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NBA Nicknames For The Nicknameless

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I doubt I have to tell any NBA fan just how important a personal brand is. Earning a nickname has long been a rite of passage for any player who hopes to achieve traction in this fickle league. Without one, players are doomed to never be featured in Twitter hashtags, /R/NBA memes, and never having their likenesses transferred onto 1-night-only t-shirts handed out at home games. In fact, the only NBA player of recent note lacking a nom de cerceaux who managed their own signature shoe is the now-retired Al Harrington, and it wasn’t with Nike or Adidas—it was with Kmart. So you can see the absolute necessity I’m preaching here.
I will be assigning nicknames in an earnest (and highly selfless) attempt to save some of the NBA’s brightest stars from being lost in the shuffle of time. I ask nothing in return for my intellectual property, except maybe season tickets or a cash bursary from Adam Silver himself.

Blake Griffin

It’s a mystery to me why the ultra exciting, ultra redheaded Griffin hasn’t managed to land on a good nickname yet. He’s been jumping over every European “rim protector” in the league for the better part of 7 seasons now. I’ve got a few suggestions for him:

1) Blanka – a grotesque vision no doubt, but the green humanoid from the Street Fighter series matches the animalism and electricity of Blake perfectly. Both wildly buff, both with shocks of red hair, both utter threats to equipment managers everywhere. Blanka Griffin is the untamable beast of the NBA.

2) Curly McClain – The charmingly naïve and handsome romantic lead of the stage musical Oklahoma! fits Blake to a tee…I assume. Admittedly I know nothing about this Hammerstein production, but Blake is originally from Oklahoma, has curly hair, and possesses the powerful baritone voice to make this ranch hand’s songs come to life on the NBA floor. Probably.

3) Canelo – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a handsome Mexican who really, really loves to punch dudes; so much so that he does it for a living. He owns the WBC Middleweight belt and has knocked out 34 of his 49 opponents in the ring. Blake “Canelo” Griffin is a handsome Clipper who really, really broke his hand punching one of his friends in the face; so much so that it sidelined him for all but 34 regular season games. These two are as good as twins.

C.J. McCollum

C.J. is a nickname in itself right? But I can’t write about him looking like Urkel if you’re gonna let your “sound logic” get in the way—so can it for now. McCollum had a coming out party last season, both as a member of the Blazers backcourt and as a member of the media. He’s a grounded, likeable guy who plays every game like his last; and his nicknames reflect that, sort of.

1) Urkel – Noted poet and “Kardashian” Kanye West once claimed “Too many Urkels on your team, that’s why your wins-low”, but McCollum is here to dispel that. Now, it’s not exactly C.J.’s fault that he looks like the protagonist of ABC’s hit sitcom Family Matters, but I would like to thank him for it anyway. It’s made the following daydream possible for me: Game 7 of a playoff series. McCollum open with the ball, he sinks the shot and, while being rushed by his teammates, exclaims “DID I DO THAAAAAT???” like a man possessed.

2) The Worldwide Leader – C.J. has made it well known that he wants to work as a broadcaster or journalist as soon as he retires, let’s make the transition as easy as possible by giving him a nickname ESPN already has.

3) Stefan Urquelle – Stefan Urquelle is Steve Urkel’s hyper-cool alter-ego. He doesn’t do slapstick comedy, just looks cool and talks even cooler. C.J. possesses a bit of that sly dog himself, flashing 18 shots per game versus just 7 assists. We could have “Lillard Time” and “Boss Sauce” (the juice Urkel drinks to become Urquelle) on the same team.

Andre Drummond

It should be against the law to have a franchise center without a good nickname. No truly great big man has gone without one. I think he tried to call himself “The Big Penguin” a few seasons back; but that doesn’t make me want to offer him a max contract extension, so let’s give him some new choices:

1) Model A – This one was so easy and perfect I’m sort of upset that Detroit’s media team didn’t think of it on draft night. Playing in the cradle of motorized civilization grants you so much opportunity for cute car puns and stuff; you woulda thought “The Pistons” could have realized this one. I want to see t-shirts with a caricatured Andre Drummond in 1900’s driving goggles piloting a Ford Model A come opening night next season.

2) The Big Hoffa – Jimmy Hoffa is a famous Detroit teamster and known mafia affiliate who uh, went missing in 1975. But before he plundered his unions, went to prison for fraud, and (allegedly) got buried deep in the meadowlands of New Jersey (S/O The Nets) Jimmy Hoffa was a folk hero and an activist for the people of Detroit. 40 odd years later The Big Hoffa is doing the same for his basketball cohorts of Detroit. Plus, The NBA is simply more fun when somebody has a nickname starting with “Big”.

3) Sufuri – The word translates to zero in Swahili, which is super cool. That’s all there is to this nickname to be honest. Find a big bullying center like Andre Drummond and Google around until you find the coolest translation of his jersey number. Thank me later, Andre.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry probably didn’t deserve a nickname for the first two thirds of his career. He was a pouty bench presence with a big ass, but not too much more. Since joining Toronto though, Kyle has been absolutely hooping. 3 All-Star nods and the rejuvenation of Toronto under his lead means it’s about time Kyle was assigned a cartoonish moniker that matches his attitude and playing style.

1) Killa Kyle – Kyle Lowry, (with DeMar DeRozan serving as his Juelz Santana) are here to bring glory back to Rap-Set. We need 1000% more mid 00’s hip-hop references in the NBA today, and there is not one more fitting than Lowry taking on Cam’Ron’s honorific. Whether he’s sinking threes off the bounce and slashing to the rack, or jumping passing lanes and taking charges—Kyle plays like a Killa.

2) Baby Phat – I hope you remember Phat Farm’s female clothing division Baby Phat from the early 2000’s ? Can I ask, who in the world hasn’t been mesmerized by the 6 foot point guard wheeling up court like a blur, only to be shocked once you he slows down and you see the ass he’s carting behind him? Who else at 6 foot can box out like Kyle? Nobody. It’s all in the Baby Phat, baby.

3) Pocket Dog – It’s no question that Kyle Lowry has the dog in him, but at his heights it’s sorta hard to imagine he’d equate to a pit bull or a bull dog. More fittingly, it’s one of those yappy purse dogs who nips at your ankles and somehow makes it to the Eastern Conference semis while in a shooting slump and a bad hind leg. Kyle has the soul of an extremely brolic Pomeranian.

Gordon Hayward

All hail the always-coiffed white hope of The NBA. He’s athletic, handsome, and as of this year, an All-Star! After leading The Jazz into the playoffs as the 5th seed, for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, the time has come to grant Gordon a nickname to call his own.

1) Pomade – Hayward turned a corner a few years back when he ditched his (terrible) boyish bowl cut and came back with his now trademark slicked back ‘do. Seemingly impervious to the exhaustive nature of the 82 game season, this new hair is never not perfect, and has added 5.7 ppg to his scoring average. Pomade hair products are the main ingredient in Hayward’s continued improvement, and you cannot tell this fan otherwise.

2) Macklemore – Building directly off of his hairstyle, It’d be so lazy for me to not compare him to white “rapper” and fellow hair-boy Macklemore. Any white guy with slicked back hair can choose to be compared either to a Hitler Youth, or the Seattle hit maker. It’s really your choice, Gordon, I say double down on this and start showing up pre-game dressed in your grandpa’s clothes.

3) MLG – Hayward is a self-professed “gamer”, finding time between practices and haircuts to play StarCraft with Korean teens on his custom-built PC. MLG is a professional gaming league that hosts competitions to see who’s the best at competitive video games. Once Hayward’s ball playing career is all said and done, I hope we look back at him as a legend in two games, like Pee Wee Kirkland.

Avery is a standup comedian and writer based in Calgary, Alberta. He first turned to writing after losing his jump shot in a tragic accident involving not playing basketball for six straight summers. His op-ed pieces about the NBA's most polarizing figures have been a reliable source of sighs, scoffs and subtweets. Avery has a passion for character issues, ill-advised fadeaways, throwback jerseys and any basketball player who keeps his chains on during pregame shoot-around.

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Year 15 | A Mini Documentary

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What’s to come for the man on top, and what got him here?

It’s Year 15 of a man’s career, but it’s also Year 15 of a legacy…

Created by Tristan Laughton | Twitter: @Ctrice

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Editorial

Something Out of Nothing

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It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.

We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.

Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.

It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.

We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.

I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.

Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.

The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).

Stay tuned, because it’s not over.

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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers

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Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?

Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.  

Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.   

Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.  

Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting. 

These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA: 

  • 14.6 Points
  • 7.6 Assists
  • 6.0  Rebounds
  • 1.8 Steals
  • 0.8 Blocks
  • 55.1 FG%
  • 41.2 3P%

He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.  

Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.  

He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.

Year Nat. Player Pos. Team
2012 Damian Lillard (co-MVPs) PG Portland Trail Blazers
Josh Selby (co-MVPs) PG Memphis Grizzlies
2013 Jonas Valančiūnas C Toronto Raptors
2014 Glen Rice Jr. SG Washington Wizards
2015 Kyle Anderson SF San Antonio Spurs
2016 Tyus Jones PG Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 Lonzo Ball PG Los Angeles Lakers

With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.  

The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.  

Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.  

If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.

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