7 Pro Athletes Whose Fame Inspired Thousands of Unusual Baby Names

Consider yourself a die hard fan who’d do anything for your favorite player — even name your kid after them? No? Well then, sports fans, listen up, because you may have some competition here. Turns out, there are a handful of beloved athletes whose unusual names became quite popular during the height of their careers.

While we can’t know for sure whether each child was indeed named after their parent’s favorite athlete, the trends sure do make it seem that way. According to Names.org, here are seven athletes whose fame has inspired thousands of people to name their babies the same.

1. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal
Many Shaqs were born during the height of his career. | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
  • Number of babies named Shaquille when his career began in 1992 : 524
  • Number of babies named Shaquille in 1993 : 1,784

With a name like this, we’d be surprised if any baby born during the height of Shaquille O’Neal’s career wasn’t inspired by the NBA all-star.

In 1992, the same year Shaq was the first pick in the NBA draft, 524 boys were named Shaquille. In 1993, the same year Shaq was named rookie of the year, 1,784 baby boy Shaquilles were born.

So, there you have it.

Next: There’s no mistaking the inspiration for this name. 

2. Serena Williams

Serena Williams attends Glamour's 2017 Women of The Year Awards
She might have inspired hundreds of baby girl names during her peak. | Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Glamour
  • Number of babies named Serena when her career began in 1995: 830
  • Number of babies named Serena in 2000: 1,504

Serena Williams is one serious tennis player. Unique as her name may be, it’s no surprise sports fans near and far got their baby-naming inspiration from the athlete whom The Women’s Tennis Association ranked top tennis player in the world eight times between 2002 to 2017.

At the start of her career in 1995, there were 830 baby girl Serenas born. In 2002, the rising star shared her name with 1,504 baby girls, and in 2002, the year she was ranked No. 1, there were 1,305 babies who were named Serena.

Next: This basketball icon rose to fame in no time. 

3. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant warms up prior to a game against the Pelicans.
There weren’t many kids named Kobe before he came on the scene. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Number of babies named Kobe when his career began in 1996: 87
  • Number of babies named Kobe in 2001: 1,552

Kobe Bryant had a long career with a devoted following; the NBA star played his entire 20-year career with the L.A. Lakers. In 1994, just before Bryant’s career began, there weren’t any boys born that year named Kobe.

Fast forward to 2000, 2001, and 2002, the years Bryant helped his team win the NBA Championships. During those years, there were 1,432, 1,552, and 1,392 baby boys, respectively, who were named Kobe.

Next: This famous boxer’s daughter is famous in her own right.

4. Laila Ali

Laila Ali teamed up with T.J.Maxx to launch "The Maxx You Project," encouraging women to let their individuality shine
Her name has shot up in popularity. | Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for T.J. Maxx
  • Number of babies named Laila when her career began in 1999: 167
  • Number of babies named Laila in 2008: 2,410

As the daughter of Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali worked hard to prove herself in her own right. She was undefeated in the ring, and won Super Middleweight titles in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2007.

When her career began, there were only 167 babies born who were named Laila. In 2008, the year after she’d won her fourth title, there were 2,410.

Ah, girl power.

Next: This NBA all-star was part of the Fab Five in the 1990s. 

5. Jalen Rose

Jalen Rose attends the 7th Annual Jalen Rose Leadership Academy Celebrity Golf Classic
He might have inspired thousands of baby names. | Scott Legato/Getty Images for Operation Graduation
  • Number of babies named Jalen when his career began in 1994: 1,698
  • Number of babies named Jalen in 2000: 3,513

Even when he was in college, Jalen Rose was a well-loved athlete. In 1992 and 1993, he was part of the Fab Five who made it to the basketball championships. Then, his professional career began when he was drafted in 1994.

In 1992, there were 612 boys born named Jalen. Fast forward to 2000, the year he helped the Indiana Pacers make it to the NBA Finals, and there were 3,513 boys born named Jalen.

Next: One of the best quarterbacks of all time

6. Peyton Manning

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 20: Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning watches action prior to a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The name Peyton rose in popularity after he went pro. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Number of babies named Peyton when his career began in 1998: 1,451
  • Number of babies named Peyton in 2007: 3,371

Peyton Manning needs no introduction — much like everyone else on this list. He’s regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, having played for both the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. During 1995, while Manning was still in college, 453 babies named Peyton were born. Then, his career took off.

Manning was the first pick in the NFL Draft of 1998 before earning the MVP of the 2007 Super Bowl. In 2007, there were 3,371 babies named Peyton.

Next: This athlete became fan favorite in no time.

7. Mia Hamm

Mia Hamm is interviewed at Monte-Carlo Bay during the Golden Foot
Mia has taken off in popularity. | Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images for Golden Foot
  • Number of babies named Mia when her career began in 1987: 544
  • Number of babies named Mia in 2004: 7,395

Grace, poise, and relentless determination best describe this all-star athlete. Of course, Mia Hamm will forever be known as one of the greatest professional soccer players the world has ever seen. And because she had such a loyal following, she also claims the title of sharing her name with more babies than any other athlete on this list.

As the face of the first professional women’s soccer league in the U.S., Hamm is an Olympic gold medalist and a FIFA Women’s World Cup champion. So, any parent looking to don their daughter with one seriously strong name definitely got their inspiration from Hamm — we think.

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