Blame Fennis Dembo for making me write a “greatest basketball names ever” post.

Not gonna lie. This whole thing started because I had Fennis Dembo’s name pop into my head the other day, and for absolutely no reason. Well, unless you consider  “it’s the greatest name anyone ever thought of” as a valid reason. I dunno.

Still, I always have fun giving my memory little workouts like this. Over the years I’ve done ‘shittiest big man draft busts’ and ‘Excellence in benchwarming‘ posts in the past, and they function well as historical pieces/ comedic fodder. This should be the same, more or less.

Anyway, I went ahead and did this as an A-Z, one player-per-letter type deal, so as to challenge myself. Bad as my memory is these days, it helps to force myself to come up big in the clutch or whatever. 


A is for Alaa Abdelnaby, member of  the first great Duke teams (1986-1990),  erstwhile draft bust and the first Egyptian NBA player I can remember. Alaa played on one of the very first ultra-hateable Duke teams, the one that starred the original Duke Dickhead, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. Not sure why his Wikipedia picture looks like some 1940’s-era AP file photo of a kidnapped War journalist, but there it is.


B is for Bad News Barnes.

Uh huh. Marvin Barnes was half folk hero, half badass seventies caricature.  As a ballplayer, he had more talent than his numbers would suggest, but such is life when your career serves no greater purpose than to end up as the poster boy for the wild times of the ABA. Barnes beasted for two years with The Spirits of St. Louis (24 points and 16 rebounds a game as a rook) before heading to the NBA and getting dragged down by the superstar lifestyle. In six years, he went from the #2 pick of the NBA draft to out of the league entirely. 

Still, let it be known that there is a story that exists about Barnes that is just about the greatest story you’ll ever hea:. The Marvin Barnes Time Machine Story.

“There is the legendary story about the Spirits getting ready to depart on a flight that left Louisville, Ky., at 8 p.m. and would get into St. Louis at 7:56 p.m. due to a time-zone change. Upon looking at the schedule, Barnes said, “I ain’t getting on no time machine,” and rented a car for the trip.”

C is for Carldell “Squeaky” Johnson, who makes it here on the strength of the birth name and the nickname. Carldell. It gets no more southern than that unless you are talking about the 2010 Baylor Bears (see below), and Squeaky is the fucking perfect alias for a quick-as-shit point guard, wreakin’ all his havoc in the open court and whatnot.

Carldell, man.

Squeaky kicked around the D-League and abroad for six years before he finally landed an NBA job in New Orleans, short-lived as it was. Oh, and don’t ask me where this photo was taken, or why, but we’re all better off for it’s existence.


D is for Dickey Simpkins, the name my brother  and I called each other for about five years, give or take. I’m serious. Somewhere along the line it seemed not only funny, but a nicer way of calling each other that other word. Funny to us, anyway. Simpkins’ actual birth name is Lubara. For reals.

Oh, and through the daily blessing that is Google, I stumbled across a Chicago rapper who has (I can only assume) taken Dickey Simpkins as his stage name. Ah yes, and the news got significantly better when I pressed the “google image” button.


Raise your hand if you love the internet.

E is for Etdrick Bohannon, one of those names I always used to assume was either a typo or the onset of dyslexia. Always wondered where it comes from? Yeah, I’m sure it’s nothing more complicated than “name + name=new name” or whatever, but it’s still baller.

How the hell do you pronounce that, though? Etted Rick?

A mystery, this.

F is for Fennis Dembo. He was a second round draft pick out of Wyoming by the Pistons. Dembo played a grand total of 31 games in the NBA but 22 years since that happened, I still consider his name to be the best I can remember, at least in my life span. Repeat is to yourself softly, a dozen times or so. Fennis Dembo…Fennis Dembo…Fennis Dembo.

Seriously, for as great as this name is, something needs to be done to keep it in the limelight or work it into the lexicon or some shit. Let it become a nickname for somebody or a name for a filthy sexual position. Something. Anything.

Give Fennis Dembo a chance.

G is for God’sgift Achiuwa, a middling college baller with A heaven-sent name. My man Wes covered this last year, and better than i could.

H is for Haywoode Workman, whose name is not only great, but a pretty apt description of his game. Workman was your typical solid, game-managing back-up point guard who would play smart and give it his all but couldn’t really shoot a lick. He was Mark Jackson’s back-up on those mid 90’s Indiana teams that went to war with the Knicks on a yearly basis, and as it turns out, he’s an NBA referee now.

And as my brother likes to remind me, he was on the butt-end of one of the greatest insults ever, as told by some anonymous scout in one of those old NBA preview magazines (my brother thinks it was one of the old Vitale annuals)of the early 90’s. It said “Haywoode Workman is the kind of player who would run through a wall to help his team. Too bad he can build one with his jump shot”.

I is for Ira Newble, pretty much just for being the only black guy named Ira I can think of, and for looking like Ben Harper.


J is for James “Fly” Williams, one of the original street ball legend/cautionary tales of the 70’s. He dominated in collegeplaying for tiny Austin Peay University, soo much so that the home crowds used to chant “the fly is open, let’s go Peay” when he did his thing. Seriously. I ain’t making that up.

He played one year in the pros, on the infamous 1975 St. Louis Spirits team that featured Bad News Barnes AND Maurice Lucas. No, David Kahn was not the GM of the 1975 Spirits.


Somehow, this picture reminds me of the Dave Chappelle/Prince sketch. “game…blouses.”

K is for Korleone Young, a bad guy name if ever there was one. Young is often cited as one of the poster boys for David Stern’s decision to institute an age limit in the NBA. Considered an all-world talent out of High School, Young slid to the 2nd round of the 1999 draft and ended up playing a grand total of three NBA games before the Pistons cut him loose. The fact that nobody else would touch him kind of says it all.

 L is for LaceDarius Dunn, my favorite name on what I consider the greatest team full of names I’ve ever seen, narrowly edging the 2012 St. John’s roster (starring Sir’Dominick Pointer, God’sGift and a man named Nurideen!) or the 1999 Washington Wizards, who sucked as an actual basketball team but boasted dudes named Etdrick, Jahidi, Calbert, Tracy and some stiff I’d never heard of named…John Coker.
Anyway, here’s the 2010 Baylor starting five.
-LaceDarius Dunn
-Tweety Carter
-Ekpe Udoh
-Givon Crump
-Quincy Acy
That’s just some kind of perfect storm of creative, wacky and deeply, deeply southern names. That team actually managed to make it all the way to the Final 8 of the 2010 Tournament before falling to Duke, the eventual champions.
In the words of Burt Reynolds’ character Jack Horner in ‘Boogie Nights’, “Those are some great fucking names”.

M is for Mister Jennings, one of  my favorite “little engines that could” in hoops history. At about 5’7 in sneakers, he managed to play three years for the Warriors and even do this. Hey, I think calling a teeny basketball player “Mister” is fucking great, for all kinds of reasons, none of which I would even attempt to explain.


The kids of Jennings hometown finally have someone they can look up to.

Really, I could go on all day about Mister. Dude always reminded me of former WWF Wrestler The Haiti Kid, even though one of these men is a dwarf and the other is not. Have you ever seen “Penitentiary III? You should.

Who is the subject of quite possibly my favorite, my favorite Basketball card ever? Mister is.


Whoever was doing art direction for Upper Deck in 1993…Bring ’em back and promise him all the acid he can eat. Whatever it takes, get it done.

-John Hathwell

Back with part 2 next week…


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