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Top 25 Best Nicknames in Sports History

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys
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How we describe our athletes is a big way of developing how we feel about them. Some great athletes end up with awesome nicknames out of luck and some develop them because a nickname just makes sense for their playing style. These are the 25 best nicknames ever given to athletes.

25. Karl Malone - "The Mailman"

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25. Karl Malone - "The Mailman"

State Farm Saturday Night
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Karl Malone, the forward who always delivered. During his playing days, he was one of the best players of his generation and he was known for always coming up big when the Jazz needed it most. Since he delivered when the stakes were highest, he developed his great nickname.

24. David Ortiz - "Big Papi"

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
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24. David Ortiz - "Big Papi"

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
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Big Papi is one of baseball's coolest superstars and he also has one of the coolest nicknames in the sport. It's a very fitting nickname based on his intimidating stature and domination at the plate and it will help him be remembered as one of the best hitters of his era.

23. Allen Iverson - "The Answer"

Allen Iverson
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23. Allen Iverson - "The Answer"

Allen Iverson
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Nicknamed "the answer" because he was the "answer" to all of Philadelphia's problems, and was the "answer" to his family's problems when he entered the NBA. Certainly, he proved to be the answer to the 76ers' problems when he led them all the way to the NBA Finals with a subpar roster.

22. Willie Mays - "The Say Hey Kid"

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22. Willie Mays - "The Say Hey Kid"

MLB Photos Archive
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There are conflicting stories about how Mays got his nickname. One claims when he arrived in the major leagues, he would say things like "hey, say hey man" and that's how he got his nickname. Whatever the case, he may be the best five-tool player in the history of the game and his nickname sounds really cool.

21. Lou Gehrig - "The Iron Horse"

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees
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21. Lou Gehrig - "The Iron Horse"

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees
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There have been very few nicknames that describe someone as accurately as Gehrig's did. He was a huge guy and he almost never missed a game. His consecutive games played streak record would stand for nearly 60 years and for good reason. It wasn't until ALS started to break his body down that he even seemed human.

20. Andre "The Hawk" Dawson

Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs
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20. Andre "The Hawk" Dawson

Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs
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Andre Dawson was one of the most underrated players of his generation while playing for the Expos and Cubs. Animal nicknames aren't all that creative, but it perfectly fit his exuberant playing style. Now that he's in the Hall of Fame, his nickname is forever etched into history.

19. Matt Ryan - "Matty Ice"

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons
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19. Matt Ryan - "Matty Ice"

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons
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Especially early on in his career, Matt Ryan played with ice water in his veins. When the game's on the line, Ryan shows up and steps up. Even though the Falcons haven't been as successful recently, Ryan still finds ways to win.

18. Frank Thomas - "The Big Hurt"

2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
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18. Frank Thomas - "The Big Hurt"

2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
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Boy, did Frank Thomas put a hurt on every baseball that he hit. He hit some balls so hard, it was surprising they didn't just explode. A recent inductee into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Thomas is forever immortalized as a huge teddy bear who was incredible at hitting a baseball a long way.

17. O.J. Simpson - "The Juice"

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17. O.J. Simpson - "The Juice"

O.J. Simpson Seeks Retrial In Las Vegas Court - Day 5
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Even though his post-career life has tainted his playing career to some extent, O.J. Simpson had a pretty clever nickname. As if his initials stood for "orange juice," he got the nickname "The Juice." As one of the best running backs of all time, his nickname will stick forever.

16. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson

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16. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson

Film location for the movie
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Supposedly given his nickname since he was seen playing shoeless for his factory team while being scouted, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was one of the best players of his era. Despite hitting for a higher average during the 1919 World Series than during the rest of his career, he was implicated in the Black Sox scandal and was banned from baseball for life.

15. William "The Refrigerator" Perry

William Perry
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15. William "The Refrigerator" Perry

William Perry
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Defensive lineman William Perry was given a very appropriate nickname. He was the size of a refrigerator and ran through offensive lineman with the best of them. He also was subbed in as a running back in goal-line situations occasionally, which was really entertaining to watch.

14. Gordie Howe - "Mr. Hockey"

Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers
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14. Gordie Howe - "Mr. Hockey"

Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers
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There isn't a more flattering nickname in sports than "Mr. Hockey." That clearly denotes him as one of the elite players to ever play the sport and he really was one of the best. He played with a grace on the ice that hadn't been seen before and likely won't be seen again.

13. LeBron James - "King James"

LeBron James Portraits
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13. LeBron James - "King James"

LeBron James Portraits
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Since LeBron is the best player of his generation, the nickname "King James" fits perfectly. He is like the king of the NBA. It also helps that there was actually a King James during the course of history. His nickname is short and to the point, but it's one of the best of all time.

12. Stan "The Man" Musial

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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12. Stan "The Man" Musial

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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This is one of the more simple nicknames on this list, but it's just as cool as the others. Stan Musial really was the man during his playing days as he was at the top of his game for nearly a quarter of a century. Even though he's a Hall of Famer, he's one of the most underrated baseball players of all time.

11. Ty Cobb - "The Georgia Peach"

ALCS Game 4: Oakland A's v Detroit Tigers
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11. Ty Cobb - "The Georgia Peach"

ALCS Game 4: Oakland A's v Detroit Tigers
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Hailing from Georgia, one of the best baseball players of all time was also given one of the best nicknames of all time. What's ironic about the nickname is that he was anything but a peach on the baseball field. He was one of the meanest ballplayers to ever live.

10. Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics
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10. Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics
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If a normal-sized person was on stilts, they'd be just about the height that Wilt Chamberlain was. Standing at an incredible 7-foot-1 for his playing days, Chamberlain dominated the basketball world. It's no wonder since he was about a head taller than any other player during the time.

9. "Pistol" Pete Maravich

Utah Jazz v Boston Celtics
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9. "Pistol" Pete Maravich

Utah Jazz v Boston Celtics
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Nicknamed "pistol" since he shot from the hip, Pete Maravich was one of the best guards of his era. He possessed ball-handling skills that were unmatched and he could shoot with the best of them. Simply because of how it rolled off the tongue, he had one of the coolest nicknames of all time.

8. Randy Johnson - "The Big Unit"

Diamondbacks v Giants
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8. Randy Johnson - "The Big Unit"

Diamondbacks v Giants
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Randy Johnson was one of the best strikeout pitchers of all time and boy, was he big. He stood 6-foot-10, an insane height for a major league pitcher and he intimidated hitters around the league. He didn't exactly look like someone you ever wanted to face in a big situation.

7. Reggie Jackson - "Mr. October"

New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals
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7. Reggie Jackson - "Mr. October"

New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals
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Reggie Jackson was one of the best playoff hitters in baseball history and that earned him the accurate nickname "Mr. October." Whenever October rolled around, Jackson was at his best and would put his team on his back.

6. Pete Rose - "Charlie Hustle"

Pete Rose Manages the Bridgeport Bluefish
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6. Pete Rose - "Charlie Hustle"

Pete Rose Manages the Bridgeport Bluefish
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Rose was known for always hustling no matter what the situation. Sometimes, he played so hard, it even rubbed people the wrong way. He never cared about any of that, though, because he always gave it his all, which is just one of many reasons he should be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

5. Walter Payton - "Sweetness"

Chicago Bears: Walter Payton
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5. Walter Payton - "Sweetness"

Chicago Bears: Walter Payton
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So simple, yet so accurate was Walter Payton's nickname. He was truly a treat to watch on the football field. He was such a smooth runner and his moves were so sweet, it's no wonder he is looked at as one of the best football players in NFL history.

4. Deion Sanders - "Prime Time"

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4. Deion Sanders - "Prime Time"

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Self-proclaimed playmaker Deion Sanders was incredibly talented and electrifying, especially on the football field. He was really cocky, but his "Prime Time" nickname was spot on. When the lights were brightest, he was at his best.

3. Calvin Johnson - "Megatron"

New York Giants v Detroit Lions
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3. Calvin Johnson - "Megatron"

New York Giants v Detroit Lions
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Calvin Johnson is a freak of nature and accordingly, his Megatron nickname is perfect. Sometimes he seems big enough to be the Transformers character and he's such an imposing force that something about the nickname just works.

2. Wayne Gretzky - "The Great One"

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2. Wayne Gretzky - "The Great One"

F1 Grand Prix of Austria - Qualifying
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It doesn't get much better than this. Gretzky was the best hockey player of all time, hence his nickname. There wasn't anyone better than him and his flattering nickname made sure everyone, even the ones who never saw him play, knew that.

1. Michael "Air" Jordan

1998 NBA Finals Game Five: Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls
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1. Michael "Air" Jordan

1998 NBA Finals Game Five: Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls
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Perhaps the most dominant player in any sport in any era, Michael Jordan had it all. He even had the best nickname ever. It always seemed like he was in the air, performing a high-flying act as he drove to the basket. Luckily for him, he was also able to market the heck out of his nickname and turn it into one of the most successful sports brands in the world.