All great players have famous, and even potentially potent, nicknames; for example, Earvin Johnson is known as “Magic Johnson,” Michael Jordan is known as “His Airness,” and Lebron James is known as “King James.” Even the non-scoring stars have their own special pet names; Dennis Rodman claimed the nickname “The Worm,” and Robert Horry is known as “Big Shot Bob.” Each team and fan base has its own set of nicknames for their players. North Carolina had “Sheed” for Rasheed Wallace, but now there is another Rasheed in the ACC, Duke‘s Rasheed Sulaimon.
Teammates have nicknames for each other, but each person or group in an individual player’s life has a different set of interactions from all the others, and this highlights certain attributes and informs what they consider the most identifiable characteristic of an individual, hence what usually helps to decide a nickname. A player’s teammates should not have the final say, however, because they are only part of one — albeit a big one — section of the player’s life. This then, is for the fans.
On occasion, I’ve heard the drawn out “Sheed” chant used at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This is unfortunate; a fan base, commentator or team shouldn’t have to recycle a nickname, let alone use one of their bitter rival’s. The major upside is that, when wanting to quickly discuss Sulaimon, you are able to abbreviate and still have your listener know who you are talking about. For that reason, “Sheed” is useful. But for Duke fans, Carolina should have sullied that name already and rendered it off-limits.
“Sully” has also shown up on several message boards. This makes me think of Sulaimon being tarnished, literally “sullied.” Sulaimon is a wonderful player and, by all accounts, an excellent and hardworking teammate who was a freshman All-ACC academic selection last season. He’s clearly an upstanding and high integrity individual, and there are far better options than a nickname that sounds slightly slanderous.
But the worst nickname for Sulaimon I’ve read has been “Mr. Sulu,” the helmsman — or a key-carrying point guard, if you will — of the USS Enterprise of Star Trek fame. The only similarity found is a vaguely similar vowel sound. It just comes off as slightly tacky and hacked on. It doesn’t feel like a natural extrapolation of Sulaimon’s name or personality, and a nickname should encompass both those things.
Therefore, I think the best — and yes, maybe even least original — is “Sulaimon the Magnificent,” the only difference being the spelling of Sulaimon vs. the Ottoman emperor’s spelling of Suleiman. A big head of Sulaimon with a crown would be wonderful (or at least entertaining). Perhaps there’s also space for a joke about “Duke” as in the medieval title. Sulaimon is ripe for historical nicknames, as long as it’s really only the superficial that is embraced — not all leaders are of the highest personal caliber. But with the historical Suleiman a lover of the arts and reformer of justice (one of his nicknames was “The Lawgiver”), Sulaimon is also strikingly similar in an academic sense. To be clear, Duke’s Sulaimon is not a warmonger hungry (pun intended) for the Balkans and southern Europe.
Last season, he was magnificent in some of the biggest games of the year and showed up in key moments. Against UCLA, Sulaimon put up a magnificent stat-line with eight points, five rebounds and four assists. If he has indeed returned to form, Sulaimon is absolutely a magnificent player. Granted, he may not truly come into his own until next season when Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker are most likely gone, as they play a similar style to him but on a much higher level, so the nickname may not be fully appropriate until he becomes an All-ACC first teamer.
The Cameron Crazies are considered clever and knowledgeable about everything because, after all, they are students at the Ivy of the South. I’m sure they can come up with something brilliant and far superior, but if they can’t, I’d like to suggest a riff on the name of the greatest ruler of the Ottoman Empire.