Four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova was considering changing her name to "Sugarpova" to promote her candy line during the US Open Tennis Championships.
Sharapova isn’t the first athlete to request a name change, but thankfully, not every professional athlete who changes his name does so in the name of the almighty dollar. Here are a few more examples:
Ron Artest – In 2011, L.A. Laker player Ron Artest legally changed his name to Metta World Peace. The NBA player explained the meaning behind his name during an ESPNLA radio interview, "Metta is going to be the first name and it means like friendship, love and kindness." I have to give the guy credit for choosing a meaningful name, but I’m curious if this name change is going to stick around for the long haul.
Chad Johnson – Former NFL wide receiver loved his jersey number 85 so much that he legally changed his last name to pay homage to the number. In 2008, Chad Johnson became Chad Ochocinco. Ocho is Spanish for the number eight and cinco is Spanish for the number five. Technically, 85 is ochenta y cinco, but perhaps that was too much of a mouthful for Johnson? A few years later, when Johnson left the Bengals to become a Miami Dolphins player, he changed his name back to Johnson.
Eldrick Woods – Eldrick who? Eldrick Woods is the legal name of Tiger Woods. Tiger was a nickname given to Eldrick by his father; the nickname was in honor of one of the elder Woods’ fellow soldiers. Tiger is certainly a more eye-catching name, which matched Woods’ equally eye-catching performances when he was a young, up-and-coming golfer. The name "Tiger" also made great comedic fodder when his sex scandal made headlines.
Greg White – What do you do when you’re a highly paid professional athlete that loves the 1985 movie ‘Teen Wolf’? You change your name, of course. Former NFL player White loved the Michael J. Fox classic so much that he changed his name to Stylez G. White, a character from the film.
Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. – The junior Alcindor is better known as basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar’s decision to change his name isn’t snark-worthy like the others, though. When Alcindor converted to Islam in the 1970s, he adopted the Islamic name Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar, which means “noble, powerful servant.”
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. – Most sports fans know who Cassius Clay is, but for those who don’t, this is the birth name of boxing great Muhammad Ali. Like Abdul-Jabbar, Clay adopted his new name when he converted to Islam.
I think most people understand the religious name changes more than the more frivolous options. What do you think about athletes who change their names for marketing purposes?
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