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The origin story of the ‘Black Falcon’

How Harrison Barnes got his rarely-used nickname.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Basketball Reference nickname section is one of the great delights of being an NBA fan. They comb the deep recesses of the Internet to find every possible nickname used for NBA players so that even people like De’Aaron Fox who have one clear nickname, “Swipa,” have random additional ones listed, such as “The General” and “Quick.” And seriously, “Quick”?

Harrison Barnes doesn’t really have a commonly-used nickname. The closest he gets is when people call him HB, but otherwise it’s just Harrison or Barnes. But as Barnes acknowledged on “The Full 48” with Howard Beck, he did create a nickname for himself in high school that pops up from time to time. As Barnes tells it, the staying power of the moniker surprises him to this day:

“It was funny, I was a huge Kobe fan, as so many people were, and he was always known as the Black Mamba. MJ was his favorite player, MJ was the Black Cat. So we were in New York my senior year getting ready for Elite 24, and I was with Mike Hill and Jay Harris, and we were just talking, talking about just different nicknames. We came up with that one, and I was like oh okay...

“So I jokingly said that and when I got to Carolina, like one of my first days on campus, I saw this magazine that was like ‘The Black Falcon’ and it had a picture of me. I was like, oh man this nickname’s gonna stick for a while, and it’s been around ever since. I mean I don’t use it or do much with it, but it’s around.”

According to the old adage, you’re not allowed to create your own nickname, but if Barnes was making an homage to Bryant as he claims, then it only makes sense that he’d follow in Bryant’s footsteps by breaking that rule. It’s also interesting to hear Barnes refer to Michael Jordan as the “Black Cat” when he was widely known by so many other nicknames. And if you’re going to stick with the black prefix, “Black Jesus” is available.

As an aside, the fact that Barnes says he doesn’t “do much with it” didn’t prevent him from being mocked mercilessly at North Carolina for giving himself the nickname and trying to create brand for himself in the Kobe mold. Maybe that’s why he’s shied away from the Black Falcon in recent years.

Even in the moniker is infrequently used, it’s still a fun story. As a high school student, Barnes randomly created a nickname just in case he ever played at Rucker Park and 10 years layer, it’s the only nickname he’s ever had.