10 of the Coolest Sports Star Names of the 2000s

Sid QuashieFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2017

10 of the Coolest Sports Star Names of the 2000s

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    There is nothing sweeter than an athlete who performs at a high level and who also has a name that registers in the memory—a confluence of factors that makes the list of cool sports star names so much fun to compile.

    When you pair a name that sticks in the mind with a sports star who can flat-out ball, it feels like a combination that goes well together—such as spaghetti and meatballs, peanut butter and chocolate and cookies and milk.

       

    Note: The athletes on this list played in 2000 or later or are currently playing in the professional ranks. They were selected on the basis of having wicked-sounding names, as well as for achieving some level of success in their sports—such as an All-Star selection, putting up above-average numbers or being an essential part of a championship.

Honorable Mentions

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
    Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.John Amis/Associated Press

    Giannis Antetokounmpo: NBA

    He doesn't have any All-Star appearances, but he is well on his way to greatness.

       

    Kristaps Porzingis: NBA

    Similar to Antetokounmpo, Porzingis is putting up All-Star-level numbers, but he hasn't achieved enough to make the full list.

       

    Coco Crisp: MLB

    He has one of the best names in MLB history, but despite being a member of a World Series championship team, he has never appeared in an All-Star Game, and his stats don't merit inclusion.

       

    Zemgus Girgensons: NHL

    The second-year winger for the Buffalo Sabres won the All-Star Game vote last season, thanks to ballot-stuffing from rabid fans in his native Latvia, not because of his stats, which were below average.

       

    Pierre Garcon: NFL

    The Washington Redskins wide receiver has not made a Pro Bowl, nor does he have stats that dominate his position.

       

    BenJarvus Green-Ellis: NFL

    The Law Firm had a few decent seasons for the New England Patriots, but he has no Pro Bowl appearances or rushing titles.

       

    Detlef Schrempf: NBA

    He retired after the 2000-01 season, so he just missed the cutoff, but he was a three-time All-Star.

       

    Peerless Price: NFL

    Price had a name that was without peer, but he never made a Pro Bowl or led the league in any statistical receiving category.

Metta World Peace: NBA

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The NBA player once known as Ron Artest legally changed his name to Metta World Peace in September 2011, so though this wasn't his birth name, he deserves a spot on this list.

    Per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times, World Peace's name change was equal parts marketing and message.

    "I always like to be on the move as far as creatively, thinking about things and marketing," World Peace said, per Medina, acknowledging a commercial side to his new name.

    But there was more to it than just a way to brand himself.

    "This has actual meaning to it," World Peace said, per Medina, explaining that "Metta" is a Buddhist word that expresses a desire for the happiness and welfare of others. "People will have to research it. If kids want to know what it means, they have to go to the dictionary."

    But before the name change, World Peace had already established his place in the league as a lockdown defender who could also provide scoring when needed.

    He is a one-time All-Star who also made the All-Defensive Team four times, was the 2003-04 Defensive Player of the Year, the 1999-00 Rookie of the Year and won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010, per Basketball-Reference.com.

Latrell Sprewell: NBA

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    It's not just that the first and last names rhyme; it's the beautiful way that they roll off your tongue.

    Latrell Sprewell was one of the top small forwards in the NBA—a 6'5" player who could guard three positions, score and rebound.

    Over the course of his 13 seasons, Sprewell averaged 18.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists and was also a four-time All-Star who was named to the 1993-94 All-Defensive Team, as well as the 1993-94 All-NBA team, per Basketball-Reference.com.

    Sprewell's career was marred by an incident on December 1, 1997, when he choked Golden State Warriors head coach P.J. Carlesimo during a team practice. The team voided his $23.7 million contract, and the NBA suspended him for one year.

    He also famously uttered the line, "I've got a family to feed," when he refused to sign a three-year, $21 million contract offered by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Things didn't end well for Sprewell after his playing days. Per Mark Riddix of Yahoo Sports, his $1.5 million dollar yacht was repossessed in 2007, and he lost his $5.4 million home in 2008 to foreclosure.

Dikembe Mutombo: NBA

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    Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

    Dikembe Mutombo's name always seemed to sound like something that belonged to a king, and his regal bearing and raspy voice gave him an air of intimidation that few could match.

    His full name is Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, which makes pronouncing the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo's name seem easy by comparison.

    Nate Scott of For The Win ranked Mutombo 19th on his list of the 30 coolest NBA players of the 1990s, citing his famous finger wag after blocking a shot.

    But Mutombo was much more than just a shot-blocker. He was a defensive wall—a game-changing center whose career averages of 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.0 assist don't do justice to the profound way he altered the offensive plans of the opposing team.

    Mutombo was also an eight-time All-Star and earned All-Defensive Team honors six times en route to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Richie Incognito: NFL

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    In 2013, Richie Incognito's distinct name became ironic because there was nowhere for him to hide after allegations surfaced that he'd bullied Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin.

    Incognito was released by the Dolphins and became a pariah after snippets of voicemails he'd left for Martin were made public.

    But there are always second acts in America for talented athletes, and despite the scandal, Incognito's skill as a guard ensured that some team would take a gamble on him.

    Enter the Buffalo Bills, who took that flier on Incognito in 2015, having also signed him in 2009 for one season.

    Since then, Incognito has made two consecutive Pro Bowls and rehabilitated his image, keeping a low profile and working hard.

    Per Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk, the Bills signed Incognito to establish an aggressive rushing game, and that paid off, as the team led the NFL in rushing and scored 29 rushing touchdowns in 2016, which was a franchise record.

Lincoln Kennedy: NFL

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Those who paid attention in school will quickly recognize that Lincoln Kennedy's first and last names match the surnames of two of America's most beloved presidents.

    But Kennedy wasn't just an NFL player with a cool name.

    In his 11-year playing career with the Oakland Raiders and the Atlanta Falcons, Kennedy made three Pro Bowl appearances and was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

    Kennedy appeared on the Sporting News' list of the NFL's best presidential names of all time: "The former Raiders Pro Bowler has the most presidential name in the history of American professional team sports."

D'Brickashaw Ferguson: NFL

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Jim Reineking of NFL.com listed D'Brickashaw Ferguson as a member of the NFL's all-name team, and he also revealed that the origin of the offensive lineman's name was from Father Ralph de Bricassart, a character in the mini-series The Thorn Birds.

    Ferguson, who retired prior to the 2016-17 NFL season after playing 10 years for the New York Jets without missing a game because of injury, made three Pro Bowls during his career. He was a stalwart on the Jets offensive line that was instrumental in the team advancing to the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010 with a punishing running attack, led by Shonn Greene, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.

    Per Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, Ferguson, who had open-heart surgery when he was a young boy, referred to that transformative moment at his retirement ceremony.

    "This all started because a young boy, who happened to have open-heart surgery, desperately wanted to prove his toughness, not only to himself, but to everybody, by playing football," Ferguson said, per Walder.

Milton Bradley: MLB

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    If you're of a certain age, you probably know that "Milton Bradley" is the name of a huge toy company, as big in its time as Mattel and Fisher Price. Its products included Battleship, Simon, Twister and Yahtzee.

    The Milton Bradley Company was founded in 1860 and was bought by Hasbro in 1984. The name was still used, however, until 2010.

    Milton Bradley, the MLB player, is probably more famous than the toy company, and that's true not just because he was an All-Star, but also because of serious accusations of domestic abuse and clashes with teammates that were chronicled in an investigative piece by Michael McKnight and L. Jon Wertheim of SI.com.

    Doug Miller of MLB.com ranked Bradley No. 1 on his list of the best names in baseball, writing, "Having the same name as one of the most famous toy companies in history is pretty cool, especially when you're playing a kid's game and making a very substantial living at it."

Xander Bogaerts: MLB

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The 24-year-old Boston Red Sox infielder was born in Aruba, and in his three full seasons in MLB (he only played 18 games in 2013), he's shown that he has the talent to become a major force in the league.

    In 157 games last season, Bogaerts had 192 hits, 115 runs, 89 RBI and a batting average of .294, per Baseball-Reference.com, good enough to earn him an All-Star slot in 2016.

    Bogaerts has also won two Silver Slugger Awards, which are given to the best offensive player at each position and voted on by MLB coaches and managers. He was also a member of the World Series-winning Red Sox team of 2013.

    And he has one of the most unusual and memorable names in MLB.

Tuukka Rask: NHL

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    It's pronounced "Too-kah," and the 29-year-old Finnish goaltender for the Boston Bruins who won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and the Vezina Trophy in 2014 has had quite an interesting history with his distinctive name.

    Per Carolyn Y. Johnson of the Boston Globe, a group of entomologists discovered a new species of wasp in East Africa in 2015, and because one of the entomologists was a Bruins fan, the wasp was given the name Thaumatodryinus tuukkaraski in honor of Rask.

    "That's pretty neat," Rask said, per Johnson, after being informed that his surname was now part of scientific history.

    Another neat thing?

    Rask was ranked third on a list by Jeff Owens of Sporting News of the coolest names in the NHL.

Jaromir Jagr: NHL

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Jaromir Jagr, 44, was born in the Czech Republic and has been playing in the NHL since 1990. Over that period of time, he has become a surefire Hall of Famer who is considered one of the greatest to ever lace up his skates.

    His resume reads like the printout of a man auditioning for the Mount Rushmore of hockey.

    Per Hockey-Reference.com, he has won the Art Ross Trophy (most points) five times, played in nine NHL All-Star Games, won the Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player in the regular season) three times, won the Hart Memorial Trophy (NHL MVP) once and hoisted the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    And he also has one of the coolest names in NHL history—one that requires you to drop the "J" that begins the first and last names and replace it with a "Y."

    Jeff Owens of Sporting News ranked Jagr's name as the 10th-coolest in NHL history.