Call us crazy (or just plain Zinzin), but naming is in our DNA, even when we’re watching the NBA. In honor of our local team, the Golden State Warriors, and their awesome run to this year’s NBA Finals — their sixth finals appearance in the last eight seasons — we take a brief look at Warriors naming history and current player nicknames. We also included a nicknaming-nod to the Warriors 2022 Finals rival, the Boston Celtics…because we may be “Zinzin,” but we love a good (naming) showdown.
A historical snapshot of NBA team nicknames
Golden State Warriors
The Philadelphia Warriors, named after the 1920s team that played in the American Basketball League, won the championship in the inaugural 1946-47 season of the Basketball Association of America. The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco after the 1961-62 season and retained their nickname. When the team relocated across the Bay to Oakland in 1971, they were renamed the Golden State Warriors.
Team owner Walter Brown personally chose Celtics over Whirlwinds, Olympians, and Unicorns (yes, Unicorns) as the nickname for Boston’s Basketball Association of America team in 1946. Despite the warnings of one of his publicity staffers, who told Brown, “No team with an Irish name has ever won a damned thing in Boston,” Brown liked the winning tradition of the nickname; the New York Celtics were a successful franchise during the 1920s.
With a rich history in the world of sports, nicknames give us a fun way to connect to a player or team. Zinzin believes that the best nicknames are earned…and, of course, bestowed upon someone by someone else who presumably also has some kind of earned tenure in a given sport or industry. On a practical level, nicknames give us an easy, and often times shorter, way to refer to someone. For instance, in the Bay Area and among NBA fans, everyone knows who we’re talking about when we say “Steph.” Nicknames also give us a feeling of familiarity. Calling Stephen Curry “Steph” makes us feel like we’re BFFs with him, which gives us an emotional connection too. (Steph, if you’re reading this, let’s be BFFs. You could call us “Zin,” if you want. But only you.)
We believe that the characteristics of a nickname hold true for naming a company, product, or service too. More on that later. For now, onto the fun stuff. As Zinzin likes to say, naming should be fun. And these nicknames prove it.
2021-2022 Golden State Warriors nicknames*
Beli — Nemanja Bjelica
Big Ticket, Big Wise, James and the Giant Reach — James Wiseman
Cheese / Cheeze, Chorizo, Flash — Chris Chiozza
DLee — Damion Lee
Dray, Day-Day, DrayMagic, Money Green — Draymond Green
Dubs — A Warriors team nickname
GP2, Young Glove, The Mitten — Gary Payton II
Iggy, Dre, Swiss Army Knife, AI, The Adult in the Room — Andre Iguodala
JK, JoKu, Jon — Jonathan Kuminga
JP, Young Bucket, DeadPoole, The Microwave, Kid Splash — Jordan Poole
Juan T, Juandre Iguodala, Nito — Juan Toscano-Anderson
Klay, China Klay, Headband Klay, Game 6 Klay, Scaffolding Klay, Zen Klay, Klazerbeam, Sea Captain, Big Smokey — Klay Thompson
Loon, Looney Tunes, Kevon Olajuwon — Kevon Looney
Maple Jordan, Wiggs, Two-way Wiggs, A-Dub — Andrew Wiggins
Mo, Young Moo — Moses Moody
O, OPJ, Bubba, Ottomatic — Otto Porter Jr.
Poole Party — The Warriors with Jordan Poole
Q — Quinndary Weatherspoon
Steph, Chef Curry, The Chef, The Baby-Faced Assassin, The Golden Boy, Human Torch, Threezus, GOAT — Stephen Curry
The Splash Brothers — Steph Curry & Klay Thompson
UPDATE 6/16/22: New Warriors nickname: 2022 NBA Champions!
2021-2022 Boston Celtics nicknames*
7/11, Kid N’ Play, Jaywatch — Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum
97 — Brodric Thomas (Zinzin suggested nickname)
Batman, Grant Curry — Grant Williams
Crash Bandicoot — Aaron Nesmith
8 Mile — Payton Pritchard
Fitty — Malik Fitts (Zinzin suggested nickname)
Godfather — Al Horford
Gold Metal Jay, The Problem — Jayson Tatum
Green Goblin, Juice — Jaylen Brown
Ice — Daniel Theis
JuwannaGo — Juwan Morgan (Zinzin suggested nickname)
M–Dash — Matt Ryan (Zinzin suggested nickname)
Me Shooty — Sam Hauser (Zinzin suggested nickname)
Sauce Castillo — Nik Stauskas
Shark — Derrick White (Zinzin suggested nickname)
The Cobra — Marcus Smart
The Green Kornet, Big Bird — Luke Kornet
Time Lord — Robert Williams III
At-a-glance: team mascot names
Berserker | Warriors mascot name (c. 1996-’97)
Definition: berserker, Norwegian berserk, Old Norse berserkr (“bearskin”), in premedieval and medieval Norse and Germanic history and folklore, a member of unruly warrior gangs that worshipped Odin, the supreme Norse deity, and attached themselves to royal and noble courts as bodyguards and shock troops. (For more about this strange Warriors mascot, check out The story of the Warriors’ Berserker, the ahead-of-his-time Bigfoot of NBA mascots)
Lucky the Leprechaun | Celtics mascot name
Definition: leprechaun, in Irish folklore, fairy in the form of a tiny old man often with a cocked hat and leather apron. Solitary by nature, he is said to live in remote places and to make shoes and brogues. The sound of his hammering betrays his presence. He possesses a hidden crock of gold; if captured and threatened with bodily violence, he might, if his captor keeps his eyes on him, reveal its hiding place. But usually the captor is tricked into glancing away, and the fairy vanishes. The word derives ultimately from Old Irish luchorpan, “little body.”
Zinzin for the slam dunk
A great name comes from finding the essence — or core brand position — of something (or someone in the case of nicknames). Once you establish your brand position, let the naming begin. Remember, naming should be fun! For instance, you can’t tell us the people who came up with the nicknames Time Lord, Threezus and The Green Kornet weren’t having a good time. On the same hand, for players to earn these memorable nicknames, they put in all the hard work to get to the top of their game. The same can be said for companies who put in all the hard work to get to a great name…they’ll be at the top of their game and top-of-mind for customers.
Lastly, let’s go Warriors!
* This is by no means an exhaustive list of nicknames, which also change over time. Feel free to add to this collection in the comments below.