Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other sporting stars to have changed their names

We look at five of the most famous sports stars to have changed their name

Denzil Pinto 2018/08/03

On Thursday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board revealed that national captain Asghar Stanikzai had changed his name to ‘Asghar Afghan’ after the 30-year-old batsman registered it for the new Electronic National Identity Cards.

He joins a growing list of sportsmen to have changed their names during their playing careers. Here, we look at five famous sports stars who completed all the legal paperwork in order to be known by a different name.


Sugar Ray Robinson, previously known as Walter Smith Junior

Ahead of his first bout in 1936, Walter Smith Junior borrowed the Amateur Athletic Union card of another boxer, whose name was Ray Robinson.

He loved it so much that Smith didn’t go by his birth name for the rest of his career. Once described as ‘sweet as sugar’, Robinson said: “Sugar Ray Robinson had a nice ring to it. Sugar Walter Smith wouldn’t have been the same.”

Nice ring to it: Sugar Ray Robinson.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, previously known as Lew Alcindor

Just after getting his hands on the 1971 NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks, Lew Alcindor converted to Islam and adopted the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

It translates as “noble, powerful servant. The name change didn’t have any impact on his talent as the star went from strength to strength, winning six NBA championships including five with the Los Angeles Lakers over his epic 20-year playing career.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


Muhammad Ali, previously known as Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior

Named after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, it was in 1964 that ‘The Greatest’ revealed he wanted to be known as Muhammad Ali.

He had already made a name for himself as Cassius but the decision came after he converted to Islam and affiliated with the Nation of Islam (NOI).

“I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me,” the late boxing star said at the time.

The Greatest ever: Muhammad Ali.


Metta World Peace, previously known as Ronald William Artest

Having made a name for himself with the LA Lakers, the American forward ensured he would no longer be called Ronald William Artest when he changed his name in September 2011.

Instead, people would have to get used to calling him Metta World Peace after he wanted to inspire the youth to get together in peace. The word ‘Metta’ was chosen since it meant kindness and friendliness.

Time to make peace: Metta World Peace.


Asghar Afghan, previously known as Asghar Stanikzai

The most recent sportsman to change his name. The Afghanistan cricket captain has played an integral part in the national team’s journey as they qualified for the 2015 World Cup and achieved Test status.

On Thursday, the 30-year-old batsman changed his surname to ‘Afghan’ to ‘honour of protecting the national identity of Afghan citizens’.

Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai has changed his name.

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