Another Slam Dunk from the Little Emperor

June 21, 2018

The U.S. isn’t the only place where basketball is a big deal. The sport is incredibly popular in China, where both local stars as well as NBA icons are household names. Well, sort of, because they’re perhaps more widely known by their colorful nicknames.

LeBron James

In the U.S., the most dominant player of the day is known as “King James.” In China, they call him “The Little Emperor.”

Tony Parker

The Little French Sports Car. The relatively small (he’s 6’2”) and quick-footed San Antonio Spurs point guard is a native of France, so it makes sense that his nickname is “The Little French Sports Car.”

Russell Westbrook

Spelled out phonetically in Chinese, the Oklahoma City Thunder star’s name is “wei si te bu lu ke.” That’s pretty long, so they just call him “Wei Dude.”

Shaquille O’Neal

Over here, they called him Shaq. In Chinese, the word for shark is pronounced shayu, and that “sha-“ sounds a lot like “Shaq.” Result: In China, they call him “The Giant Shark.” (He is, after all, a pretty big guy.)

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Chinese fans call him “Letters Bro”…because the Milwaukee Bucks all-star does, in fact, have a lot of letters in his name.

Charles Barkley

The Round Mound of Rebound was unashamed of being one of the heaviest players to play the game. Chinese fans remind him of that with the kind of mean nickname “The Flying Pig.

Carmelo Anthony

His English nickname is a simple shortening of his first name—“Melo.” That sounds a lot like “melon,” so his nickname is the Chinese word for melon, pronounced “tian gua.”

Stephon Marbury

Marxist Political Commissar” is the name of a Chinese government operative in the Communist country. Marbury’s nickname slides out the first word for a play on his name, or “Marburyist Political Commissar.”

Dirk Nowitzki

The dominating power forward and 2007 NBA MVP was one of the first German players to make a splash in the league. His nickname in China: “The German Panzer Tank.”

Klay Thompson

He’s “The Buddha.” We’re sure he has a great basketball mind, but the Golden State Warriors’ sharp-shooter reportedly earned this name because his short-cropped hair looks like the hair in traditional artistic renderings of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the Buddha. (Similarly, now-retired legend Tim Duncan was called “The Stone Buddha,” for a similar haircut and his unflappable demeanor.)

James Harden

“The Big Beard.” That’s self-explanatory.

Anthony Davis

“The Thick Brow.” That’s also self-explanatory.