In sports players build their reputations around their name. Most sports teams’ jerseys have player names on them, fans buy player memorabilia with player names on them, and they’re even on the programs. So what happens when someone changes their name? Some names can be amusing, some are due to religious beliefs and in some rare and strange cases some can be marketing schemes.
In January, gaming company 888.com offered Indianapolis Colts receiver Hakeem Nicks $88,000 to be donated to the charity of his choice if he agreed to change his name to Hakeem 888.com for the 2014-2015 NFL season. Nicks, who was with the Giants at the time and wore the number 88, would have been the first NFL player to legally change his name to share the likeness of a website. Ultimately though, Nicks chose not to bite on the websites offer and kept his birth name.
A name can mean a lot of things. It can relate to a legacy or a performance and it can bring up memories both good and bad. So when an athlete changes their name they’re changing who they are to the sports community, sometimes for the strangest reasons.
10. Will Peterson Jr. to William James
After spending four seasons with the Giants, Will Peterson made the move to Philadelphia, and chose not to take his name with him. Instead he dropped the Peterson Jr from his name opting to go by William James. What brought out this sudden change? According to James the name change was due to him wanting “a change in my mind-state.” How did that all work out? Well, since being released by the Giants he’s played on five different teams, never lasting more than two seasons, and in January of last year James was sentenced to 7 months in prison for tax evasion.
9. Walker Smith Jr to Sugar Ray Robinson
Walker Smith Jr’s name change was a product of him being too young to enter a boxing tournament. In order to work around the rules, he “borrowed” the birth certificate of one Ray Robinson. Afterwards he was told that he was sweet as sugar and the name “Sugar Ray Robinson” stuck. As a pro Robinson went on a 91 fight unbeaten streak, good enough for the third longest in boxing history. He retired in 1952 with a professional record of 131–3–2, only to return in 1955 in order to regain the middleweight title. By the time he’d retired for good in 1965 he finished with a record of 173–19–6.
8. Lloyd Bernard Free to World B. Free
On December 8, 1981, just one day before his 29th birthday, Lloyd Bernard Free changed his name to World B. Free. Free said he decided to make the change because “the fellas back in Brownsville gave me the nickname “World” when I was in junior high… they just started calling me ‘all-world’ because all-city and all-country and things like that weren’t good enough.” As “World”, Free’s career in the NBA lasted ten more years including a second stint with the team that drafted him, the Philadelphia 76ers.
7. Jim Hellwig to Warrior
Jim Hellwig had his name legally changed to Warrior, after his ring name The Ultimate Warrior, in 1993. Warrior is perhaps most famous for pinning Hulk Hogan in the main event of WerstleMania VI in 1990. He debuted in 1985 as a member of Blade Runners with Steve Borden under the name Blade Runner Rock. He first appeared as the Ultimate Warrior in 1987, after resigning from the WCW and joined the World Wrestling Federation. He had a successful career in the WWE and in 1998 he retired from pro wrestling.
6. Fuahea Semi to Bruno Banani
Tongan luger and former computer science student Bruno Banani didn’t have an all too creative reason for changing his name. It was money, plain and simple. Banani was selected as the first ever Tongan to participate in the Winter Olympic Games but failed to qualify. In 2011 he participated in the FIL World Luge Championships and finished 36th. During that time he’d entered into an endorsement deal with German underwear firm Bruno Banani. He took the firm’s name and it just kept on getting more ridiculous from there. Like saying he was the son of a coconut farmer to fit the story that he consumed a large number of coconuts, or drawing comparisons to him and the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
5. Marvin Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler
What do you do when announcers don’t refer to you by your totally awesome nickname? You have your name legally changed. In 67 total fights, Marvelous Marvin Hagler won 62 of them, 52 by KO. He holds the highest KO% of all middleweight champions with 78% and his reign as middleweight champ held for six years and seven months, the second longest of the last century. In an act of frustration he changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1982.
4. Mark Duper to Mark Super Duper
Mark Duper was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins, and spent the entirety of his 11-year career with the team. In 1985 he legally changed his name to Mark Super Duper. Super had been his lifelong nickname so it only made sense for the 2-time All-Pro to make it legal. The year after his name change Super Duper played, well, pretty super. He achieved career highs in receiving yards (1,313) and receiving TDs (11). Sadly his numbers declined greatly after that season and he only reached the 1,000 yard mark one more time in 1991.
3. Greg White to Stylez G. White
This one puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. Stylez G. White had a journeyman’s career since being drafted in the seventh round by the Texans in 2002. He’d failed to make a 53 man roster in three years, landing with 7 different teams. He finally landed with the AFL’s Orlando Predators in 2006, and a year later he was back in the NFL as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was with the Bucs that he decided to change his name from Greg White to Stylez G. White, inspired by the character of Rupert “Stiles” Stilinski from the 1985 film Teen Wolf.
2. Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco and back to Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson is definitely one of the biggest personalities to hit the NFL in a long time. The former Bengals wide receiver became known for his on field antics, and in 2008 he went a step further and had his name changed to Chad Ochocinco. The name originated back in 2006 in honour of Hispanic Heritage Month, when Johnson wore a label on his jersey covering the Johnson with Ochocinco, Ochocinco standing for 85, Johnson’s jersey number. Two years later he officially changed it to Ochocinco only to change it back to Johnson four years after that. What a sad and terribly confusing saga.
1. Ron Artest to Metta World Peace
In 2011 Ron Artest perplexed sports fans everywhere when he announced that he’d changed his name to Metta World Peace. Metta is one of the 10 Paramitas of Buddhism, standing for loving kindness or compassion. When asked about his name change Artest said that it was meant to “inspire and bring youth together around the world.” After spending over ten years in the NBA and winning one Defensive Player of the Year Award as Ron Artest, World Peace s certainly inspiring the youth to do something; scratch their heads and ask “why?”