This entry takes the premise of this blog — how NBA influences pop culture — and, to quote the Prince, flip turns it upside down, so I’d like to take a minute and sit right here and tell you how these NBA nicknames were influenced by hip hop.
This will be in ranking form. Also, this list was compiled with help from my high school friend Marvin Lee, with whom I discuss film, 90s black sitcoms, and life/love over Gchat until the wee hours of the night (for me. He in Cali).
1: RUN TMC
Considering the cool cat nature of most NBA players, you’d be surprise at how many bad nicknames there are in the NBA, most notably the unimaginative take-first-initial-and-add-last-name-acronym route, like TMac (Tracy McGrady); the lame initial-of-first-name-and-last-name-plus-jersey-number route, like CP3 (Chris Paul), and Kobe’s original KB8 (Most of you don’t know this nickname. This is old school, way back in 1997, when Kobe was with Adidas and had a shaved head); or just ugly clunkers like Durantula (Kevin Durant).
And so, when an NBA nickname work, it just clicks. And ladies and gentlemen, Run TMC is it. For one, it just makes sense. That Golden State Warriors squad was one of the pioneering smallball squads in the NBA (I got a blog post on smallball for Sports Illustrated coming this week!), meaning they easily the most runniest team in the NBA during that era.
And TMC stood for the team’s three best players: Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin.
Sadly, that squad was broken up after just two years, in 1991, because Golden State management pressured Nelson to break away from smallball and play with size. Timmy, Mully, and Mitchy all went on to have successful, all-star careers, but separately.
(RANDOM TANGENT: Tim Hardaway is also the subject of one of the best mainstream rap rhymes ever. Here’s Ye, in Head ‘Em Say, off the underrated Late Registration: From the Chi/Like Tim/It’s the Hard-a-way)
2: A TRIBE CALLED BENCH
Ah, a recent one. This was the nickname ascribed to this year’s Los Angeles Clippers second unit, a squad that featured three guys who could have started for probably 1/3 of the NBA: Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, and Matt Barnes, at the one, two, and three spot. Throw in Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf at the four and five, this bench unit were like Phife, always on point, which helped carry the Clippers throughout the season on route to a franchise best 56 wins. As a result of the second unit’s strong play, Chris Paul enjoyed plenty of rest, frequently asking asking “Can I Kick It?” on route to the lowest minutes average of his career.
Unfortunately, this squad is coached by the worst coach in the NBA — the legendary Vinny Del Negro — and lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies.
3: YOUNG BUC
Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks (get it?) may be one of the least efficient guards in the NBA and his “we’ll beat Miami in six” comment have turned him into a meme/joke last month, but he earned my approval when he did two things:
A: Said “Fuck you” to the corrupt NCAA system and took his talents to Italy for one year before he was eligible for the NBA draft.
B: Single handedly bring back the high top fade.
B is crucial, for the high top fade is one of the greatest hairstyles in the history of mankind. Once upon a time, many NBA players, inspired by Big Daddy Kane, Kid, and Grace Jones, rocked the high top. But then Michael Jordan’s emergence popularized the shaved head. Later, Iverson’s hip hop movement led to the god-awful cornrows look.
Well, Jennings did something about that in 2009 with this masterpiece.
Soon, Norris Cole of the Miami Heat and Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks followed suit.
Like all powerful movements in the United States, there are those who fear it, those who mock it, but make no mistake, the movement has begun, and momentum is building.
Here’s me and my the high school friends, trying to rock the Asian high top fade in 2000.
4: B DIDDY
We forget now, with Baron Davis essentially retired following a nasty knee injury last playoffs, that the Southern California native was once one of the most explosive point guard in the game. For before he was known as Boom Dizzle, he was known as B Diddy. This nickname didn’t last too long (he is mostly known as Boom Dizzle), probably because he realized Diddy’s over usage of samples were wack.
Coming in dead last at 645 is Dwight Howard’s D12. It’s last because:
1: Dwight Howard is a clown.
2: D12 sucks. D12? More like Eminem with 11 bums.