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On Shaq And Nicknaming Privileges

Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, right, presents newly signed Shaquille O'Neal his jersey at a news conference on Tuesday in Waltham. (AP)

BOSTON — On Tuesday, Shaquille O’Neal was introduced to the members of the sporting press in Boston, who were perhaps not surprised to learn that he’s very big and tall.

O’Neal has a lot of nicknames, perhaps the weirdest of which is “The Big Aristotle,” but he had asked Celtics fans to suggest a new one for him as he prepared to join their team. My own favorite is “The Big Chowda,” because it’s exquisitely silly. The Big Bean might have been more appropriate, also more alliterative. Anyway, Mr. O’Neal likes “The Big Shamrock,” so until somebody comes up with something better, I guess that’s who he is.

Today’s star athletes have treasure, privileges and opportunities of which their predecessors couldn’t have dreamed, but when did the opportunity to chose one’s own nickname come into it?

The bestowing of nicknames was once the responsibility of sportswriters.

They were the ones who started calling George Ruth “Babe,” and later the “Bambino,” and at some point, probably early one morning after lots of refreshment, “the Sultan of Swat.”

They were the ones who began calling Pete Maravich “Pistol,” which, given how often Maravich shot the basketball, was not especially imaginative, but had a certain hokey cache anyway.

One of those sportswriters was ringside watching Ray Robinson, whose name was actually Walker Smith, Jr., work out one day, and he muttered something about the young man’s moves and style being sweet as sugar. The rest was history, not only for Robinson, but for every other fighter named “Ray,” and lots of fighters named something else.

We’ve seen the coming and going of “Say Hey,” “Neon Deion,” “Mr. October” and “Rocket” Richard, as well. And once, long ago — between 1871 and 1884, to be precise — there was an infielder named Bob Ferguson. The origin of his nickname, which was “Death To Flying Things,” remains deliciously mysterious. But who can possibly think that it was Mr. Ferguson’s idea?

So should Shaq get to change nicknames every time he changes teams? And should he get to pick the one he wants? Shouldn’t he have to wait until he does something to earn a new one? Something like, for example, blocking five or six consecutive shots in a big game…after which, who knows? Maybe some sports writer with a long memory would start calling him “Death To Flying Things.”

What do you think Shaq’s green nickname should be? Leave your ideas in the comments section.

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  • Danielle Chenette

    Shaq is clearly using the Celtics so that he can get a few million more before he retires. If he deserves any nickname it should be “gold-digger”!

  • STEVE ENGELR

    I have 2 suggestions for Shaq’s nickname:

    1. GO’Neal! He is now Shaq GO’Neal! It can be put on the back of his uniform.

    2. “Jolly” as in Jolly Green Giant

  • Hank

    In the gahden of the Jolly (Ho, Ho, Ho) Green Giant

  • Benjamin Smock

    @Danielle he’s actually agreed to make the league veteran minimum so I don’t think “gold-digger” quite works in this situation.

    I like the original one, but they should spell it with a Q….The Big Shamroq

  • Sean Tierney

    TIP’n O’Neal

  • Braden

    Bio-Diesel; Shaq’s going green!

  • chris

    Not sure why so many are upset that Shaq wants to be paid to play-his deal is relatively small on NBA terms. I would call him McDiesel

  • Maria

    The Big Shanroq works well as long as it is spelled with a Q.

  • Judy

    O’Shaq, or Mister O’Shaq

  • Shawn

    How about “the green giant”?

  • Gayle Davis

    How about SO (his initials). It could be a fun play on words. SO…what!The Intimidator or Honcho. You want something that is short and is easy to say. It is all about marketing! SO ???? What do you think?

  • Celtic Fan

    Why does he deserve a nick name. Oh I know. He needs one as he retires as a Celtics so he can be Remembered Among Celtic Greats that did not have nick names. Larry Bird, Kevin McCale, Robert Parish, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Tom Heinsohn, Cerdick Maxwell.

    Get over the hype. If you are truely great you can stand on your name.

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