As everyone within shouting distance is well aware, the NBA has been rocked by a gun-related saga this season involving Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton. However gun culture is nothing new to the league, both in literal and figurative terms. Let’s have a look at ten of the best gun-related nicknames in the NBA, both present and past.
10. The Baby-Faced Assassin (BJ Armstrong / Isiah Thomas)
Both BJ and Isiah were tagged with this moniker over the years at different points — a nod to their startling ability to destroy opponents, despite their boyish, youthful looks. Of course neither actually killed anyone, although Thomas came as close as he could with the New York Knicks as an executive.
9. The Brazilian Bomber (Leandro Barbosa)
Another example of military-related terminology on the court is one of the many nicknames given to the Brazilian Blur of the Phoenix Suns. At last check, there was no record of Leandrinho dropping bombs on unwitting cities.
8. Bulletproof (Andray Blatche)
The versatile, ridiculous-upside-potential-laden big man for the Washington Wizards earned the nickname after surviving a shooting in an attempted car-jacking during his rookie season. So far he has survived all bullets fired in the Wizards’ locker-room, further heightening the validity of the moniker.
7. The Hitman (Mo Williams)
Call off the all-points-bulletin authorities, Mo Williams is not a killer available for hire. Rather, his ability to hit big shots on the court has garnered him a title anointed upon him by fans in a radio poll. Apparently it also has some reference to his affection for the Sopranos mobster television series.
6. Bullets (Washington / Baltimore)
Yes, ironically, the Wizards were once named the “Bullets.” In 1963, upon moving to Baltimore, the franchise formerly known as the Chicago Packers and Zephyrs changed their name to the Bullets. The played under that name through a move to the US capital in 1973, up until 1997. Owner Abe Pollin changed the name to avoid the negative overtones attached to it and particularly spurred on by the assassination of his good friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Apparently Arenas and Crittenton did not get the memo.
5. The Polish Rifle (Eric Piatkowski)
No player has played more games in a Los Angeles Clippers jersey than Piatkowski, the Polish Rifle. That alone should be rise to prostrate oneself before him in reverence. That takes some serious patience. However he did not get his nickname for his propensity to “go postal” on people with his frustrations, rather for his long-range shooting ability. Known as a one trick pony, he was a fantastic three-point shooter. He leads the Clipper all-time in threes made and attempted and remarkably ranks third in percentage at .402.
4. Ammo (Adam Morrison)
There are so many other nicknames for the guy with the wispy moustache. But this one is the best by far — purely because of the irony and irreverence that it can be uttered. The simple fact is, that Morrison has spent very little of his ammo whilst suited up in an NBA uniform. Well, let me rephrase that: Morrison has not successfully spent much of his ammo in the big league. A fantastic college scorer, he holds a .373 field goal shooting mark in the NBA. Oh yeah, and ammo is a nice concatenation of his name.
3. AK47 (Andrei Kirilenko)
The closest thing to a Swiss Army Knife made in Russia, AK47 is a darling to geeky kids in basements running their NBA fantasy leagues. Or at least he was up until he went off track a bit, argued with coach Jerry Sloan and threw his stats out of kilter. The fact is, Kirilenko can be downright lethal. He also was savvy enough to wear the number 47 to top off the nickname. And Andrei gets to shoot that AK47 all over the place, thanks to an agreement he has with his wife which allows him to sleep with another woman once per season. Apparently that’s kosher in Russia.
2. Pistol Pete (Pete Maravich)
Pistol Pete gained his name during high school as he would shoot from the hip, like a dueller with a pistol from a holster. He is still the all-time leading NCAA Division 1 scorer with 3,667 points at 44.2ppg, stats that were amassed in only three years of college eligibility at LSU (freshman were not allowed to play on the varsity team in those days). Despite sadly dying at age 40 of a congenital heart defect, he had a productive (if injury-shortened) NBA career with the Hawks and Jazz before playing his final season with the Celtics as team mate to a rookie named Larry Bird. Watch video of Pistol as a rookie.
1. The Rifleman (Chuck Person)
This gun-related nickname outranks all others. Why? Because Chuck Connors Person had the tag from birth. He was named after actor Chuck Connors, star of television series, The Rifleman. Chuck only went on to perpetuate the name with his awesome outside shooting, a skill he used to devastating effect at times, particularly with the Indiana Pacers. Person started out at Auburn University with Charles Barkley, before garnering Rookie of the Year honours in 1987. His most famous gunning came against the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird, a rivalry that involved some jawing, in the 1991 and 1992 NBA Playoffs. Person comes from a family with some basketball pedigree — his younger brother Wesley had a decent NBA career and their cousin Dwayne McClain was a star of the 1985 Villanova NCAA championship team, before being drafted by the Pacers and going on to star overseas, most notably with the Sydney Kings in Australia.
Honourable Mentions: The Latin Assassin (Francisco Garcia), The Mississippi Bullet (Monta Ellis)
Also check out: Derrick Rose’s crazy alley-oop dunk vs Hawks