Take, for example, Dominique "The Human Highlight Film" Wilkins, who would probably be known as Dominique "The Human YouTube Video" Wilkins if he were playing today. Or "The Grim Reaper" Stu Grimson, who never actually claimed anybody's soul but sure made you believe he would someday.
And yet, for all the great alternate monikers bestowed upon some of our most beloved athletes, there have been just as many downright horrible nicknames. The worst kind are the ones that are so ridiculously emasculating, you have to wonder if fans came up with the name as some sort of cruel punishment.
Here are the 10 most notable victims:
10. Shaun White ("The Flying Tomato")
Let's establish, right from the get-go, that Shaun White is one cool cat. He is the best snowboarder on the planet, can skateboard circles around just about anyone and has more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetime. So how did this Olympic wunderkind end up with a lame nickname like "The Flying Tomato"? (Presumably it's because he has long orange hair and floats through the air.) Has anyone ever seen a flying tomato? It's not pretty ... and in most instances, things don't end up so well for the tomato.
9. Glen Davis ("Big Baby")
The only thing worse than Glen Davis's nickname is that it actually applies. The Boston Celtics forward is colossal (6-foot-9 and 289 pounds big enough for you?) yet infantile, both in his normal everyday behavior and in the way he sobbed on the sideline one time after being called out by teammate Kevin Garnett. It shouldn't have surprised anyone that Davis wept during a professional basketball game; he was originally given the nickname after being reduced to tears by older kids during his public school days. I bet he could kick the crap out of them now, if he wasn't such a ... well, you know.
8. Georges St. Pierre ("Rush")
Imagine you're one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. In a scrap between you and anyone else in your weight class, the only way you would lose is if the other person brought a rifle or a flame-thrower. And even then, you probably come out victorious 8 out of 10 times. Why on Earth would you settle for a nickname synonymous with a) the only rock band in history to release more than 1,000 different albums, or b) that red multi-purpose dog from the Mega Man video game series? GSP, you owe your fans more than this. Now please don't eviscerate me.
7. Andre Racicot ("Red Light")
This might not be the wimpiest nickname in the sports universe, but it's certainly one of the meanest. Labeling a professional goaltender "Red Light" would compare favorably to calling Phil Mickelson "Perma-Slice", or Roddy White "Sir Drops-a-Lot". (There's actually a baseball parallel belonging to former pitcher John Wasdin, whose nickname was "Way Back". So cruel.)
You don't use a nickname to ridicule the one thing a player is supposed to do the best. Then again, after allowing three goals on the first six shots he faced in his NHL debut, perhaps that "Red Light" thing was Racicot's own doing.
6. Denard Robinson ("Shoelace")
Things are good for Denard Robinson. He's the starting quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines, and an established university track star, as well. Unfortunately, his nickname probably doesn't win him many points with those fine Ann Arbor ladies. He earned the name because he allegedly plays games with his shoelaces untied, which is a reckless way to go about your business in any profession.
And if we're handing out nicknames based on players ignoring basic safety precautions, we might as well change Ben Roethlisberger's nickname to "Motorcycle Helmet".
5. Pernell Whitaker ("Sweet Pea")
Pernell Whitaker's boxing career will be remembered for two reasons. Firstly, he was the greatest lightweight in the world in the 1980s. Secondly, he had the wussiest nickname in pugilism.
It began when a reporter allegedly misheard chants of "Sweet Pete" during one of Whitaker's fights and recorded them as "Sweet Pea" in his story (yet another historic case of Reporter Fail.) In a sport that prided itself on producing some of the most menacing monikers the world of sports had ever seen, Whitaker was saddled with a nickname that had people reaching for a spoon.
4. Anfernee Hardaway ("Penny")
The last of the non-hockey entries belongs to Hardaway, who enjoyed a semi-decent NBA career before suffering a nasty knee injury that required major surgery. But who are we kidding, we're here to discuss that pansy-rific nickname of his! And let's not forget his best friend is a doll with Chris Rock's voice.
Hardaway earned the name from his grandmother, whose drawl was so pronounced that when she called him "Pretty", it came out sounding like "Penny". Personally, I think it would have been funnier had Nana Hardaway not had the drawl, because then we might have been talking about Anfernee "Pretty" Hardaway. And THAT would have been awesome.
3. Jim Carey ("Net Detective")
This nickname reeked of fail. Jim Carrey the actor had played "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" not long before, and when someone figured Washington Capitals netminder Jim "One R" Carey deserved a nickname, the nicknamer settled on the Carey-Carrey corollary (which sounds funny if you say it aloud. Go ahead and try.)
Little did anyone know at the time that Carey would quickly go from elite goalie to a soup can with pads, completing the transition from Net Detective to Net Defective. He's been out of the public eye so long, you'll probably need a real detective to find him.
2. Sidney Crosby ("Sid the Kid")
The best athletes in sport deserve better nicknames. The best we could do for Larry Bird was "The Hick From French Lick," which raised the profile of hicks everywhere but didn't do much for Bird. The same is true for Crosby, who will eventually outgrow the "Kid" portion of his nickname, just as soon as he figures out how to grow a beard that doesn't look like it was manicured by a blind guy with a butter knife.
And as for the Sid part, well, the sports world has yet to encounter a cool guy named Sid. (I didn't forget about Mr. Bream, but his popularity spiked on Oct. 14. 1992. He was never heard from again.)
1. Guy Lafleur ("The Flower")
I get that Lafleur was a finesse player, a rare blend of lightning speed and pillowy-soft hands. I get that he had magnificent hair, teeth and gums, and was known as much for his work in TV commercials than his perennial All-Star appearances with the Montreal Canadiens.
But under no circumstances is "The Flower" an acceptable nickname for a male hockey player. It was barely acceptable for that skunk thing in the "Bambi" movie. Lafleur may be one of the NHL's all-time greats, but I can assure you that if he had ever crossed paths with "The Grim Reaper" ... that flower would have been finely mulched.