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Giants third baseman and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval is the “Kung Fu Panda.”
Animal nicknames are nothing new in sports. San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval — a.k.a. the “Kung Fu Panda” — was recently named World Series MVP after an unbelievable October. Fans at AT&T Park wore panda hats to support their rotund slugger playing the hot corner. But Sandoval is not the only high profile player or coach who is better known by a name from the great outdoors.
Here’s a look at the 25 best animal nicknames in sports history:
Eldrick Woods, PGA prodigy
The 14-time major champion was nicknamed in honor of his father’s friend Col. Vuong Dang “Tiger” Phong, with whom Earl Woods served during the Vietnam War. Never has a nickname been so appropriate. Until recently, Tiger had an invincible aura when in red on Sunday, with the death stare of a big cat about to pounce. Would Tiger have been Tiger — the socioeconomic golf pioneer, Nike heir to Michael Jordan and personification of killer instinct in the clutch — had he gone by Eldrick?
Paul Bryant, Alabama icon
As the tall tale goes, a 13-year-old Bryant wrestled a bear at the Lyric Theatre in Fordyce, Arkansas. Although Bryant didn’t get the money he was promised, he earned the nickname “Bear.” With a name befitting a mythical character and a signature fedora-style houndstooth hat to match, Bear won six national championships and 14 SEC titles en route to becoming the most legendary coach in college football history.
3. Black Widow
Jeanette Lee, Billiards babe
A Korean-American killer on the pool table, Lee wears all-black and devours her opponents. The former No. 1 ranked female pool player in the world is also not afraid to sex it up with low cut shirts, tight skirts and/or high heels at the table, and skimpy bikinis in photo shoots.
4. Big Dog
Glenn Robinson, NBA ball hog
Although Antoine Carr was already known as the “Big Dog,” Robinson made it his own as the national player of the year at Purdue, the No. 1 overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks (ahead of both Jason Kidd and Grant Hill) in 1994 and two-time All-Star.
5. Kung Fu Panda
Pablo Sandoval, World Series MVP
Inspired by the Disney movie, fans in San Francisco rock their panda hats with pride, supporting their lovable Venezuelan third baseman who looks amazingly similar to his cartoon character namesake. The World Series MVP Panda can’t stop smiling these days, after bamboo-sticking for a .364 average, six HRs and 13 RBIs in this year’s playoffs.
Kenny Stabler, NFL party animal
The Oakland Raiders’ lefty leader was a sidewinding scrambler on and off the field. The Super Bowl XI champion and 1974 NFL MVP was in charge of the controlled chaos of Al Davis’ Silver-and-Black franchise during the team’s heyday. And the Snake enjoyed every minute of his time on top. Stabler still carries the Snake mantle — sorry Jake Plummer, WWF wrestler Jake the Snake, and every other guy named Jake ever.
7. Black Mamba
Kobe Bryant, Lakers legend
Oregon track star running back De’Anthony Thomas was also given the Black Mamba moniker, by Snoop Dogg no less. But the five-time NBA champion, 14-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist is the O.G. Black Mamba.
Anderson Silva, Brazilian badass
UFC president Dana White called Silva, the UFC Middleweight Champion, the “greatest mixed martial artist ever.” Spider is a superhero in the ring, nearly on par with his hero Spider-Man.
Daryl Johnston, Cowboys fullback
The bull-headed Johnston bulldozed a path for the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith. With Cowboys fans screaming “Moooose!” at the top of their lungs, Johnston became a cult hero while winning three Super Bowls.
10. Raging Bull
Jake LaMotta, Boxer by De Niro
The Bronx Bull was immortalized by director Martin Scorcese and actor Robert De Niro in the 1980 film based on LaMotta’s 1970 memoir, Raging Bull: My Story.
“And though I’m no Olivier
If he fought Sugar Ray
He would say
That the thing ain’t the ring, it’s the play
So give me a stage
Where this bull here can rage”
11. Golden Bear
Jack Nicklaus, PGA gold standard
The blond-haired Nicklaus was an Upper Arlington (Ohio) High School Golden Bear through and through. And 18 major championships later, his achievements remain the measuring sticks for golfers now and yet to come.
12. Great White Shark
Greg Norman, Aussie entrepreneur
Jeff Samardzija was the Shark as a wide receiver at Notre Dame and pitcher with the Chicago Cubs. But there is no aquatic hunter greater than the Great White Shark of Norman. The Australian may have “only” won two major championships, but he did make millions off his clothing line, winemaking and golf course design with Great White Shark Enterprises.
13. Pink Panther
Paula Creamer, LPGA girlie girl
Not since Molly Ringwald has a girl looked as pretty in pink as Creamer, the 26-year-old U.S. Women’s Open champion.
Dennis Rodman, NBA cross-dresser
Dennis the Menace could squirm his way to any loose ball during his days as a seven-time rebounding champion, five-time NBA champion and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He was also bad as he wanted to be with Madonna and ex-wife Carmen Electra.
15. The G.O.A.T.
Jerry Rice, NFL record book
Not to be confused with New York City playground basketball legend Earl “The Goat” Manigault. Rice was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl XXIII MVP and the holder of just about every receiving record in the book; thus the acronym G.O.A.T. — Greatest of All-Time.
16. The Beast
Yohan Blake, Second-fastest Jamaican
Usain Bolt’s training partner is the second-fastest man alive and a Beast of a track star. But the weird claw thing he does with his hand when the camera is on is just creepy. Please stop doing that, Yohan.
17. Sea Bass
Sebastian Janikowski, NFL kicking ass
Although he may be less famous than Cam Neely’s character in Dumb and Dumber (“Kick his ass, Sea Bass!”), Sebastian is one of three kickers ever to be drafted in the first round and arguably the MVP of this year’s Oakland Raiders.
18. Big Tuna
Bill Parcells, NFL coaching tree
Who do you think Parcells is, Charlie the Tuna? The two-time Super Bowl champ may not be the StarKist Tuna mascot, but he’s probably the most famous tuna in the sea.
Craig Stadler, PGA doughboy
The 1982 Masters Champion is well known for his Walrus mustache and physique. But he’s also the father of PGA pro Kevin Stadler and the brother of New Age Celtic composer Gary Stadler.
20. Flying Squirrel
Gabby Douglas, Olympic golden girl
She’s just a girl but she’s on fire. The first black women’s all-around Olympic gold medalist in history also won the team gold medal with the “Fierce Five” at the 2012 London Olympics.
21. The Turtle
Misty May-Treanor, Beach baller
The husband of three-time Olympic gold medal winning teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings called May-Treanor a Turtle and then everybody started doing it.
22. Big Cat
Andres Galarraga, MLB slugger
The Venezuelan “El Gato” was as quick as a cat with his glove at first base and with his bat at the plate during his 20-year big league career.
23. Silver Fox
David Pearson, Racing all-timer
Fox became a Silver Fox as he aged, but he was always as sly as any driver in the game during his Hall of Fame career in NASCAR.
24. Bald Eagle
Y.A. Tittle, NFL high lifer
The chrome-domed Tittle may be best known for his bloodied, kneeling disappointment in the photo taken by Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1964.
25. Mr. Ed
John Elway, Broncos centaur
The two-time Super Bowl winner looks like a horse, of course. And no one can talk to a horse, of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Elway.