Casual Friday: What’s in a nickname?

It's hard to imagine Pope Paul VI, left, or President Lyndon B.

Guest sports columnist Kollin Kosmicki steps in this week to
examine a disturbing trend in sports: professional athletes giving
themselves nicknames. One basketball player is guilty above all
What’s in an athlete’s nickname? It’s a defining characterization, a pure symbol of being, the path to legendary righteousness beyond numbers and records, and a bunch of other mumbo jumbo-sounding stuff that is far, far from mumbo jumbo, because it’s real.

What has become mumbo jumbo with the state of professional athletes’ nicknames, however, is the audacity with which some of the modern stars so freely choose their own, boring monikers.

The NBA Playoffs, from now until August 2009, are a prime example of the travesty, and LeBron James is the King, Chosen One and LBJ of all culprits.

Kobe Bryant is No. 2 on the Lamo Nickname list of modern NBA players because he, too, came up with his own. His is technically more embarrassing – he chose “The Black Mamba” – but carries a much lighter narcissistic punch and, quite frankly, deserves more attention from a psychologist than it does a crappy columnist.

Back to the Cleveland forward, though. LeBron picked the most commonly used King James on his own. Nike likely chose The Chosen One as a marketing ploy. And whoever thought up LBJ should be assassinated.

King James, a 23-year-old egomaniac involved in a ceaseless, mutual love affair with the media, not only thinks he deserves the same royal status of such greats as Elvis (of rock), Arnie Palmer (of golf), Jacko (of pop), the King (of burgers) and God (of all time), but the worst part of all is that he concocted his own alternate identity, which almost nobody else in the history of civilization has gotten away with.

I admit. I thought of floating at least a few nicknames growing up. The difference is, it was middle school, it didn’t work and I was socially smart enough to figure out others – including myself, in time – would mock me. I also realized classmates probably wouldn’t be as fond of “The Master,” “Golden Boy,” “Emilio Estevez” or “Lionheart” as I was.

Look, there are four sets of rules that most of us follow to avoid chaos: There’s the law, religion, general etiquette and the most unspoken of all rules – the Unspoken Rules.

LeBron broke rule No. 4, Chapter 1, which reads: “Thou shall not give thyself thy own nickname, and if thou does, thou shall be stoned by a village citizenry.”

Hey, those rules were written a long time ago – what I would call, in general, a time when a man or woman’s nickname meant something.

But you don’t have to go back too many years before his 6-foot-9-and-still-growing majesty staked claim to basketball divinity to find some solid NBA nicknames that actually fit the players’ skills and hype and involved more than a cell or two of creativity.

Magic, Dr. J, Larry Legend, Hakeem the Dream, Clyde the Glide – those names added meaning to greatness, and they made those $4 posters from Fan Fare worth every penny.

It all went downhill after those 80s guys, though.

When you consider the modern list, on playoff teams alone, it’s actually quite pathetic: The Answer, CP3, Stat, Sheed, Melo, The Kid, D-West and The Truth.

There are, of course, some decent exceptions: Agent Zero, Rip, Big Shot Bob, Sam I Am.

But none of those players – and really nobody in league history – has taken a leap like LeBron’s, where he not only expects us to approve of his artificial madness, but he also had the gall to catapult his own infant legend past that of all the greats before him.