Basketball Reference is an invaluable resource, and millions of people are surely grateful that it exists. There is one minor feature on the site that might make you question the whole enterprise, and that’s the field for nicknames:
A few months ago I asked Basketball Reference how this field is populated. According to Mike Lynch, user affairs coordinator:
It’s a combination of user-submitted nicknames, nicknames in old encyclopedias or media guides, from newspaper clippings, books, ones heard on television or read on the web, etc. There is a vetting process and we do turn down many of the nicknames sent to us. We also can’t practically list every single nickname for some players. Charles Barkley, for instance, had 2 full page graphics of nicknames listed on the 1984 NBA Draft broadcast. When we tried to add those a couple years back we basically broke the template, so we have to at least try to be reasonable with how many we can fit.
There you have it: a human being approved “Tall Baller from the G.” Perhaps it even beat out other candidates. Personally I love to imagine Dirk hanging out with his pal Steve Nash, passing him a cool brewski while calling him the classic nickname “Two Time.” Feel free to share your own favorites below.
Update (11:56 a.m.): Lynch pointed out to me that some of most unfamiliar nicknames, like “The Little Tyrant” or “German Race Car,” are used by fans in China. Other highlights include Steve “Special Rights” Francis and Robert “The Key Man” Horry. And how can you ever go back to “Melo” after discovering “Sweet Melon”?