I thought I’d lighten things up a bit with a fun post. Being a Lakers fan for 40+ years, I often refer to the player by their nicknames. Most fans know the popular nicknames like "The Captain" (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), "Clark Kent" (Kurt Rambis), "The Big Aristotle" (Shaq) and "The Mamba" (Kobe Bryant).
But if you're a diehard fan, you'd probably be able to conjure up a larger list of Lakers who had interesting nick names. Below I’ve compiled a small sample of some lesser known or forgotten nicknames that you don't hear often hear anymore. How well do you remember these nicknames?
Sedale Threatt - "The Thief"
The 30 year-old veteran was picked up for the 1991-1992 season as Magic’s backup at the point guard position. However the situation quickly changed after Magic retired in October of 1991. Threatt inherited the herculean role of being the starting point guard on a team that just lost the greatest point guard in the history of the game. His stat line in that first season was a respectable 15 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game.
Michael Cooper - “Coop A Loop”
This was a derivation of his more commonly known nickname “Coop.” The Lakers would often run an alley-oop play for Cooper, which was the inspiration for the longer nickname. The alley-oop to Coop was one of many weapons deployed by the Showtime Lakers during their great run in the 1980's.
Cooper was the perfect fit for this team. A sixth man who could play three positions, Cooper backed up Magic on all five of the 1980’s Lakers Championship teams, was a top-ranked defender, and pretty much did whatever coach Pat Riley asked him to do.
Nick Van Excel - “Nick The Quick”
|Nick Van Excel|
Nick Van Excel was a speedy shoot-first point guard on the Lakers from 1993 until 1998. He was probably given his nickname because of his speed, and his ability to change directions on the dribble. Van Excel's quickness and his ability to shoot from beyond the arc made him a dual-threat.
There was something else that was quick about Van Excel's tenure with the Lakers: how fast the team traded him to the Denver Nuggets. During a team practice before game 3 of the 1998 Western Conference Finals series against the Utah Jazz, Nick supposedly said “Cancun, Cancun, Cancun” during a team chant (as opposed to Lakers, Lakers, Lakers). For the 2nd year in a row, the Lakers were about to bow out to the Jazz in the playoffs. Shaq purportedly was ticked at Nick and mentioned the incident to then General Manager Jerry West. Nick the Quick was quickly an ex-Laker. (article link: http://articles.latimes.com/1998/jun/30/sports/sp-65031).
Vladimir Radmanovic - “Space Cadet”
Space Cadet was a nicknamed “lovingly” bestowed to Radmanovic by head coach Phil Jackson. Now to be fair, Vlad’s common nickname at the time was “Vlad Rad.” Jackson gave him the "Space Cadet" nickname for Radmanovic's goofy play, and his constant confusion with the Triangle offense.
Mark Madsen - “Mad Dog”
Many may know Mark Madsen as one of the current Lakers bench coaches, or as the guy who threw those, uh, wild dance moves on stage during the 2001 Lakers championship parade.
Others may know him by his "Mad Dog" moniker. At Stanford, "Mad Dog" was a powerful inside force and presence who did most of his damage within two feet of the rim. He was never really overly athletic, but he could take up space in the paint with the best of them.
His game never fully translated to the NBA, but during his short time with the Lakers (2000 through 2003), "Mad Dog" gave it his all and used his biggest asset, his muscle, to his full potential.
Andrew Goudelock - “Mini Mamba”
How many of you die-hards remember this guy? Mini Mamba played in 41 games with the Lakers, almost all of which occurred during the 2011-2012 season. That was a shortened season (66 games) because of the players vs owners Collective Bargaining Agreement battle. Goudelock was given some playing time because of the many injuries the Lakers experienced during the season. Mini Mamba had a couple of exciting games off the bench for the team, including nailing some big clutch shots.
For his efforts, he was given the nick name “Mini Mamba” by none other than the original Mamba himself Kobe Bryant. After the Lakers, Goudelock's only other NBA gig was a very short stint with the Houston Rockets in 2015-2016. Since then, Mini Mamba has been doing his thing overseas with various teams. He last played in China for the Shandong Golden Stars in 2018.
Jerry West - “Mr. Clutch”
Quite often, you'll hear people mention Jerry West's other nickname: “The Logo." This nickname was inspired because West's silhouette is practically on everything marketed by the NBA.
But to many older fans, West is known by his original nick name Mr. Clutch. He was given this title for his ability to hit clutch shots in game situations.
Here is a guy who bleeds purple and gold. He was drafted by the Lakers in 1960. His entire 14 year playing career was in Los Angeles. He coached the Lakers for a few years, and was general manager for many more. It was in that role that he helped build the powerhouse teams of the 80's and early 2000's . Some would say he threw us a bone in 2008, when as general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies, he traded Pau Gasol to us in mid-season.
He’s currently an executive board member with the Los Angeles Clippers. I would love for him to rejoin the Lakers organization as a consultant to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.
And last but not least….
Freight Train James (James Worthy)
Despite people telling me I’m crazy, I distinctly remember someone (Chick Hearn or some other announcer) calling James Worthy "Freight Train James" early on in his career. In fact, my high school varsity basketball coach had a poster on his office wall where Worthy was standing in front of a train.
For years, I was under the impression that was his first nickname. I figured it was inspired by the way he dunked the ball, which was essentially him gliding in the air with his arm fully extended like the Statue of Liberty.
After an thorough Internet search, it appears I’m only half crazy. I could not find a reference to the Freight Train nickname anywhere, but I did find the poster. Instead of Freight Train it says “Worthy Express.”
That nick name was quickly forgotten after Worthy’s awesome performances in the 1987 and 1988 NBA Finals, and a new nick name emerged: Big Game James. Treat yourself and watch game 7 of the '88 NBA Finals to see his dominating performance against the Detroit Pistons (36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists!).
Those are just a few of the nick names that have graced Lakers players over the years. I left many out, but I’m sure many you all remember quite a few. Which ones stand out in your mind?
During my senior year in high school, I had a nickname while on the basketball team. I wore prescription glasses, so they called me Clark Kent. I'd like to think it was done in a complimentary way, or that my play reminded some of Kurt Rambis.
Until the next post, have a good one...