Whatever the era, NBA players have always been known for having great nicknames.
Be it the ’60s (John ‘Hondo’ Havlicek, Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe), ’70s (Darryl ‘Chocolate Thunder’ Dawkins, Darrell ‘Dr. Dunkenstein’ Griffith), ’80s (Larry ‘The Hick From French Lick’ Bird, Dominique ‘The Human Highlight Film’ Wilkins), all the way up to modern day (Gilbert ‘Agent Zero’ Arenas, Kobe ‘The Black Mamba’ Bryant).
The Toronto Raptors recently acquired one of the game’s best nicknames in Tyler ‘Psycho T’ Hansbrough and while he has professed to not loving the moniker, he is likely alone in that stance.
With Hansbrough in the fold, Sportsnet.ca decided to look back at the best nicknames Raptors players have had over the years. While the list contains some of the best players in franchise history, terms of service do not matter. What we are saying is, if the player stunk or starred, if he was in Toronto for six months or six years, if the fans loved him or hated him — this is irrelevant. A good handle is a good handle.
For a franchise that has been mired in the doldrums for most of its existence there have been some great nicknames over the years and while it was tough to leave Jerome ‘Junk Yard Dog’ Williams, Lloyd “Sweet Pea” Daniels, Walt ‘the Wizard’ Williams and Corliss ‘Big Nasty’ Williamson off the list, we had to cut it off somewhere.
(Let us know who you think had the best handle in the poll or comments section below our list.)
10. Mark Jackson AKA Action Jackson (2000-01)
Even though he was shipped out of Toronto at lightning-quick speed, Mark ‘Action’ Jackson still managed to move into fourth on the all-time assists leaderboard while wheeling out dishes in Hogtown. If you are old enough to remember the movie Action Jackson which featured Carl Weathers and Sharon Stone, you will understand the origin of the nickname.
9. Andrea Bargnani AKA Il Mago (2006-13)
Love him or hate him – any way you slice it — the nickname Il Mago remains pretty unique in a hoops world where they are widely available. “The Magician” may have finally vanished from the Toronto sports stage but he left a lasting impression on the city.
8. Ronald Jones AKA Popeye (1996-98)
I actually had to look up Ronald Jones’ real first name as even a press release from Indiana on Tuesday was headlined with “POPEYE JONES ADDED TO PACERS’ COACHING STAFF”. He explains how he acquired the nickname in the following video:
7. Morris Peterson AKA Mo’ Pete (2000-07)
Mo’ Pete may not be the most creative nickname in NBA history but no list would be complete without it. The two-guard remains beloved in Toronto to this day.
6. Jamario Moon AKA Apollo 33 (2007-09)
While Apollo 33 was only in Toronto for two seasons, he landed some pretty nasty dunks during his stay in Toronto and made several big shots from long range.
5. Rafer Alston AKA Skip 2 My Lou (2002-03, 2004-05)
Skip 2 My Lou was a streetball legend in New York City because of his handle with the rock. Alston acquired the nickname for one of his moves that dazzled fans.
4. Shawn Marion AKA the Matrix (2009)
He was only a member of the Raptors for 27 games, but the Matrix is one of the better nicknames around the Association. The moniker is said to have come about during Marion’s rookie season in Phoenix, when he blocked a shot and made a steal which he took to the opposing team’s end and dunked. NBA announcer Kenny Smith labeled him the Matrix because he seemed to accomplish several things in the blink of an eye.
3. Damon Stoudamire AKA Mighty Mouse (1995-98)
The original face of the franchise, Damon Stoudamire was a little Mighty Mouse who succeeded in the NBA despite his small stature — he was listed at 5-10. He was only a Raptor for two-and-a-half seasons but Stoudamire was truly a star in Toronto for a short time and few will forget the nickname.
2. Matt Bonner AKA the Red Rocket (2004-06)
At its heart, Toronto is a blue-collar town and when Matt Bonner arrived, the fans adored him. He was often seen riding the subway in Toronto with his red hair, so the nickname Red Rocket seemed like a natural fit.
1. Vince Carter AKA Air Canada AKA Half Man, Half Amazing (1998-2004)
Raptor fans are still recovering from the loss of Toronto’s one and only superstar who had two of the best nicknames in club history. Be it Air Canada or Half Man, Half Amazing, Vince Carter’s star shone brightest in Toronto.