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Buzzworthy NBA Names

Shelvin Mack

There is an old saying, “Don’t judge a website by the content on the page that you landed on.” But there are just so many websites on the Internet that every site must have a compelling domain name, flawless layout, and premium content in order to find a place in your daily content stream. Parents face similar pressures when they name their children. What if your son grows up to be president? What if your daughter wants to become an A-list actress? What if your son is being evaluated by NBA scouts? Parents must pick a premium name in order to effectively brand their child as a “chosen one.”

There is a major disconnect between the college game and the NBA game, so it is usually difficult to forecast a player’s NBA career by using their college career as a data set. You can probably just forecast a player’s professional career based on their birth name. Gloria James really “nailed it” by naming her son LeBron, enabling him to become a branded cultural icon. On the other hand, maybe names like “Darko Milicic,” “Sam Bowie” and “Bryant Reeves,” should have been all we needed to know to forecast their lackluster NBA careers.

Here are my career projections for a few of this season’s draft picks, based entirely on their names:

(Note: I really don’t watch any college basketball, unless there is some team with a hot, young coach going on a “miracle run” into the Final Four and I can watch them play a low-scoring game in which the announcers spend the entire game apologizing for the low quality of play.)

Kyrie Irving
He only played in 11 games, so it is pretty reasonable to judge him by only his name. I wish I was able to obtain my dream job just based off 11 days of performing serviceably in college. Mark Zuckerberg would let me replace him as CEO of Facebook because I really “understood” social media strategy and the future of hyper-local listings as a gateway to monetization. Eventually, I would drive the company into the ground by offering a Groupon for our company’s stock.

Kyrie Irving’s first name sounds “soft,” like he will have a difficult time adjusting to the physical nature of the NBA. I do know that he went to Duke, so that probably means he is a “good young man.” I wish Christian Laettner had risen to power in the Internet era, so we could make more jokes about his cameo on the Dream Team, and his eventual flop of an NBA career. Or maybe Laettner came around a generation too soon and he should have become the Kevin Love of the 1990s? IMPORTANT STAT: Comparing their sophomore seasons on the Timberwolves, Laettner led his team to 20 wins, edging Love by three games.

Derrick Williams
There will never be a true great whose last name is “Williams.” Even though Deron (no relation) is a great young player, the last name also belongs to Mo, Buck, Marvin, Jayson, Jason, Aaron, and Monty. At least he is joining a serviceable NBA middle-class family.

If I were him, I would probably “pull a Nene Hilario” and ditch his last name. It seems like Nene became a legitimate (and healthy) NBA post-player after he dropped his last name. More players should utilize this strategy in order to channel Brazilian soccer greatness. After the athlete-formerly-known-as-Chad-Johnson took the “name change” gimmick too far, more athletes will attempt to drop one name. I think Plaxico sounds more natural than “Plaxico Burress” and a name change would help us to forget that he shot himself and went to jail.

Enes Kanter
After Heath Ledger played the character Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, America is finally ready to get excited about people named “Enes.” This will become a hot baby name after Kanter does something memorable within a small-market NBA community.

I am excited about the era in which I get to convince my future wife to name our children after relevant athletes. After the Spurs won the 2003 NBA championship, a couple named their child Duncan Parker Ginobili. I wonder if someone in the greater-Dallas area recently named their child Nowitzki Barea Cardinal. Or if someone in Los Angeles named their kid Mbenga Morrison Vujacic in 2010.

Brandon Knight
I remember Brevin Knight was named after his parents, Brenda and Melvin. Since Brandon Knight doesn’t have a mash-up-based name, that probably means his parents didn’t put as much effort into raising him into a great NBA player. Draft him if you want some one on your team who is worse than Brevin Knight.

I wonder what kind of couple decides to give their child a mash-up-based name. Probably the couple who goes out of their way to avoid conflict and brands their avoidance of conflict as “unity” and “sacrifice.” For example, they decide to share one plate at dinner because the “serving sizes are so huge” and it is “a great way to save money.” It seems way easier to be in a relationship in which you roll over when your wife picks a horrible baby name that you know will lead to your child being made fun of in school.

Jonas Valanciunas
Every one will just assume that this guy has the same game as Sarunas Marciulionis, and his entire career will be evaluated against Marciulionis. In the end, he will fail. He will ask to be let go of his NBA contract to return to his European comfort zone, where people know how to pronounce his name correctly.

It also doesn’t help that he lives in the era of the post-tween Jonas brothers. Hopefully there will soon be a young Spanish point guard named Bieber Gomez who is drafted into the NBA at age 15, inspiring a new generation of tweens to learn how to love the NBA.

Jan Vesely
Jan will be a strong, skilled NBA player with a mean streak. He sounds like the foreign bad guy from an action movie starring an American hero such as Bruce Willis, Matt Damon, or Bradley Cooper. However, I am still not sure if Bradley Cooper will ever make “the leap” into being able to carry a movie by himself.

There is a 10 percent chance that Jan Veseley might be the 12th man on a team, utilized as a post-ironic human victory cigar and his jersey will provide laughs for many years to come. For some reason, many players resent being perceived as a “novelty 12th man” who only plays during worthless minutes. Everyone wants to be an NBA superstar, but if I couldn’t be a superstar, I would definitely want to be a 12th man who was signed to a medium-term contract and had job security just for being a “team guy.” I could even post-ironically endorse a local taco chain.

Bismack Biyombo
Everyone is rooting for Bismack Biyombo because they want to scream either of his names emphatically when he dunks. He will play D, block shots, and throw down YouTube-able dunks, transferring the energy from his name into a solid NBA career.

Having a name that you can plausibly execute as onomatopoeia can help your career as an athlete. Fans will root for you at every stage of your career. I really want my son to be a energy player in the NBA who can throw it down on a fastbreak, which is why I plan on naming him “Booyah.”

Tristan Thompson
Can you name someone named Tristan who is “great” at something? I wonder what it is like to have a doomed and/or generic name. For example, why was Joe Smith the no. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft? Joe Smith should be your State Farm agent, not a former no. 1 pick who was paid under the table by Kevin McHale. Maybe he met his destiny by becoming an NBA journeyman, doing his best to help us forget that he was ever the winner of America’s Next Top Professional Basketball Player. Stay away from generic names.

Jordan Hamilton
I always feel bad when any athlete has “Jordan” as either their first or last name. There was a white kid at my middle school named “Michael Jordan,” and you could tell that he felt the pressure to be as great at basketball as the real Michael Jordan. Even though it was just middle school ball, he couldn’t escape from the pressure of being named Michael Jordan. I can’t imagine living life with “Jordan” as one of my names.

Jimmer Fredette
With a name like Jimmer, your existence will be constructed into a meme whether or not you are a great player. Besides ”Bismack,” Jimmer’s name is probably the easiest to transfer into a verb, which gives him a competitive edge in the NBA. His name is great for the college level, but it might not be able to “make the leap” to be a great NBA name.

Hopefully Jimmer can be coaxed into starting a franchised restaurant called Jimmer’s that serves overpriced bar food. If he can’t be an NBA legend, maybe he can be a local legend in the greater-Salt Lake City area for serving up great food for the entire family at an affordable price. They will not serve alcohol and don’t expect to taste their boneless buffalo wings if you are part of a non-married couple who has engaged in premarital sex.

Markieff Morris
Excellent decision by Markieff to hold himself back from just going by “Mark.” This probably means he has a strong sense of identity that will translate to a solid NBA career, or his parents are adamant that he uses his entire name.

It is always pretty weird when you meet someone new and eventually find out that they use an oversimplified American name to hide from their real name. Like if you found out your friend Max’s name was Maximilliano. Or if your friend Leo was actually named Leonidis. Or if your friend Rudy was actually named “Ruettiger” and that even though he was tiny in stature, he walked onto the University of Notre Dame football team because of his iron will.

Shelvin Mack
I already know who Shelvin Mack is based on two Final Four appearances, so I guess I already know he “can score the basketball.” Unfortunately, I never really bothered to analyze his game in a professional context, but I feel like Gus Johnson yelled his name a lot, so that is probably a good sign. Hopefully he can be good enough to keep alive any chance for us to see Butler Pro. I’m sure people used to fantasize about seeing the Fab 5 play together in the NBA, but I want to see Coach Brad Stevens lead Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard to a hard-fought NBA Finals loss. In the process, they will also “pull a Mighty Ducks II” and swap out their Utah Jazz jerseys for Butler Bulldogs jerseys.

I still sort of hope that Matt Howard can find a way to be the next Brian Cardinal. Brian Cardinal never lead his college team (Purdue) to the Final Four, so I am still hoping that Howard’s intangible skills can establish him as part of the next generation of Unathletic, Body-Sacrificing Basketball Geniuses Who Wear Street Clothes 50 Percent of the Season (and Warm-Ups for the Other 49 Percent).

Chris Singleton
Chris Singleton will be featured in a lot of headlines with the phrase “was signed to a 10-day contract.” In three years, you will Google him and find out that he was the Euroleague MVP. I wish I could be an agent for low-level NBA players who had to weigh their D-League hopes against playing abroad for more money. I would give them passionate, Jerry Maguire-like advice, and they would yell, “Show me the Euro!” Eventually, Chris Singleton will be signed to the Raptors because they still think a European style of basketball will make them a competitor in the NBA.

Reggie Jackson
If you share the same name as a famous person (and are not related to them by blood), are you naturally driven to excel in the same field, or are you driven to “make a name for yourself” in a new field? Can there ever be another President Barack Obama? Another great hockey coach named Gordon Bombay? Another tween horror novelist named R.L. Stine? Another NBA legend named Isiah Thomas?

Isaiah Thomas
Yes, there is about to be another NBA player named Isiah Thomas, even if its spelled differently.

We look back on the career of the original Isiah Thomas as (a) the guy who led a mean team of bullies to a title by being a meanie, (b) the guy who was a meanie to Michael Jordan and paid the price, and (c) the guy who gets to keep ruining teams as a GM. Isaiah Thomas 2.0’s career will serve as a complete foil to his accidental namesake’s career. He will play on well-liked teams that play an attractive brand of basketball, embracing his role as a complementary player to a great player on his own team. Upon retirement, he will go on to revolutionize the NBA front office with numerous databases and Excel spreadsheets that unlock the secret of the NBA. Furthermore, he will never coach the FIU Golden Panthers.

At least his parents didn’t name him “Tim Thomas” like that one hockey/basketball player.

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