Sports Names Getting Harder To Pronounce And Spell


What Is In A Name?

By John Ventola

With apologies to Billy Shakespeare, I could not help but think of his questioning phrase “what is in a name” as I recently watched the 2015 NFL Draft. As the player selections were made and their names announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell and others, I had to lean in, and wait for the name to flash up on the television before writing it down on my notepad. Long gone are the days of Joe, Bill, Tom, John, Jim, Sam, Roger, Leroy and other popular first names of decades ago.  

UCLA  All-American Lew Alcindor later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an excellent


Abdul-Jabbar, Rashad, and Ali name changes seemed to spark creative names.

Oregon footballer named Bobby Moore became Ahmad Rashad, and fighter Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Abdul-Jabbar went on to become one of basketball’s all-time greats, Rashad became a sports broadcaster after his pro career ended, and Ali, well, he became the greatest!

Somewhat surprisingly, Goodell mispronounced the last name of the second player drafted, Marcus Mariota. That should have been a breeze (not Drew) considering the names he was asked to pronounce as 256 players heard their good news over the three days of the draft. I would guess Goodell had others helping him with correct name pronunciations offstage before he strode to the podium for his next announcements.

Names in this year’s draft were interesting, to say the least. The very first name mentioned got the ball rolling. The public, and football fans in general, have heard the name Jameis Winston over the past two years. Have you ever heard of another Jameis? Did his name start as James Is? Jamison, like Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, is seen more frequently.

Dante’ (Fowler) and Amari (Cooper) were next, but those names are seen frequently. Ninth selection Ereck Flowers gave a glimpse into creative spelling, not the usual Eric. Devante (Parker), the fourteenth selection from Louisville, started off the second half of the first round that included Arik (Armstead), Breshad (Perriman), Laken (Tomlinson), Damarious (Randall), and Stephone (Anthony).

Twenty-fifth pick Shaq (Thompson) was one of three in the draft carrying the first name made famous by Shaquille O’Neal. Fourth-rounder Shaquille Olajuwon Mason, a guard


Three Shaquilles In Draft

from Georgia Tech, apparently has parents that are real basketball fans, naming their child for Shaq and Akeem Olajuwon. He did not make it to the NBA, but at least he gets a shot with the world champion New England Patriots. Shaquille Riddick, a fifth-rounder out of West Virginia, rounded out the Shaq trio. Akeem King, a late seventh-rounder, had his name also called.

Tongue twisting and unusual first names followed in the next rounds. Benardrick McKinney, Hau’oli Kikaha, Owanmagbe Odighizuma, Hroniss Grasu, Arie Kouandjio, Genio Grissom, Javorius Allen, Za’Darius Smith, Leterrius Walton, Ibraheim Campbell, Ramik Wilson, Delontrez Mount, Kyshoen Jarret, MyCole Pruitt, Mykkele Thompson, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Obum Gwachum, Da’Ron Brown, Tayo Fabuluje, Amarlo Herrera, Quandre Diggs, Jaquiski Tartt, JaCorey Shepherd, Senquez Golson., and Delontrez Mount causing consternation, if not downright puzzlement as to spelling.

While Darius is fairly common (yes Hootie), Damarious, Javorius, Za’Darius, and


Naming Rights Opened Up Creativity And Specialty Avenue

Leterrius show the liberty that some parents take in naming their children in today’s world. Spell check can be checked at the door. Darius Kilgo and Darius Philon, both sixth rounders, represented the more common name in the “ius” group.

Possessive parents were represented by MyCole Pruitt and Mykkele Thompson, consecutive picks in the fifth round by Minnesota and the Giants. When in doubt, be creative, or change the sound of a name by throwing in a few letters. Even if the pronunciation does not change, the extra letters are eye catching. Maxx Williams, the top rated tight end in the draft, surely made his mark with his double X. He was the first tight end selected with the 55th pick.

Xavier Cooper and Xzavier Dickson, Ty Montgomery and Tye Smith, Denzel Perryman and Denzelle Good, Tyler Kroft, Tyler Lockett, and Tyeler Davison, Trey Flowers, Tre McBride, Tre’ Jackson, Tray Waynes,, and Tray Walker, plus Stephone Anthony and Stefon Diggs were all examples of same sound/different spelling. Throwing in a letter here or there makes a name apparently special.

No Jim Browns, no Jim Taylors, no Joe Montanas, no Dick Butkuses, but there was a


Programs Now Needed For Correct Spellings

Jesse James, a tight end from Penn State, Kentucky linebacker Bud Dupree, and Florida running back Matt Jones to remind folks of the old fashioned names of yesteryear.

Formerly, some fans could not tell the players without a game program. Now they need those same programs more than ever to see how names are spelled. One thing for sure sports announcers will have to be better prepared to handle name pronunciations.

What is in a name? No roses (Derrick and Justin are in basketball and golf), but by any other name, Owanmagbe Odighizuma included, they will smell just as sweet if they make NFL rosters this fall and prove they were worth the risk to draft in the first place.

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2 thoughts on “Sports Names Getting Harder To Pronounce And Spell

    1. John Ventola Post author

      Thanks for the nice comment. Glad you subscribed, keep reading, I work some of my favorite musicians into some of my blogs from time to time. Darius happens to be one of my favorites.

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