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Sports Hero Names Kick Off Trends

May 15, 2020 Clare Green
sports baby names

Sports baby names celebrate athletic legends past and present. Even though many games and events have been canceled this year (sob!), there’s still lots of inspiration in the names of sporting heroes and heroines.

Here’s our league table of sports names that have sparked major trends in recent decades, plus the biggest rising stars to watch.

Full disclosure: there are more heroes than heroines here. Even in 2020, coverage of women’s team games is pretty low-key, so men are more likely to be household names and make it onto parents’ radar. We hope that in years to come we’ll see more trends inspired by female sports stars — and if you know of any, please tell us!

Major-league trends

Baker ?— Quarterback Baker Mayfield is no doubt responsible for his name being one of the fastest-rising of 2018. He’s at the peak of his game and has a previously underused occupational name. It’s no wonder so many parents have used it.

Bode — Skier Bode Miller (pronounced like Bodhi) has competed in every Winter Olympics since 1998. His name has risen ever since, with a notable spike in each Olympic year.

Brady — A whole bunch of babies, including at least one girl, have been named after quarterback Tom Brady of New England Patriots. One family even named both their kids after him! Brady’s career has been so long that the name has fallen in recent years, but it will be interesting to see if there was a spike in 2019 after the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

Carson Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is another footballer with a name that perfectly matches current trends: think of it as Carter meets Mason. No doubt some parents just like the cool sound, but for some there’s a special connection, like this boy whose mother went into labor during the 2018 Super Bowl, and another baby who arrived just in time for the same game.

Ezekiel Old Testament biblical boy names are a huge trend, but we think Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot has played a role in the rise of his name. A possible sign? In 2018 it ranked 87 nationally, but 67 in Texas.

Iker — Spanish soccer player Iker Casillas has single-handedly propelled his name, which means “visitation” in Basque, out of obscurity.

Jenson — British racing driver started his Formula One career in 2000, and his name first appeared on the England and Wales charts that year. In 2009 he won the World Championship, and the name skyrocketed. It’s been in the Top 100 since 2010.

Jordan — Now an absolute classic sports hero name, Jordan surged for both boys and girls with Michael Jordan’s career in the 1980s and 90s. Style was on its side: it probably felt like a similar-yet-different take on Top 10 Jason.

Kobe — The late Kobe Bryant inspired a wave of baby names when his career took off in the early 2000s. It wasn’t just Kobe that rose, but also other spellings, like Coby followed later by longer forms like Jakobi and Dakobe. No doubt 2020 will see a wave of baby names honoring his memory. We already know of some, like baseball player Kevin Pillar’s daughter Kobie.

Peyton — Quarterback Peyton Manning was almost solely responsible for popularizing his name for boys. Again, it seems to have been a case of the right cool sound at the right time: similar names like Jayden and Aiden were rising at the same time in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now the girl Peytons have overtaken the boys, but it remains a strongly unisex name

Shaquille — Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal inspired one of the fastest ever rise-and-falls on the baby name charts. From 1991 to 1997, Shaquille entered the Top 1000, rose to number 181, and dropped out of the Top 1000 again, never to return (yet). Now Generation Shaq are young adults, making names for themselves.

Rising stars

Gardner — Is Gardner the next Baker? Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew could spark a wave of namesakes, if his career takes off.

Giannis — The Greek form of John had never appeared on the US charts… until 2016, when Giannis Antetokounmpo started a series of career highs with the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. Now it’s on a steep incline. Could modern Greek names be the trend successor to Italian names?

Kawhi — LA Clippers basketball player Kawhi (ka-WHY) Leonard had a great year in 2019, and parents are already naming their children after him in the US and Canada. The story behind the name? Kawhi has said that his dad wanted “something that sounded Hawaiian”.

Kylian — This name, a twist on Irish Cillian, has soared since French soccer star Kylian Mbappé helped his team to victory in the 2018 World Cup.

Linden — This tree name is distinctly Canadian, thanks to Vancouver Canucks hockey star Trevor Linden. But it’s also rising for both boys and girls in the States.

Venus Venus Ebony Starr Williams has been tennis royalty for decades, but her name was slower to follow her success. Now, with the growing trends for mythological baby names and space-themed names, its time may have come. Her niece’s middle name, Olympia, is another athletic choice on the rise.

Ziaire — Basketball player Ziaire Williams has inspired a few namesakes, and the more conventionally-spelled Zaire is rising even higher. No doubt Dwayne Wade’s son Zaire has played a part in this, and we predict his daughter’s new name Zaya will see more use this year too. Another basketball baby name, LeBron James’s daughter Zhuri, is also rising fast.

Zion — This spiritual name is already on the rise, and we predict young basketball star Zion Williamson will help with that.

Thanks to Owen Satran for his help with this post. Now over to you, readers: which names in this hall of fame do you like best? Who would you add?

About the author

Clare Green

Clare Green writes Nameberry's weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world . Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.

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