There is a point when celebrity status turns sports stars into single-named icons. Whether it is by ease of name, or actual merit, here is our list of sports stars that have attained the fabled "single name." I am sure that we have missed more than a few, feel free to put in the comments any other stars that you think should belong on this list.
Jimmer's real name is James Taft Fredette, but his Mom never had the intention of calling him that. He has always been a Jimmer. It wasn't until recently that the name caught fire among NCAA fans world-wide.
"One of three favorites to win national player of year, [Jimmer]'s morphed into a one-name celebrity and has been a headline attraction from the moment the season started." wrote ESPN sports writer Any Katz, "While Jimmer is no Sting, Bono, Madonna or Prince, he's become a first-name celebrity in his own right. He's mentioned by his first name so often, some might question whether he has dropped his last name altogether to assume rock-star status."
Some might argue about putting Jimmer on a list with hall-of-famers like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, but it would be worse to leave the Jimmer out after such an outstanding season.
We put Jimmer first on the list as a token to his newly attained "rock-star status."
If you were to ask anyone to associate cycling to one name, what would it be?
Going from battling cancer to seven consecutive Tour de France wins Lance Armstrong is more than an idol, he is a legend.
Walking down the street without seeing one of those yellow wristbands on someone's arm is close to impossible.
Ronaldo's full name is Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, but to the world he is just Ronaldo.
Ronaldo had a stunning career as a Brazilian football player and was one of only two individuals to win the FIFA Player of the Year award three times.
Ronaldo retired in 2011 after an incredible 18-year career including two World Cup titles. He said injuries were preventing him from performing at the top of his ability.
Called "King James" by some, Lebron first joined the NBA in 2003 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He stayed with them until 2010 when he went over to the Maimi Heat.
Lebron secured the last two NBA Most Valuable Player awards (2009, 2010), but when asked about his running for this year's MVP, Lebron says that he isn't posting the same stats with Miami that he did with Cleveland and therefore won't get the votes.
With outrageous stats and the perfect NBA personality, the question must still be asked if he will become an NBA legend. Even if he doesn't become an NBA legend, we will always remember him as Kobe's TV puppet friend.
Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal is known to the world as "Shaq."
"There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when Shaquille O'Neal rumbled across the country collecting nicknames and championship rings by the bundle, his career one great, giddy joyride, set to his own thumping soundtrack. He was the Diesel and the Big Aristotle, the Big Cactus and the Big Witness and always the life of the party," wrote Howard Beck of the New York Times News Service.
So where is Shaq headed now? The answer to that question is yet to be determined, but with four NBA championship wins, seven MVP awards and multiple all-star appearances, Shaq is a name that will never be forgotten.
Tiger, Tiger, Tiger...
That is a name we have heard a lot of in the past year.
Tiger is a golf icon. This Nike sports model bolsters 95 tournament wins with over 70 of them on PGA tour.
Eldrick Woods is Tiger's full name, but the "Tiger" comes from a Vietnamese soldier friend of his father, Vuong Dang Phong, to whom his father had also given the nickname Tiger. The nickname had stuck by the time he went big in golf.
Wayne Gretzky is regarded as the greatest hockey player in the history of the National Hockey League.
Gretzky's number was always #99. He first adopted that number back in 1977 when his favorite number, #9, was already taken.
Following right along with his favorite number, Gretzky retired in 1999 and was immediately inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Even Wikipedia has figured it out. At the top of Wayne Gretzky's profile it reads, "'Gretzky' redirects here."
Arguably the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali was a three-time World Heavyweight Champion.
Ali was well known for his trash talking and pre-game taunts which eventually led to being crowned as sports personality of the century in 1999.
In 2001, a single-name movie titled "Ali" immortalized the famous boxer.
Did you know that Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan? Probably not.
You probably did know that Kobe is the name of the professional basketball player that was drafted into the NBA fresh out of high school in 1996.
Kobe has won a host of MVP awards, with his most recent one being last February (His fourth All-star MVP). Kobe also led the Lakers to five NBA championship victories.
That deserves single-name stardom.
Brazilian football (soccer) star Pelé, whose real name is Edison Arantes do Nascimento, is regarded by football experts and fellow players as the greatest football player of all time.
Pelé won his first world cup at age 17 and is still labeled as Brazil's all-time leading scorer.
In 1999 Pelé was voted No. 1 by the world's national Olympics committees in their top five Athletes of the Century.
A resumé like that makes it clear why he is a single-named legend.
Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger is know to many from the 1993 motion picture that documented his story.
Despite much adversity, Rudy played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and was the first player ever to be carried off the field by his teammates.
Rudy is now known for his motivational speeches on a "can do" attitude in the face of tremendous odds.
What Pelé was to soccer, Michael Jordan was to Basketball. He was called "Air Jordan" by some because of his tremendous hang time as he delivered the ball to the hoop.
He was first selected for the NBA in the 1984 draft, retired in 1993, returned in 1995, retired again in 1999, returned again in 2001, and retired for the final time in 2003.
Jordan entered the basketball Hall of Fame with unsurpassed stats.
This month (March 2011) Jordan spoke at a championship celebration commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Bulls' first title.
Arnold Palmer is one of "the big three" in golf and sits in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Speaking about the name "Arnie," one of our sports enthused staff members here at Deseret News summed it up well by saying, "Arnold Palmer is iced tea and lemonade, but Arnie's the golfer."
Here's a great sports center commercial that says it all.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson first received the nickname "Magic" in high school when a sports reporter used the adjective to describe his performance. Throughout his career, anyone who saw him play readily agreed with the nickname and Earvin Johnson turned into a singular name: Magic.
"Few athletes are truly unique, changing the way their sport is played with their singular skills. Earvin 'Magic' Johnson was one of them," claims an NBA.com profile on Magic Johnson. "Just how great a basketball player was Johnson? So great, perhaps, that future generations of hoop fans may wish they had entered the world years earlier -- just so they could have seen Magic play in person instead of watching him only on highlight reels."
Perhaps the "B" that begins both Baseball and Babe is fitting for the star most would claim to be the greatest baseball player of all time.
The late sports writer Tommy Holmes wrote, "Some 20 years ago, I stopped talking about the Babe for the simple reason that I realized that those who had never seen him didn't believe me."