Category: influence of athletes’ names
Early last month, the Social Security Administration released its official list of 2010’s most popular baby names. While I don’t really care that Jacob was the most popular name in 2010 for boys and Isabella for girls, I do enjoy playing around on the SSA’s Popular Baby Names website, which lists the thousand most popular boys’ and girls’ names for each year.
After checking the popularity of my children’s names (Malachi was the 163rd most common boys’ name in 2010; neither Meyer nor Resha was in the top 1000), I decided to look into the names of popular athletes to see how many people were naming their children after popular sports stars.
Of course, the data for athlete names such as Michael, Tom, Tim, Maria, and Mia isn’t terribly meaningful. These names are so common that there’s no way to know if parents are naming their children after Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Tim Lincecum, Maria Sharapova, or Mia Hamm. But more unique athlete names yield some interesting results.
Though I was surprised to learn that LeBron has not been among the 1000 most popular baby names in the past decade, I discovered that both Peyton and Kobe have. Peyton peaked in popularity in 2007, the year when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was named MVP of Super Bowl XLI. The name was least popular in 2002 and 2003, years in which the Colts performed below expectations. The name Eli made a jump in 2008, the year that began with New York Giants quarterback (and Peyton’s brother) Eli Manning leading his team to a Super Bowl win. (Eli made another jump in 2010. I wonder if the 2010 Elis are the little brothers of the 2007 Peytons.)
It will be interesting to see if Peyton gets a bump in 2011, thanks to Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis, a breakout star last season, recently was selected by fans to be on the cover of the Madden 12 video game. If you can make it onto the Madden cover, you can probably make it into the delivery room. Peyton is also a popular girls’ name, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with sports.
Kobe, after a strong showing from 2000 until 2002—the years that Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title—fell drastically in 2004. Kobe Bryant was arrested for sexual assault late in 2003. The name had a minor renaissance in 2008, the year the Lakers returned to the NBA Finals.
Danica jumped into the top 1000 in 2005, the year that Ms. Patrick made her Indianapolis 500 debut, finishing fourth and becoming the first woman in the history of the race to lead a lap. Danica ranked 611 in 2005 and rose to 353 in 2006. It has been in the top 500 ever since. (I’m guessing that Danica’s recent popularity has to do with the race car driver and not the actress who played Winnie Cooper.)