Shaquille O’Neal had at least 34 nicknames and he gave himself most of them. They include some great names like The Big Aristotle and some less-great names like Witness Protection. Below I have ranked all 34 from best to worst.
Table of Contents
The Big Aristotle
Shaquille O’Neal gave himself the nickname The Big Aristotle when he won the 2000 NBA MVP award – his only league MVP.
Shaq said “From this day on, I want to be known as ‘The Big Aristotle,’ because Aristotle once said excellence is not a singular act, it’s a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.”
The Big “Blank” formula is used for many of O’Neal’s nicknames. It is overused and often done poorly.
But Shaq created a near-perfect nickname with The Big Aristotle. The nickname, like Shaq playing basketball, is simply outstanding.Embed from Getty Images
The Big Shamrock
Surprisingly, Shaquille O’Neal’s second best nickname also uses the same generally-poor The Big X formula. In this case the variable, like Aristotle, is near-perfect.
The Big Shamrock was given to O’Neal in the last of his nineteen NBA seasons when he played for the Celtics. The name fits perfectly. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am a huge Celtics fan – stop saying that.
Shaq is Shaquille O’Neal’s actual nickname, so you would think it would rank higher on this list. But it’s boring. At the same time, I have already written two articles about Shaquille O’Neal and, in both, I called the man Shaq.
I can’t keep typing out Shaquille O’Neal, so I needed to get the Shaq nickname on record early in the list. 3rd seems about right.
If you’re too young, you may not know of Mayor McCheese. If so, watch this:
Now that you know, it makes sense, doesn’t it? I have no idea how Shaq came to be known as Mayor McShaq, but I like it. He was the big man on the basketball court like Mayor McCheese was the head honcho at McDonald’s.
In 1993, Shaq put out a rap album that sold over a million copies. The man could spit fire in addition to throwing it down. The name of that album? Shaq Diesel.
As a nickname, it works quite well. Shaq was like a diesel truck on the court – bigger and badder than most.
Comparing Shaq to Wilt Chamberlain makes all the sense in the world. Both are among the greatest centers in the history of the game.
But what to make of the neezy? It comes from an age when adding eezy to things made them sound like slang: Instead of off the hook, for sure; people said: Off the heezy fo sheezy. It was ridiculous, but slang always is.
With that context, Wilt Chamberneezy works. And it sounds cool to me.
The Big Cactus
Both The Big Cactus and our next entry come from Shaq’s late-career foray around the league. Before he became The Big Shamrock in Boston, he became The Big Cactus in Phoenix.
O’Neal played in Phoenix from 2007-2009, his sixteenth and seventeenth years in the league.Embed from Getty Images
The Big Shaqtus
I’m a little torn on this one. But, ultimately, I like the Big Cactus better. The Big Shaqtus is a nice attempt, but it just feels a bit too forced. Nice try, though.
Manny Shaq-iaou is a testament to the importance of reading things out loud. When I first typed this list, I was at a complete loss for what this nickname meant.
But then I read the list out loud to my ten-year-old daughter (shout out to you Katherine – you made the blog) and I got it!
Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest boxers in the history of the world. And Shaq is one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the world. Makes perfect sense.
The Big Leprechaun
As a bigtime Boston Celtics fan, I really ought to have ranked this one higher. But, as I mentioned above, I am partial to the Big Shamrock. This is a nice try too, though.
Shaq played for the Celtics in his nineteenth and final NBA season. He was not yet done collecting nicknames.Embed from Getty Images
Shaq rapped with a group called Fu-Schnickens. This video of their appearance on Arsenio Hall perfectly captures a moment in history.
The nickname Shaq Fu comes from his time with the Schnickens. It also became the name of one of the worst video games in history.
The Big Felon
At first I was going to rank this nickname lower. It almost sounds like an insult. But then I found out that Shaq gave it to himself.
After he made a steal and got a breakaway dunk to force overtime in a game his Lakers would go on to win, Shaq said he was a great thief, The Big Felon. That works.
As I have mentioned, I am suspicious of the Big X as a formula for Shaq’s nicknames. Far too often they are boring and predictable.
The Big Baryshnikov
Luckily, The Big Baryshnikov is not one of those! Mikhail Baryshnikov is one of the most noted dancers in the history of ballet. He is so famous that I have heard of him. I couldn’t name another ballet dancer if my life depended on it!
But Baryshnikov became world famous in the eighties in part because he defected from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Shaq loved to dance. And he loved to give himself nicknames. This one works!
The Big Conductor
This version of the Big X comes from Shaq’s single season in Boston. The Boston Pops perform a holiday concert every winter. They often invite local celebrities to lead the orchestra for a song as a form of promotion.
In December 2010, Shaq became The Big Conductor.
The Big Field General
In sports, a field general is a leader for his team. The other players on the team look to this player to run things and keep things under control.
You can see why Shaq thought this was a good name for him.
At the same time, it uses the boring The Big X formula. I could have ranked this one lower. Something about the length of the phrase appealed to me, but I don’t love it.
This one is kind of funny but my inability to pronounce it quickly has it ranked lower than it probably should have ranked.
Shaq, of course, gave this nickname to himself. He did it “because if you go around the league anybody with the last name (ending in) ‘vic’ is a great shooter.”
He was calling himself a great shooter and comparing himself to European players like Peja Stojakovic. There is a little bit of stereotyping going on with this, but it’s a nice stereotype so I can live with it.
Shaq has a Superman tattoo on his right arm and has long used the nickname Superman as part of his branding. He got upset when Dwight Howard started calling himself Superman as well.
But I can’t help but find it quite boring as a nickname. If you were a headline writer would you rather call him Superman or the Big Aristotle? I know which way I’d go.Embed from Getty Images
The Big Maravich
Have I mentioned my general disdain for The Big X formula for Shaq’s nicknames? If not, let me say that I hate it.
And yet, I kind of like The Big Maravich. It’s a nod to the history of the game. If you haven’t noticed, this website is called SportsNostalgiaHQ. I like the history of the game.
Pete Maravich, in case you don’t know, is the highest scorer in college basketball history. He averaged an insane 44 points per game for his college career and he played at the same school as Shaq – LSU.
Injuries destroyed his professional career, but he is still one of the best scorers in basketball history.
I should have ranked this one higher!
The Big Banana
Seriously, the Big Banana. Don’t waste my time.
This nickname refers to the fact that Shaq got a doctorate degree in education from Barry University in 2012. It’s more than a nickname: Shaq could legitimately refer to himself as Dr. Shaquille O’Neal in official correspondence.
It seems somewhat crazy. First off, Shaq does not seem like the academic type. He did go back and finish his degree as an NBA player, so he is not some fool. But he doesn’t seem like someone hanging out with an academic crowd, either.
Also, why would he want to work so hard? As the holder of multiple advanced degrees, I know how much work it can be. But apparently, it was something Shaq wanted. The degree was not honorary but a real doctorate in education.Embed from Getty Images
The Big Cordially
Really? We’re doing the Big X again? Enough. Especially when the nickname is as weak as this one. The Big Cordially. Ugh.
This one comes from Shaq saying he has two sides: “Shaquille is corporate, nice-looking, soft-spoken, wears suits, and is very cordial to people, whereas Shaq is the dominant athlete who is the two-time champion”
Alright, fine. But enough with The Big X.
The Big Galactus
What, another one? Galactus is a Marvel comic book character who appeared in the Fantastic Four series and some Avenger stuff.
I have no idea when or why Shaq gave himself this nickname. It was probably to promote something. If it played on the Big Cactus and the Big Shaqtus, at least it rhymed. But, seriously, enough with the Big X.
The Big Agave
I am now going to ignore the fact that half these nicknames are The Big X. The Big Agave is boring but at least unique.
Agave is a plant native to the dry, hot parts of the Southwestern U.S. and parts of South America. Presumably, Shaq gave himself this nickname because he can be prickly on the outside but soft on the inside like the plant.
L.C.L.Embed from Getty Images
L.C.L. is an abbreviated nickname Shaq gave himself. It refers to the idea that he was the Last Center Left. As a blog dedicated to sports history, I am drawn to the idea if not the actual nickname.
Shaq was not quite the last actual center to play the game. But he was the last center left from the 2nd Golden Age of centers. The 1st Golden Age came when Wilt Chamberlain regularly faced off with Bill Russell.
The 2nd Golden Age began when Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and David Robinson faced off regularly in the league. They were later joined by Shaquille O’Neal, who lost to Olajuwon in the NBA Finals as a young player.
Since Shaq was the youngest of that group of Hall of Fame legends, it makes sense that he was the Last Center Left. I’d rank the nickname higher but it’s really boring. Three letters as your nickname. No thanks.
MDE suffers from the same problems as a nickname as the last entry on this list: L.C.L. Three letters is a boring nickname.
This one doesn’t even come with any fun history. Shaq gave it to himself after his Lakers threepeat. It stands for Most Dominant Ever. Okay – but a boring name.
The Big Twitterer
I was hoping we were finished with these Big X names. This one should probably rank even lower. The Twitterer. I guess it’s delightfully grammatically incorrect. But it doesn’t have much else going for it.
The Big IPO
If I could have ranked this one lower, I would have. But we are coming to the end of this list.
Shaq gave himself this nickname when he became involved in promoting a company that allegedly tried to help smaller investors get access to IPOs. Oof. The boring The Big X structure and a terrible story revolving around promoting some company. Not a great name.
The Big EquotatiousEmbed from Getty Images
I think I like this one better than the IPO name. I would swap them, but I can’t figure this one out.
What does it even mean? I can’t find much online. I am going to say Shaq called himself this because of his great quotes. He was good with a witty phrase, but it was still an awkward nickname.
The Real Deal
This is a good, legitimate nickname that does not use The Big X formula, but I still can’t get behind it. It rhymes with Shaq’s name and works as a solid nickname.
But Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield had it first! I can’t let Shaq steal a man’s nickname like that. Nice try.
Osama Bin Shaq
I like the fact that this nickname has an original structure. And it has a funny story behind it.
Shaq gave himself this one after he said he terrorized Keith Van Horn on the boards during his 2002 NBA Finals win.
At the same time, I can’t minimize terrorism and don’t want to joke too much about such a sensitive subject. Osama Bin Laden was no joke. I don’t think I want a nickname based on him, even with a funny story behind it.
Shaq got this nickname in his 18th season when he went to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James was in his first stint with the Cavs and had only made one appearance in the NBA Finals at that point.
At his introductory press conference, Shaq said “My motto is very simple: Win a ring for the King” and “My job is to protect the King. I’m in the protection business.” Thus the name: Witness Protection.
Alas, the Cavs lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round of the playoffs and Shaq moved to Boston himself the next year.
Shaq DaddyEmbed from Getty Images
I feel the same way about 32 and 33 on this list. I just can’t use a nickname like this for a grown man (as a grown man myself). It’s not my thing. If it’s your thing, I am completely cool with that. But I rank any nickname with Daddy in it lowly.
The Big Daddy
See above. But this ranks lower because it also has The Big X formula.
I hate this nickname. Allegedly, Shaq gave it to himself in recognition for his great ability to give good interviews. But that does not make sense to me. And it seems borderline cruel or insulting.
I am sure there is some benign explanation. But I would not want to be called a Hobomaster, so it ranks last for me.
Summary: Shaquille O’Neal’s Nicknames
Shaquille O’Neal had at least 34 nicknames with most of them coming from the man himself. Shaq is really his nickname in an official sense, but The Big Aristotle is his best nickname.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.