Column: Name changes not always for better

See. I get why J.B. Holmes did it. You walk around life with the name John Holmes and are known for being long off the tee and, well, talk about setup material for late-night comics.

Holmes did something about it in 2006, when the professional golfer ditched the first name he shared with a former adult film star who had reportedly shared locker room space, or something to that effect, with over 3,000 women.

“You guys,” Holmes told reporters at the time of the change to J.B., “should be able to figure out (why).”

Because a dead porn actor had a better handicap?

What’s in a name? For many athletes, apparently more than you might imagine.

Just this week, 49ers safety Donte Whitner announced he would be removing the “W” from his last name to make it Hitner.

He wasn’t pleased with being fined $21,000 by the NFL for a collision with Rams wide receiver Chris Givens. Changing his name is as much a protest against Roger Goodell’s office as it is the financial gain he might realize from T-shirts with the hash tag #LegalHitner that he’s already selling.

To each his own, but I might have thought twice about changing my last name to something that so closely resembles that of a certain Austrian-born German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. But that’s just me.

There have been name changes across the sports world for political reasons, religious reasons, monetary reasons and just plain silly ones. Some make sense. Some we can’t explain, and probably wouldn’t want to.

But some stand out more than others, and Hitner has a long way to go before reaching elite status in terms of changing one’s name.

Here are my all-time top-five favorites and why:

1. Stylez G. White: He used to go by Greg.

The defensive end who played for eight NFL teams between 2002-2011 obviously has a creative side, even if his choice of movies lacks depth. White had a fondness for the 1985 flick, “Teen Wolf,” and especially liked the character named Rupert “Stiles” Stilinski. So he changed the spelling and became Stylez.

Upon learning about White’s switch based on a movie, rumor has it J.B. Holmes considered yet another new name.

Dirk Diggler.

2. Metta World Peace: The NBA player formerly known as Ron Artest made the change official in 2011, although the process was delayed due to several outstanding parking tickets. Hey, when you’re about to bring the world a newfound level of kindness and love — the primary reason cited for changing his name — you can’t be expected to remember such menial tasks as feeding a meter or not leaving your car next to a fire hydrant for hours on end.

It appears World Peace is considering yet another name change, but won’t announce it until his basketball career ends.

An early guess: Travis Bickle.

3. Chad Ochocinco: You sort of have to give him credit. In a world where attention hogs compete for every soundbite and endorsement, the former NFL wideout Chad Johnson made arrogance an art form by choosing a name that coincided with his jersey number. He then convinced VH1 to air arguably one of the worst reality television programs to produce a script, “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch,” where he was placed alongside 85 women to choose from and find love.

Come to think of it, the plot wasn’t so bad. If you really want disturbing reality, check out the lunatics on “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

4. Cam F. Awesome: This is one of those name changes an athlete makes to become noticed more … by anyone outside his immediate family. Lenroy Thompson is an amateur boxer who won U.S. titles in 2008 and 2010 as a super heavyweight. He was considered a serious contender at the 2012 Olympics in London before being suspended prior to the games. Awesome, it seems, didn’t check in with the United States Anti-Doping Agency three times over 18 months. When this happens, the guys testing for drugs get perturbed and assume you’re hiding something. Cam has said in the past that the “F” stands for whatever you want. Fun. Friend. Faith. Family. Or something else you might be thinking. Pretty Awesome stuff.

5. Bison Dele: I love a good mystery mixed with my bison burger.

Brian Williams was a former Bishop Gorman standout and NBA player who changed his name in 1998 to honor his Native American and African ancestry. In 2002, he is believed to have been murdered at sea by his older brother aboard a ship called the “Hakuna Matata.” Dele’s body was never recovered, and others on the boat questioned — Simba, Nala, Mufasa, Rafiki, Zazu, Scar — had little comment about the situation.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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