We assume all athletes use their real names to compete, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Stage names are accepted in music, acting and other forms of entertainment. A few athletes have gone the same route of changing their names for various reasons. Some aren’t fond of their real names while others want to change it for branding reasons as they become more famous. On the other end, there are a few athletes with unique names that fans will assume is fake or was changed before entering their spot. These athletes shock us by going by their real names.
We will look at both examples when it comes to the stars in the sports world with memorable names. The athletes using stage names will be discussed as to why they changed it and what their birth names are. Meanwhile, the athletes with unique names will also be selected as you will finally get the confirmation that they have been using their real names all along. Find out the identity behind many of your favorite athletes from a variety of sports. These are eight athlete names you likely had no idea were fake along with another seven that you’d be surprised to find out are real.
15 Fake: Stephen Curry
NBA Superstar Stephen Curry has become one of the most popular athletes in the world. The rise of the Golden State Warriors dynasty started with Curry becoming a two-time MVP. Fans absolutely love watching Curry light it up with the three-point shot from all over the court. The authentic nature of Curry relates him to fans in a way most other NBA stars can’t match.
However, there is one thing about Curry that fans would be shocked to find out. The name first name of Curry is Wardell. Stephen is his middle name and he decided to use that. Wardell isn’t the most intimidating name and he preferred to go with Stephen. It’s hard to argue with his decision since he’s become a household name.
14 Real: Kobe “Bean” Bryant
Another household name in basketball circles is the legendary Kobe Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers decided to roll with Bryant right out of high school and he rewarded them with one of the greatest careers in basketball history. Kobe’s unique name added another element of why he was one of a kind. Everyone just referred to him by his first name proving he was a major celebrity.
His name helped him progress as a major star outside of the sports world. Many would assume that it was a stage name due to these benefits, but it was indeed his real name. In fact, the middle name of Bean has been referenced many times and that is also a name that was given to him at birth. Kobe Bean Bryant made his name one of the coolest in sports history.
13 Fake: Bo Jackson
One of the few athletes to excel as a two-sport Superstar was Bo Jackson. The natural athletic ability of Jackson allowed him to find success in both the NFL and MLB. Jackson is currently the only athlete to ever make the All-Star team in both leagues during his career. All fans respected Bo after witnessing make the jump unlike any other athlete.
However, the name we all know him by isn’t even his real name. The birth name of Bo was Vincent Edward Jackson. Bo wasn’t even his middle name like many other athletes that used fake names. For whatever reason, he decided to adopt that name and it became part of who he is. There’s no one else that comes to as many minds as Jackson when first hearing the name Bo.
12 Real: D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Former NFL offensive lineman D'Brickashaw Ferguson was one of the better first round draft picks of the New York Jets in recent years. The team has been known for making the worst picks, but Ferguson helped them get to two AFC Championship games. It was always a tough day at the office for the defensive linesman having to run past Ferguson.
Some would describe Ferguson as a brick wall making it appropriate that D’Bricksahaw was his first name. It would make sense if he made it up on his own, but it was his real name that he used in the NFL. The Jets marketing struck gold when the team selected him in the 2004 Draft. Following a decade in the league with the Jets never missing a game, Ferguson retired while still having his health.
11 Fake: Muggsy Bogues
The NBA is known for athletes having to be taller than the average sport. It is no secret that height helps give a strong advantage to the players that can use it to their advantage. One of the rare stories of a very short NBA star was Muggsy Bogues finding success. Bogues was just 5’3’’ and made history as the shortest man to play in the NBA.
The smaller size helped Muggsy stand out along with the unique name. Bogues even got a role in the Space Jam film as one of the basketball players to have their talents stolen. The name of Muggsy is a nickname he adopted and used in the NBA. His real name is Tyrone Curtis Bogues. It is hard to guess, but he likely would not have been as popular if he didn’t take name Muggsy.
10 Real: Boof Bonser
Retired MLB pitcher Boof Bonser is remembered for having one of the most humorous names in sports. The name clearly stood out whenever one was reading the box score or attending a game and hearing it for the first time. Bonser had a short MLB career with his best years coming with the Minnesota Twins. The Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics each had Bonser on their roster before he retired from the sport.
It likely just added extra embarrassment to hitters getting struck out that they were getting owned by a dude named Boof Bonser. This was in fact his real name that he used rather than a stage name he made for kicks. Bonser likely benefited from the weird name since he wasn’t a very impressive talent. Fans remembered him thanks to his name rather than anything he did on the field.
9 Fake: Doc Rivers
Former NBA player and current Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has had a great career in the sport. Following a successful playing career, Rivers moved into other fields of the game. ABC hired him as the lead analyst calling playoff games for a few years in between his coaching gigs. The Boston Celtics hired him as their head coach and he coached them to a ring in 2008.
Rivers has spent the past few years with the Clippers organization. The name Doc is all it takes for you to think of him in NBA circles. However, his real name is actually Glenn Anton Rivers. Doc was just a nickname that he adopted that became known as his first name. Based off his work with the Clippers, Doc doesn’t stand for doctor since he can’t save that franchise.
8 Real: Melky Cabrera
Melky Cabrera was a talented outfielder that contributed to many MLB teams during his baseball career. As a free agent, Cabrera is hoping to return to the big leagues. The peak of Melky’s career came when he won a ring with the 2009 New York Yankees. Cabrera was a New York fan favorite where he played for five seasons with his best friend Robinson Cano.
The name helped brand him as a memorable player that fans enjoyed. Yankees commentators would use puns such as "Melky Way" and other forms of wordplay to have fun with it. Melky is his real first name and not just a name that he picked to benefit from. Time will tell if he returns to the MLB and finds a way to make his name memorable once again.
7 Fake: Eli Manning
The New York Giants have won two Super Bowls over the past decade thanks to the clutch play of Eli Manning against the New England Patriots. While the numbers don’t suggest Eli is on the level of other legendary quarterbacks of his era, the rings certainly give him a strong argument. Manning was the perfect pick for the Giants as he stepped up to become a huge star in the New York sports scene.
One little known secret is that his name isn’t Eli or even Elijah. The real first name of Manning is surprisingly Elisha. If most opposing fans knew this, it would likely become a fact used to troll him on road games. We completely understand why the younger Manning brother only goes by Eli as his first name.
6 Real: LeBron James
It is almost impossible for a once in a generation start to appear with a name that has never been established in society, but LeBron James managed to pull this one. The name of LeBron is one most people never heard before, let alone knew of a successful or famous person with it. James became a high school basketball prodigy with everyone knowing LeBron before he was an adult.
The talent of LeBron saw him live up to the hype and become one of the most popular humans on the planet. It helped that his unique name added another element of notoriety to him. For the rest of our lives, James will be the only person we think of when hearing LeBron unless someone from the next generation steps up to somehow surpass him. LeBron is his real name despite being perfect enough for a stage name.
5 Fake: DeAndre Jordan
Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is currently one of the top centers in the NBA. The team trading away Blake Griffin and Chris Paul means Jordan will be the face of the franchise while the roster is set in its current form. Jordan has a unique name of DeAndre and is often just referred to by it. You know someone has a memorable first name when you don’t even have to mention their last name.
DeAndre shockingly isn’t his first name. Jordan’s name is Hyland DeAndre Jordan Jr. The decision of Jordan saw him use his middle name since he didn’t feel Hyland was the right way to enter the NBA. Top sports prospect must make this decision at a young age entering their league as the name will show up in countless platforms for the rest of their lives. DeAndre was clearly the right name to roll with.
4 Real: Apolo Anton Ohno
Some sports names are so cool that you must question the validity to them. Speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno was a consistent star in the Winter Olympics for many years. Ohno added an element of excitement to a sport that most North American fans don’t follow. The star power and coolness factor of Ohno added a boost to the Winter Olympics that is missed today now that he is retired.
As difficult as it is to believe, the name of Apolo Anton Ohno is his real name. The talented athlete was blessed with a unique name that was made for fame. Ohno is one of the few Olympic athletes to continue getting opportunities in the spotlight after retirement. ABC recently had him on the game show Pyramid where he dominated. If you need someone with a cool name that can skate fast and win game show money for you, Apolo is the guy.
3 Fake: Tiger Woods
Another athlete with a very cool name has been legendary golfer Tiger Woods. The rise of Woods as one of the first success golfers of color helped bring the game to the mainstream with fans of all demographics finally tuning in. Woods had the cool factor that made a golf a sport people talked about at the water cooler rather than a boring outdated game.
The name of Tiger Woods was one that everyone and their mother knew in the late 90s. He crossed over in the mainstream and had the awesome name to get your attention. However, it wasn’t his given name. The real name of Tiger is Eldrick Tont Woods. Golf may have never experienced the boom period of success if Tiger went by Eldrick or Tont. His parents gave him the perfect name of a golfer, but his fake name was needed to save the sport.
2 Real: Milton Bradley
Forgotten baseball player Milton Bradley had a memorable name for reasons outside of his control. The name of Milton Bradley was known for the man and company that created many of the most memorable board games that you know today. A baseball player having the same name made it easy for the media to create funny headlines and for opposing fans to troll him.
Milton Bradley was the real name of the outfielder that made a solid career in the major leagues. The talent of Bradley allowed him to succeed in the MLB for over a decade. Fans would take notice of him every time he had an at bat due to the memorable name. Milton likely grew tired of it considering it never led to him getting his own board game.
1 Fake: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Car racing legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. to become one of the top in his profession. Even the average sports fan that doesn’t watch NASCAR or any of the other forms of racing knows Dale Jr. based on his face and name value. An athlete is truly a massive star if a random person can recognize them by face or name recognition.
The name of Dale Earnhardt Jr. was partly done as a tribute to his father. Dale Jr.’s first name is Ralph, but he decided to go by his middle name of Dale when entering racing. It was a good move both for his career and for the personal desire to add to the family legacy. Dale Jr. may be the most famous driver in the history of the sport depending on how you look at racing.