If you’re not looking at Ken Pomeroy’s Kenpom.com when you are putting together your NCAA Tournament bracket picks… well those of us who do use it would like to thank you. Please, keep picking your teams based on cities you like to visit. (Sadly, that really works some years.)
Ken had up a very interesting post over the weekend — the number of players named Shaq is going way up in college basketball. Obviously, the first we really know of was the Shaquille O’Neal we all think of — MDE, Shaq Diesel, four-time NBA champ, MVP, three-time Finals MVP, “Kazam.”
After that Shaq there were no more until 2009 and now next season there will be 11 guys playing college hoops with a derivative of that name. And when Shaq was big it was kind of cool to make your kid Shaq — in 1993 it was the 181st most popular boy name (via the Social Security Administration).
That was 20 years ago, not a shock we should see an influx of some of those kids making their way into the college game now.
The interesting part is the wave of Kobe’s to come. Named after Kobe Bryant, obviously.
Kobe first appeared in the nation’s top 1000 in 1997, spanning the end of his rookie season and the beginning of his second season, and it’s stayed there every year since. The name’s popularity broadly peaked between 1998 and 2003, where all but one year was spent in the top 300. In 2012, it still ranked 506th. Parents may admire Bryant’s team loyalty or use of cutting-edge medical technology.
We can never know those reasons for sure, but we can say that since 1997, Kobe has been the name of choice for parents opting to name their children after basketball players. (LeBron has yet to crack the top 1000.) From this we can be confident we’ll see the first-ever college basketball player named Kobe sometime in the 2016 to 2018 seasons. And while the supply of Shaqs will peter out right quick, Kobe’s name will be appearing on college basketball rosters well into the 2030’s.
Finally, Mike Krzyzewski can get Kobe on his team… although Kobe says he wanted to play at North Carolina.