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The Most Iconic and Bizarre Name Changes in Sports History

From Metta World Peace to Chad Ochocinco, there have plenty of wild name changes in pro sports. Here are the most iconic.

Some figures in sports are known by multiple identities. Those like Kevin Durant are known as the "Slim Reaper" or "Easy Money Sniper" and of course, KD. The only thing more iconic than a sports nickname is a legal name change, and there happen to be several big players in history to have changed names. 

Many fans of all sports, from the NBA to NFL, will recognize some of the names on this list. But changing names is more common that you might think, especially for high-profile athletes. In fact, some of the greatest athletes of all time have done so.

Here are a few of the most iconic name switches in sports history.

Ron Artest to Metta World Peace

Metta World Peace stands on the court for the Lakers.

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There isn't any official leaderboard of sports name changes. If there was, Artest would have to be near the top. The longtime NBA player is famous for having changed names now multiple times. 

Up until 2011, Ron Artest was the name for the New York native and forward who began his career in 1999 and famously had a role in the "Malice at the Palace." Before the start of the 2011 season, Artest officially changed his name to 'Metta World Peace.' The name stood for "friendship, love and kindness." 

After sporting "World Peace" on the back of his Lakers jersey, Peace changed his name again in 2014 to 'The Pandas Friend,' a name change for his move to China to play basketball with the Sichuan Blue Whales. He's also been Metta Ford-Artest and now goes by Metta Sandiford-Artest, while his wife goes by Maya Sandiford-Artest.

Lew Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds a trophy with the Lakers.

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Many regard Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the greatest center the NBA has ever seen. Abdul-Jabbar was the league's scoring champion for decades until LeBron James recently broke the record this season. The "sky hook" was used for years to score over the big men that stood in the way of Abdul-Jabbar. 

Before his time in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar was hitting the same hook over his college opponents with the name 'Lew Alcindor' at UCLA. The 7-foot-2 center held the name from birth until 1971, the same year he won his first NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Abdul-Jabbar changed his name due to his conversion to Islam, and the big center still practices the religion to this day. 

Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali 

Muhammad Ali stands over his opponent.

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Muhammad Ali is the face of boxing. Many iconic fights from the "rumble in the jungle" to the 14-round technical knockout of Joe Frazier, historically known as the "thriller in Manila" are only mixed in with historical images that paint the fighter as a legend. 

A strong figure of the past, the late Ali once went by a different title. The boxer was known as 'Cassius Clay' until his change to Ali on March 6, 1964 

Like Abdul-Jabbar, Clay changed his name to Ali after he converted to Islam. At the time of the change, Ali was in the midst of his remarkable career and beat Sonny Liston as Cassius Clay on Feb. 25, 1964, then beat Liston again by his new title as Muhammad Ali on May 25, 1965.  

Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco

Chad Johnson on Sideline of Packers-Broncos Game in 2019

Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chad Johnson had a remarkable and wild career in Cincinnati with the Bengals. The 6-foot-1 Oregon State product was so committed to football and saving money that he supposedly lived in the Bengals stadium. 

"You gotta remember, I stayed at the stadium the first two years because I didn't want to spend no money," Johnson told Shannon Sharpe on "Club Shay Shay." "What's the point? Why are you telling me to go rent a house, go buy a house, or go rent a condo when everything I need is right here in the facility?" 

In the midst of Johnson's successful career, the wide receiver thought of changing his name to Chad Ochocinco in 2008. The Miami native said he thought of the name during NFL's Spanish Heritage month. 

At first, the change was not appreciated and the NFL fined Ochocinco $30,000 for altering his uniform. He would formally change his name in the offseason. 

"So now I put it on all my jerseys. Since y'all want to be rude and mean. Now at that time, it was a stick to the NFL. Then it just turned into a whole brand right at that point. And I just played it off, like it was marketing, and it worked just as that would," Johnson said. 

In 2012, Chad Ochocinco changed his name back to Chad Johnson, leaving Ochocinco as his middle name. 

Lloyd Bernard Free to World B. Free 

World B. Free shoots the ball for the Warriors.

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Lloyd Bernard Free had his nickname "World" in place for a while, years before he started a 13-year NBA career. During his time on the Brooklyn playgrounds in which he played growing up, Free was nicknamed "World" as he could hit shots from "around the world." 

In the midst of his prime years with Golden State, Lloyd legally changed his first name to World on December 8, 1981. Free only justified the decision by showcasing his all-world ability to score, only dipping under his career average of 20.3 points per game in his final two seasons in 1987 and 1988 with Philadelphia and Houston, respectively. 

MORE: The 10 Best Nicknames in NBA History, Ranked By Creativity