Kukui Kings

Who are the Kukui Kings?

More recent students and graduates of Kukui High School may not be familiar with the “Kukui Kings.” The Kings were the original name of our football team, dating back to when it was formally established in 1959.

The Kings’ rise to prominence in regional and state football championships took several years, and — like most football programs — had its ups and downs. Rival teams, such as the Piikoi Scorpions, took to mocking the Kings as the “Kukui Nuts.” It didn’t take long for KHS to claim the nickname as a point of pride, and after a contentious overtime game against the Macadamia Academy team in 1980, KHS even declared itself the “King of the Nuts.”

When the Kukui Kings took several consecutive state championships, headlines would trumpet, “Go Nuts!

Then, beginning in the early 1990s, there was a movement sweeping across the country to rebrand sports teams whose names and mascots were considered disrespectful or mocking of indigenous peoples and icons. Activists on the Mainland demanded that the Washington Redskins in the NFL and the Cleveland Indians in the MLB change their names. Similarly, some in Honolulu called for the retirement of the “Kukui Kings” and its warrior king mascot.

After several meetings and rallies organized by the KHS Student Council, the KHS Alumni Association, and other community groups, the Kukui High School administration conducted a vote in 1996 to choose a new name and mascot for the school. Contenders included the mongoose, and even the flying cockroach. But in terms of symbols, the simple and hardy kukui nut had been a sentimental favorite through decades of school history. The “Fighting Nuts” (or simply the “Nutz”) was the resounding winner.

Although the “Fighting Nuts” have been warmly embraced by school and sports fans everywhere, you’ll still find long-time friends of KHS refer to the “Kukui Kings.” Whatever you call them, be sure to cheer for them this season!

9 thoughts on “Kukui Kings”

  1. I transferred to KHS after a year at Aiea, and I remember how much fun it was to call ourselves Nuts. People thought we were lolo for preferring to be NUTS instead of Kings, but after even the KHS Courier newspaper was unofficially renamed The Nut House, I remember some of the teachers joining in. It was fun running around yelling “HELE KUKUI!

    I still kind of think of us as the Kings…but mostly we were just nuts.

    Mahalo for this blast from da past!

  2. Since everyone recognizes “Nuts” as the official mascot for Kukui High, I thought perhaps CBS chose to call our team the “Kings” so as not to confuse viewers by making them think Kukui High was a fictitious institution.

  3. I got real nostalgic seeing the “Kings” play again. Don’t remember ever having games like that 5-0 one on TV, although we would sometimes have rumbles under the stands when playing Farrington in the Old Stadium. HPD wised up and used to station a couple of officers there to watch out for any trouble.

    Boy, those were the days in the old ILH.


  4. Ho neva, he was related to da coach and wen kiss okole! He no could see ova the line of Samoans an Hawaiians. Da little guys all shaka with the Pam Am bags wen I was a Nut, but now a King. All da Haole girls from Punahou wen like da winnas in the day.
    We beat St. Louis football 3 times ( da bookies made the Turkey day game back den)in one season and went on to beat the Maca- Damien for the title of Oahu. We stay one public school an 10% wen on to become police officers. We had three projects living housing in the area and China Town. Kalihi was upscale housing and many grads live there now, including the home coming queen (no a guy dressed as a girl) and his non domestic partner from Molokai. We wen take all the sports before dey made us give the trophies back. My cuz, da Mayor, wen pardon us for life,

  5. Lani Class of 1974

    Moving back to Hawaii after being gone 7 years and in my Senior year, it was going to be all about the beach and lazy days. Going to Kukui was a blast, I aced body surfing, puka shell lei making, music and partying. This prepared me for higher education and working for the rest of my life. I miss those days a Kukui High

  6. It may have taken me 6 years to get through Kukui High, but I made it. My education there was instrumental in getting my hostess job at Zippys.

  7. I was on the golf team. Being new to the island in 1959 and going to school at Kukui I did not know the island rules. They told me the high score on the golf course was the best. I guess I won all the time. They took this Hoele to the mat. Miss all the guys. PS I still shoot the high score on the golf courses.. ;- (

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