first time had to be mocking him, right? Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a play on the TV show bear named Gentle Ben, but does that really help? Was Ben Poquette found foraging in a dumpster like some common trash bear or catching salmon down by the river? There is no explanation that makes this nickname okay. None.
The Nickname: The Big Unit
Randy Johnson is tall. I guess that explain the “Big” part of the nickname, but, uh, “Unit” kinda conjures up an image of something else. An unpleasant image. A very unpleasant image. Combine the two, and you have a guy whose nickname is essentially “The Big Dick”, which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly the worst reputation to be saddled with, but still, nobody needs to hear that kind of thing, you know? I don’t want to see Randy Johnson and immediately start thinking about his genitalia. Then again, I’m guessing Randy has gotten more than a few “So, Randy, why do they call you the Big Unit?” come-ons from random bar skanks, so maybe it worked out all right for him in the end.
The Nickname: Pee Wee
Pee Wee Reese was a Hall of Fame shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and his nickname was so ubiquitous that I’m guessing no one knew that his real name was actually Harold, which is kinda terrible. I mean, this is a guy who was an elite athlete, and he had to go through his life with people calling him Pee Wee. And it’s not like he was that small. He was 5’10”, which isn’t tall, but it’s not like he was a midget either. Imagine what it was like for him to be out at a bar, talking to a girl, and having to explain why he was called Pee Wee. No one deserves to go through that kind of hell. Forget Jackie Robinson, this dude was the real hero who wore the Dodger uniform. Okay, not really, but at least Jackie didn’t have to go through life with people assuming he was hung like one of the members of the Lollipop Guild. Pee Wee. Come on.
The Nickname: Chink
Ray Scott was a center who spent the ‘60s starting for the Detroit Pistons and Baltimore Bullets, and while he was never an All-Star he put up decent enough numbers that I think it’s safe to say that he deserved a better nickname than “Chink”. Honestly, though, even though this nickname sounds racist as hell, I figured there was some other lame explanation for it that would mark it as just dumb rather than offensive. But then I did some digging and found out that the reason Ray Scott was nicknamed “Chink” was apparently because when he smiled, his eyes would squint. So... yeah, pretty racist. Again, I know it was a different era, but goddamn, you know? Imagine if this happened today. People would be picketing his games and writing their congressmen. David Stern would have him beaten in a back alley. Imagine someone explaining to Yao Ming why Ray Scott was nicknamed “Chink.” I can’t believe that people got away with this for a full decade.
The Nickname: The Little Beaver
Maybe this is just one of those things that is lost in translation, but The Little Beaver is not exactly a nickname fit for a Hall of Fame hockey player like Marcel Dionne. Sure, the dude was only 5’8”, but come on... Little Beaver? Really? Again, maybe it just sounds better in Dionne’s native French: Le Petit Castor. But still, how could anyone take a guy with the nickname “The Little Beaver” seriously? Maybe he spent his downtime gnawing on wood or maybe he was actually a hermaphrodite with a tiny little vagina nestled behind his boys. (Oh God, that’s terrible. I’m so sorry for making you picture that.) I don’t know. What I do know is that it is a terrible nickname. It sounds like the name of a midget wrestler, not a Hall of Fame hockey player.
The Nickname: Pooh
If you were Jerome Richardson, wouldn’t you have a put a stop to this nonsense as soon as it was uttered? I don’t care if he was only six or seven years old when this happened. He should have walked up to whoever called him Pooh and given them a mighty bitch slap. But since he didn’t, ol’ Jerome spent his life being called Pooh. If you’re an optimist, maybe you can spin it so that you imagine that he was named after Winnie the Pooh. And that’s the optimistic view! If the best you can imagine is that the dude was nicknamed after a cartoon bear who didn’t wear pants, well... I think it’s safe to say it’s a bad nickname. Meanwhile, the rest of us will continue to picture the obvious: poop. Yes, Jerome “Pooh” Richardson has to go through life knowing that people either picture a pantsless cartoon bear or a big, steaming pile of poop when they think of him. That’s just awful.
The Nickname: Twinkle Toes
This one is just baffling. Frank Trigg is a mixed martial artist who is probably best known for his fights with Matt Hughes in the UFC, which means that he’s a pretty tough guy. And the dude’s nickname is “Twinkle Toes.” Yes, Twinkle Toes. What in the hell? Maybe Frank just wanted an ironic nickname, something that made him seem even tougher, like a big dude nicknamed Tiny or an ugly guy nicknamed Pretty Boy. Look, I’m just reaching here because I can’t figure out why a dude who makes his living fighting people inside of a cage would allow himself to be called Twinkle Toes. Is it to throw off his opponents before the fight? To make them let down their guard because they’re too busy laughing? I just... look, I knew a guy who was nicknamed “Twinkle Toes” in college and it wasn’t because he was a badass tough guy. I mean, way to own it, I guess, but really, Frank... Twinkle Toes?
The Nickname: Chubby
John Cox was a slender guard who played only seven crappy games in the NBA with the Washington Bullets over the course of one forgettable season before he disappeared into the unknown, but in that time he gave us one of the most incredible of all awful sports nicknames. It’s bad enough that the dude was saddled with the nickname “Chubby” but then you add it to his last name, and, well, you end up with the sublimely terrible Chubby Cox. I mean, come on, that is a nickname that would be rejected by porn producers as being too ridiculous and over the top. Maybe he never made it in the NBA, but damn it all, he made it to almost the top of this list, and for that, Chubby Cox and his family should be proud. Also, horrified.
The Nickname: The Molester
Lester Hayes is one of the great cover cornerbacks in NFL history and he has an awesome nickname to go along with it: The Judge. Now that’s a badass nickname. Unfortunately, though, he was also tagged with another, uh, slightly less awesome nickname: The Molester. Sure, this was on account of his suffocating defense, in which he harassed and bothered opposing receivers, but come on, really? Sure, that’s the technical definition of the word molester, but it kinda has a slightly more ominous meaning in our grand society, you know? Can you imagine being a parent and your kid coming home excited because he got an autograph from a dude named Lester the Molester? I’m guessing Lester didn’t get too many invitations to speak at school assemblies and if he did they were probably hosted by the early ‘80s version of Chris Hanson. Lester Hayes was an All-Pro, and probably a hell of a guy, but because of this nickname he sounds like a deviant who spends his downtime patrolling the streets in a van filled with candy and sin. I don’t care if the name rhymes or what the real reason for the nickname is, it’s a terrible nickname and I’m guessing Lester Hayes probably thinks so too.
Originally published on June 10, 2011.