Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NBA Encylopedia #2 : Name Changes

For the second installment of the NBA Encyclopedia, I'm backtracking a bit and stepping forward a bit to showcase ten players who have changed their names during their career- and have cards of both names in my collection.

They will be sorted by the new name they have chosen for themselves, not their original name.

#11 Zaid Abdul-Aziz / Don Smith
1969-70 Topps #52

1975-76 Topps #49
 Born Donald Smith in Brooklyn, NY, he changed his name to Zaid Abdul-Aziz according to Wikipedia in 1976, although I am dubious to the correctness of that as he appears under the name on his 1975-76 Topps card, shown here. He played 505 games over 10 seasons in the NBA, beginning in 1968-69 through 1977-78. He played for the Royals, Bucks, Sonics (twice) Rockets (twice), Braves and Celtics. He led the NBA in Rebounds per game in 1973-74.

#12 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar / Lew Alcindor
1970-71 Topps #75
1977-78 Topps #1 (white back)
One of the all-time greatest players in NBA history, the accolades for Abdul-Jabbar are tremendous. He's the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points scored over 1,560 games between 1969-70 and 1988-89. He was an all-star 19 of his 20 seasons in the NBA (missing only 1977-78), 6 time MVP, 11 time All-Defensive, 15 time All-NBA, NBA Rookie of the Year, one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, and a Hall of Famer. To this day he is the all-time leader in minutes played, shots made and attempted, and personal fouls committed. He ranks second in games played, third in total rebounds and blocks and 10th in free throws. He also ranks 41st all-time in assists, which during his career era was not the forte of centers. (they were getting the ball, not giving it). He scored 5 NBA championships with the Lakers and one with the Bucks, the only one in Milwaukee franchise history. For the majority of his career he was a player that most teams dreaded having to face, because it was known by all that he was going to be nearly unstoppable on the court. About the only thing he did not do was three pointers- he made only one in his career. He is from New York City.

#13 Mahdi Abdul-Raman / Walt Hazzard
1971-72 Topps #24
1973-74 Topps #128
Unlike most players who adopted the Muslim faith, he continued to use both his names during his career. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, he is the first player alphabetically to no longer be alive, passing away in 2011 at age 69. He played 724 games in the NBA from 1964-65 through 1973-74, playing for the Lakers, Sonics (twice), Hawks, Braves and Warriors. Taken by the Seattle SuperSonics in the expansion draft, he was an All-Star in the club's first season of 1967-68.

#14 Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf / Chris Jackson
1992-93 Topps Archives Gold #135

1996-97 Topps #3
Born Chris Jackson in Gulfport, Mississippi, he changed his name to Abdul-Rauf between the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. He played 586 games over 9 NBA seasons, beginning in 1990-91. He was out of the NBA in 1998-99 and 1999-00, before making a one-season comeback with the Vancouver Grizzlies in 2000-01. He previously played for the Nuggets and Kings. His sole career accolade was winning the 1992-93 Most Improved Player award.

#15 Tariq Abdul-Wahad / Olivier St. Jean
1997-98 Bowman's Best Atomic Refractor #122
I do not have any cards with his original name scanned yet, but he did not play any games under his original name, so I chose to include him now anyway. He changed his name between the draft and his first season of 1997-98 began. He played 236 games over six seasons, from 97-98 through 2002-03. He played for the Kings, Magic, Nuggets and Mavericks. He was the first French player in NBA history. He's the first player among this group that I got to consider myself a fan of during their playing career. Most retired before I discovered the game- two before I was even born.

#16 Ruthie Bolton / Ruthie Bolton-Holifield
1996 Topps USA Women's National Team #2

2000 Topps USA #90
 The first woman to appear on this project, there are not too many to follow her. I include Team USA sets in my main collection and the majority of the WNBA players who appear in my NBA collection come from these sets, but 1999-00 Stadium Club also includes the Women's Olympic team and maybe a couple of other sets do as well. She is from Lucedale, Mississippi, and played in two Olympics, winning gold medals in 1996 and 2000. She is also an Army veteran, which I did not know until I researched this post. She played 8 years in the WNBA, all for the Sacramento Monarchs, and was an all-star in 1999 and 2001. At one point she had been married to someone named Holifield but no longer is.

#17 Bison Dele / Brian Williams
1993-94 Ultra #240

1999-00 MVP
Born Brian Williams but changing his name to Bison Dele before his final NBA season, the story of Williams/Dele is a sad one. It's believed that he was murdered by his own brother, although his brother was adamant he was living in French Polynesia before committing suicide to prevent going to jail for the murder of Dele, Dele's girlfriend and the captain of Dele's sailboat. He played 413 games over 8 seasons in the NBA, (1991-92 though 1998-99) for the Magic, Nuggets, Clippers, Bulls and Pistons. He won a championship with the Bulls in 1996-97. Known as somewhat eccentric, he retired after year #2 of a 5 year contract that was due to pay him several million dollars, I remember at the time it was a perplexing choice that he never explained. His father was a member of the Platters music group.

#18 Diaw, Boris / Diaw-Riffiod, Boris
2003-04 Fleer Showcase #103

2015-16 Hoops #255
Something a lot of people probably don't know is that Diaw is an abbreviation, his full name is Diaw-Riffiod. He made the decision in his rookie NBA season to just use Diaw and that is how he is mostly known. Some of his early cards, however, include his full name. He is currently a member of the Utah Jazz. The native of Cormeille-en-Parisis, France, has previously played for the Hawks, Suns, Bobcats and Spurs, where he won a Championship in 2013-14. He also was named the NBA's Most Improved Player in 2005-06 while a member of the Suns. As of this writing he has appeared in 1039 NBA games. Before coming to the NBA in 2003-04 he played professionally in Europe although those stats are not reflected here. 

#19 World B. Free / Lloyd Free
1976-77 Topps #143

1984-85 Star #217
Born Lloyd Free, he was nicknamed All-World while in junior high, and the day before he turned 28, he legally changed his name to World, and with Bernard being his middle name, World B. Free was "born". He played 886 games over 13 seasons between 1975-76 and 1987-88. He played for the 76ers, Clippers, Warriors, Cavaliers, Sixers again and Houston. He currently works for the 76ers. When I first started collecting, and heard there was a player named World B. Free, it was pretty mind blowing, at least to a 12 year old. It would be a few years before I learned he wasn't born with that name, but it doesn't matter. He had already been cemented as a favorite among players I had never gotten to see play. He hails from Atlanta. 

#20 Armen Gilliam / Armon Gilliam
1995-96 Stadium Club #172

1999-00 Topps Tipoff #22
Born Armon Gilliam, he legally changed his name before his final season of 1999-00 because he was tired of people pronouncing it wrong, it was always supposed to be pronounced as "Armen", not "Armon" so he changed it. Most places list his 1999-00 cards as UERs but that is in fact incorrect. He played 929 games between 1987-88 and 1999-00 as noted. He played for the Suns, Hornets, 76ers, Nets, Bucks and Jazz. Unfortunately, he only lived to 47 years old, felled by a heart attack in 2011. 

Post #3 returns back to the letter A picking up where I left off after Michael Adams.


  1. Ha! I was going to ask if you had an Aziz card. When my friends and I went to a lot of Rockets games on campus he became a favorite of ours. We formed a little unofficial fan club and cheered him on. With so few folks in the stands we stood out. Fun times.

  2. I love this encyclopedia idea. Can't wait for the next one.

  3. I remember when Zaid played for the Celts . Back then I didn't realize he was the former Don Smith. The tall boy of Smith you picture was the only tallboy I had for years.
    Look up Warren Armstrong/Warren Jabali former ABA player. I know he had cards in 71/72 and 72/72 depicting different names

    1. He'll be in the second group of name changes, since I was limiting myself to ten people per post I ran out of space before I got to him. I actually ended up with two of those Smith cards somehow. I probably forgot I had one and bought another...Back in the day I used to try and remember everything I had, and sometimes made mistakes

  4. Great post. I learned quite a bit. I love World B. Free. Didn't know Walt Hazzard changed his name. I learned something new today. Thanks.