What’s in a name? To a man, earning a transcendent nickname is a literal rite of passage during the journey from raw athlete to living legend and global icon. The best NBA nicknames of all time, of course, are driven by consistently spectacular on-court play — to the point where millions identify with a player on a first name basis.
From here, the legend can even work to establish his own brand, and ultimately, his empire, as he reigns supreme above loyal fans and corporate sponsors. Here are the 10 greatest NBA nicknames of all time.
10. The Mailman
The Mailman always delivers come rain, shine, sleet, or snow. As a model of consistency, Karl Malone dropped 25 points and 10 rebounds per game over the course of 19 NBA seasons. As part of this run, the durable Malone started all 82 games through 10 separate seasons.
At 39, Malone started 81 games and still rang up 21 points, eight boards, and five assists each contest for the Utah Jazz. In all, The Mailman racked up 36,928 total points, good for second of all time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone, of course, was at his best working out of the pick-and-roll with John Stockton, who tallied 15,806 career assists in his own right.
As a physical specimen, Malone could establish position with ease and was a load on the low block. After forcing the defense to commit, the Mailman would often pop out into space, and was all but automatic to knock down mid-range jump shots. Still, The Mailman nickname degenerated into something of an albatross to the mocked during the postseason.
In Game 1 on of the 1997 NBA Finals, Scottie Pippen reminded Malone that the Mailman does not deliver on Sundays, before the big man clanged two free throws off the back of the rim. Moments later, on the opposite side of the floor, Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot to seize control of the series.
One year later, the Mailman relived this nightmare, after being stripped by Jordan beneath his own basket. From there, MJ crossed over Byron Russell from right to left, before hitting another dagger and winning his sixth championship. Apparently, this Mailman only delivered during the regular season.