Donte Whitner is continuing his protest of the NFL fining him for what they call illegal hits, first by having T-shirts produced with ‘#LegalHitner’ printed on them. He has followed that up with the decision to legally change his last name to ‘Hitner.’ We find this to be a very bad idea, considering it is one wrong keystroke away from being a much worse last name. While the NFL may not be happy with him giving them a middle finger over the $21,000 fine, they will probably enjoy what will be a bit of a boom in jersey sales once the name change is complete. But while Whitner, er Hitner’s change is somewhat clever, it doesn’t even rank in our top 10 of athletes who changed their name.
10. Marvelous Marvin Hagler: Notice the absence of quotations around Marvelous? At one point, that is what you would have to do when talking about the former middleweight champion of the world. Like most boxers, Hagler had a huge ego. He wanted announcers to refer to him by his nickname when they called his matches or discussed him, but they didn’t. His response was to legally change his name from Marvin Nathaniel Hagler to Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
9. Bison Dele: Say former basketball player Brian Williams, and you may have some struggling to remember who you are talking about. Say Bison Dele, and people old enough will immediately know that you are talking the guy who walked away from basketball and is presumed to have been murdered by his brother on a sailing trip in the South Pacific.
The former Detroit Pistons star was the son of Eugene Williams, who was in the musical group the platters. So ya know being the son of a musician increases the odds of an individual to be eccentric. With little explanation besides honoring his family culture, he changed his name from Brian Williams to Bison Dele shortly before signing with the Pistons.
8. Joe Theismann - Okay, so this kinda cheating. He didn’t really change his name, but changed the pronunciation of it. We would probably have him higher up on our list if it was an actual name change, but this makes it because it is more arrogant than even Hagler adding Marvelous.
For you kids out there, the current NFL analyst played college football at Notre Dame. While there, he was one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and was an All-American. He was one of the first players that actually campaigned for the Heisman Trophy. Okay, you get where we are going with this? Before his named rhymed with the prestigious college award, it was pronounced “Theez-mann.” Notre Dame publicity man Roger Valdiserri insisted that he change the pronunciation of his name. Theismann contacted his granny to get permission and that was that. Oh, he didn’t win the award. He finished second to Jim Plunkett.
7. Roberto Hernandez - This one makes the list because when everyone hears that reliever ‘Roberto Hernandez enters the game for the Tampa Bay Rays’, it is hard not to think of this guy:
That Roberto Hernandez was seemingly traded every year at the deadline each season to bolster someone’s bullpen. But that’s not the guy. It’s this one:
Wait, that’s Fausto Carmona! Yep, it is. But Carmona was never his real name. He used that name on a visa to pitch in the United States. He never paid the $26k he promised a woman to falsify documents for him when he left the Dominican Republic and she contacted authorities. On top of that, it was learned that he was three years older than he claimed.
For what it is worth, Roberto Hernandez was never as good ad Fausto Carmona.
6. Ahmad Rashād - He is probably one of the most recognizable sports analysts on TV. The original host of NBA Inside Stuff, as well as a sports anchor and reporter for NBC and ABC. He was also the husband to former Cosby Show mom, Claire Huxstable (Phylicia Rashād). This is where we begin a tred on our countdown, as Robert Earl Moore is the first of a few that changed his name because of Islamic religious beliefs. Interesting enough, all of them were fantastic players in their respective sports.
He was the number 4 pick overall in the 1972 NFL Draft out of Oregon and around the same time, he changed his name with his conversion to Islam. If I were to say to you, Robert Moore, you probably would have zero clue about who I was talking about. But Ahmad Rashād is extremely well-known. In addition to being a popular announcer, Rashād was a fantastic football player. He was a 4-time pro bowler, and was on the receiving end of the Miracle Catch (1:10 mark)
5 Chad Johnson - Probably the biggest ego on our list. He was Chad Johnson, then he was Chad Ochocinco, because he wore the number 85. Yes, eighty-five in Spanish is ochenta y cinco, but we are talking about Chad Johnson (he changed it back).
Prior to legally changing his name the first time, Johnson requested the media to call him “Ochocinco.” Prior to the start of a game, he was warming up with a jersey which had “Ochocinco” on the back. His QB at the time, ripped off the name plate to reveal C. Johnson. The NFL didn’t take kind to it, and fined him. NFL fined Johnson often for his antics. Two years later, he officially changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, but had to finish the season out wearing Johnson on his jersey, due to contract obligations with Reebok. The following year, he almost changed his last name to Hachi Go, which is 8 and 5 in Japanese. His career went into downward spiral and changed it back to Johnson when he signed with the Dolphins. He hasn’t played since.
4. Sugar Ray Robinson - One of the greatest ever to step into the ring was born Walker Smith Jr. The man who is the reason we discus pound-for-pound rankings didn’t always have one of the great names in sports history, let alone name changes. However, he isn’t the highest boxer on our list.
At the age of 14, Walker Smith, Jr. tried entering into his first boxing tournament, but he was told he needed to have an Amateur Athletic Union membership card first. The earliest he could get one was not until he turned 16 years old. To get around the system, Smith borrowed a card from his friend Ray Robinson. George Gainford, his future manager, told him his style was “sweet as sugar.” And that was that.
3. Metta World Peace - While probably not deserving to be in a Top 5 in terms of overall talent and impact on the game, this guy certainly belongs because it is one of the stranger name changes of all-time.
Formerly Ron Artest, Metta became known as a problem in the NBA for his outburst of anger and uncontrollable ways. It came to a head in the fall of 2004, when he incited a brawl with fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
After a lengthy suspension, Artest returned and attempted to change his ways. While his temperament did improve, he still surprised everyone when he changed his name to what it is now. Metta, in Buddhism means loving-kindess, and his new surname speaks for itself. He claims he did it to inspire the youth across the world.
While he isn’t quite the same man as he was when he caused the Malice at the Palace (he even befriended the guy who threw the cup), he still has his moments. Just ask James Harden.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - As Lew Alcindor, he was one of the greatest high school and college basketball players of all-time. But he is listed in NBA record books as the all-time leading scorer by his Islamic name of Kareem.
Like that of Rashad, there isn’t a huge story behind it, but most only know him as Kareem. But we do have a lengthy reasoning for the change from the man himself:
“latching on to something that was part of my heritage, because many of the slaves who were brought here were Muslims. My family was brought to America by a French planter named Alcindor, who came here from Trinidad in the 18th century. My people were Yoruba, and their culture survived slavery (…) My father found out about that when I was a kid, and it gave me all I needed to know that, hey, I was somebody, even if nobody else knew about it. When I was a kid, no one would believe anything positive that you could say about black people. And that’s a terrible burden on black people, because they don’t have an accurate idea of their history, which has been either suppressed or distorted.”
He also won a lawsuit in 1998 against former Miami Dolphins running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who is now known as Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar. Kareem felt he used the name for financial benefit. Ironically, Karim also attended UCLA, and wore the number 33.
Muhammed Ali - We turn to Coming to America to talk about this: