Blogtable: It’s The Name On The Back

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Making Training Camp Count | Shaq, The Owner | It’s The Name On The Back


Pistol Pete Maravich jersey

Nicknames on jerseys? It wouldn’t be a first. This one was from 1973. (Dick Raphael/NBAE)

The NBA reportedly is considering letting teams put players’ nicknames — in a limited manner, we’d guess — on jerseys. Good idea or not? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comBad idea. Blatant pandering for replica jersey sales. Beyond that, though, nicknames are meant to be said, not spelled out and written down. They shouldn’t be crafted into jewelry, monogrammed onto fine linens or tattooed onto body parts, either. Nicknames are what other people call you, not what you call yourself – that almost veers into weenie, third-person-reference territory. Putting them on the backs of jerseys? That’s best left to beer softball leagues and frat-boy reunions. Even the old “Pistol” nickname on the back of Maravich’s jersey was back-in-the-day dumb.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comSounds like a publicity gimmick for a league that doesn’t need publicity gimmicks. If they want to put “King James” on the back of LeBron‘s jersey for a night, have at it. It’s doubtful it will one day make the rotation on NBA TV’s Hardwood Classics. Always remember, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey! You play for the name on the front of the jersey!

Scott Howard-Cooper, It’s not a good idea or a bad idea. It’s just silly. Someone’s job is actually going to be to rule in what defines “a limited manner”? That nickname works, the other guy’s doesn’t make the cut.” It works just fine now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI like it as something that each team does once or twice per season. It’s a way for fans to more closely identify with guys that are already the most visible athletes in the four major sports (smaller rosters, no masks, hats or long sleeves). Is it another marketing strategy to sell more jerseys? Sure. But nobody is being forced to buy a Chris AndersenBirdman” jersey. It just happens to be much cooler than one that says “Andersen.

Sekou Smith, As a one-game gimmick, this is fine. It won’t hurt my basketball sensibilities to see nicknames on the back of jerseys as a promotion for one game. But seeing guys with “Pookie” and “Shawty Red” (or other foolishness like that) on the backs of jerseys over the course of an entire NBA season is a premise that I simply refuse to embrace. Call me crusty, ol’ school or whatever you’d like. But I’ve always been a believer in the theory that the name on the front of the chest is far more important than the name on the back of the jersey. That said, if you’re going with a name on the back, it needs to be the name your momma or daddy (or both) gave you and not your Twitter handle.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I LOVE THIS. I want to be on the right side of history here, so I’m all-in on the nickname thing, early and often. The Fun Police will certainly be against this idea — “How can we replace last names with nicknames? Are personalities bigger than the team concept? Blah blah blah …” — but as a kid who would have given all the money I had to get an Atlanta Hawks number 21 jersey that said HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM on the back, I totally get the appeal. (And I still want that HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM jersey, NBA league office.) Perhaps replacing a name could undermine the team concept in a vacuum, but I don’t think LeBron having KING JAMES on his jersey instead of just JAMES is going to make him any lesser of a player.

Hanson Guan, NBA ChinaIt’s a brilliant idea. Bravo! Printing the player’s nickname on back of jerseys would be interesting and entertaining to fans. Also, it should boost the sale of NBA products. In my opinion, for some occasions — such as a particular celebration or player’s birthday — it is more meaningful for him to play with the special uniform. Of course, I will buy one, if they are available.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: Bad idea. I can’t see the point of this at all. I’m all for promoting ways to get the fans involved, but not this way. Shane Battier and Steve Kerr have already spoken out against this, among others. And I totally agree. Dear NBA, please don’t do this.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: I’ve heard about it before but it was not from the NBA, I think the plan is a brilliant idea if for only a limited manner. Marketing and sales-wise it will help bring more attention to the NBA. It would also be fun for the fans and players alike to see their nicknames while playing on the court.


  1. Joe Mama says:

    This debate reminds me of differences between the old ABA & NBA. (Or worse yet, the NCAA) I think that someone from the ABA mindset would be all for it, and the NBA mindset would frown on it. Both perspectives are important to the longevity of the game. But lets face it, were would the game be without the slam dunk! Common you stuffy shirt guys, let your hair down. It’s a game after all.

  2. Bad Idea says:

    It’s just as bad an idea as putting ads on the front of jerseys.

  3. ism says:

    From the first moment I read about this I liked this idea. Sure, it is marketing. But most of the NBA is tied to marketing. And marketing is, always, tied to emotions. That’s what this is about. Emotions. I wouldn’t even buy the jerseys but I would enjoy seeing The Truth and The Big Ticket go against Flash and Chosen. Or King, for that matter. And don’t forget J. Shuttlesworth. And Jet, Vinsanity, Dirkules, Black Mamba, CP3….

    It is obvious that this will be, if it happens at all, only an occasional thing, but I can relate to it much more than I can to “Los Bulls”, “El Heat” and whatnot on Latin Night. I never got why there was such a particular event only with the Latin community, I felt it was kind of arbitrary. Maybe that’s just me being in and from Europe, but I really prefer the nickname-idea. Those names will make the games feel more super-hero-ish than just super-starry. Like The Avengers going up against some of the Masters of the Universe. I know, this is not really serious but come on, it’s only for a night or two and childishness is not exactly new to the NBA.

  4. Just a fan says:

    Whatever. Growing up playing basketball we all gave OURSELVES nicknames and still understood it WAS a TEAM sport. We had DR J, DR. Dunkenstein, Chocolate Thunder, The Microwave etc. Once U were on the court it wasn’t about “hey I have a nickname that everyone in the stands is seeing so I have 2 do something individual.” It was 2 go out there with your boys and win the game. When U are that good u get all the accolades anyway. Give me the nicknames. It is fun. Go King James, Black Mamba, Superman, Short White Boy Can’t Jump and all the rest.

  5. pokie says:

    The Spanish National Team puts their first names on the back of their jerseys. The back of Rubio’s jersey says Ricky. I think that’s cool. I would prefer to see that.

  6. Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

    I agree with Sekou. Also, of course idiots like Whitaker like this idea.

  7. loco says:

    which name would metta world peace choose? i`m sure shaq would have loved that back in his days, correct arestotel? what about glen davis? heard he hates “big baby”. he could use it for a change. is jeremy lin still linsanity? but where is that heading? maybe the players are allowed to use logos soon? imagine a flash, crown, snake, jet or a baby on the jerseys

  8. 52cent says:

    People tend to take things too seriously. The whole league and all professional sports teams for that matter are just entertainment and this would just be another way to entertain the fans. Good idea…do it!

  9. mee(a)t says:

    Too much people will complain about Lebron’s nickname “King James”
    Plus it kinda takes away the respect of the NBA if this was allowed. On the other hand it’s just a name. The majority knows it and media outlet knows it (unfortunately). Plus it’s harmless fun.
    I’m on the fence with this one

  10. Franck says:

    JEFF you are all wrong, you dont play for the name on the front of the jersey you play for your own bank account.

  11. Henrik Jensen says:

    Acctually they should put a crown on two persons, when Heat play home against Rockets this season; King James vs Drama Queen Dwight Howard

  12. Henrik Jensen says:

    All-Star weekend would be awesome to put these nicknames, or in preseason, or one home game per team as a maximum, that would be fun, and energetic to the fans

  13. J says:

    it’s just weird

  14. Karlo Garcia says:

    Steve Aschburner was right on how nicknames are meant to be said,not spelled out or written down.

  15. Karlo Garcia says:

    Good Idea-to boost a low profile player or unkown into a high profile player & get exposure.
    Bad Idea-it would not work on every NBA team because some teams like to be orginal(San Antonio Spurs). It’s just a publicity stunt.
    I like if a team or a player stay original.
    #1-the NBA discusses about having advertisement on the front of the jerseys & #2-printing player nicknames on the back of the jerseys. At the end of the day I buy the team name & player not the nickname.

  16. Ballerr says:

    I think it’s a bad idea, would get tiresome seeing nicknames running up & down the court every night. I think it’s a good idea for all star weekend since it’s more about fun & fans then, but for regular season it seems stupid.

  17. GW says:

    this is like putting on a Racing Brand sticker on a fine refined machine like an Aston Martin. Takes away from something so perfect. Aint broke, don’t fix it.

  18. NZ BBALL FAN says:

    “Always remember, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey! You play for the name on the front of the jersey!”

    I agree with Jeff Caplan. But in saying that, some players are more focused on the name on the back of the jersey.

  19. eltiosamfilm says:

    It seems that everybody who posted on here never had a nickname. I had a nickname since birth and, till this day, I see myself more as my nickname than my real name. So, to disagree with a few, a nickname IS what you call yourself. You don’t think Lebron thinks of himself as King James? Have you seen how often he endorses himself as King James in commercials, shoe merchandise, apparel etc.? What about Kobe? Nicknames are naturally earned appellations according to specific qualities that define and divide you from others. Since every player is different, let it be.

  20. Yan says:

    I love that idea. It’s just for fun. I do agree though that it should be some restrictions to the names allowed. Just like the NBA have latin nights with certain NBA teams wearing jerseys with hispanic names, the league could allow players to wear nicknames for a week or 2 during the season.

  21. Stop Hatin' says:

    I think the idea is great. For those of you who actually not only enjoy watching the sport but actually PLAYING the sport as well will appreciate this idea. Now granted as Sekou stated, there will be some potential problems and so there should therefore be some restrictions…obviously!! No ‘Big Dog’ or ‘D-block’ should be on anyone’s Jersey. But the NBA could bring back this old school action and bring some “street ” ball to the professional court…Stop hatin’ lol, its just for fun!!! 😉

  22. Who says ? says:

    And how are the nicknames defined ? The guy playing choose ? Why wouldn’t Anthony or Durand put KING before their name too ? Or why Paul won’t put EMPEROR on his ?
    Steve got it right, “Nicknames are what other people call you, not what you call yourself”. And you can have many nicknames, a lot of people call James QUEEN James, so does that mean he’ll have to put that one game out of four on his jersey ? Another bad marketing idea if you ask me…

  23. royi says:

    I don’t see the problem. If someone wants a nickname on his Jersey let it be… in European soccer some players have nicknames or first names on their Jersey and it works just fine. I would love to STAT Flash and The Manimle down on the court

  24. vernon says:

    This is a dumb idea. Like Steve said, nicknames are what other people call you not what you call yourself.
    I could see one game, like the all-star game where it’s all about having fun. During regular season games NO.

      • Swang says:

        Totally agree!!! Could you imagine if back in the day for an entire season you see the names like “The Answer”, Vinsanity and The glove.

        All star game or even all-star weekend but not the entire season.

        I think the short lived XFL did that for their 1 year season. I think its dumb then and it would be corny now.

        keep the names as is. Nick names are to be earned and represented not to be worn on your back.

        World Peace is an exception cuz that mofo is nuts

  25. celentano says:

    If they wanna introduce nicknames for players,only for the all-stars if they want to wear it!
    D’ont work good for rookies and second year players … ,they need to reckonized with theyr original names is that simple.
    Only if Scalabrine returns to play in the nba he should wear “white mamba”! lol,mamba out!

  26. Jeremy says:

    They should take the names off the jerseys all together and just have numbers.

    • Mark says:

      Well, if you’re suggesting that for the NBA, you better make sure you’re suggesting it for the NFL, MLB, NHL, and all other team sports too. But even then, I don’t agree with that idea at all.

  27. Say, whaat?! says:

    Totally agree with Sekou..! An entire season with random slang written hurts the game in many ways..

  28. LabMonkey says:

    Make it happen during All Star week-end maybe, and even then, I’m not sure everyone is happy with their nicknames.

    • RH says:

      It would be cool during All Star weekend. But outside of that, it has the potential to be really dumb. I mean, what’s stopping some “garbage time” player from putting “The Best” on the back of his jersey?