Data shows 2018 was a Baby Giannis, Baby Baker boom in U.S.
There's only one Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But likely because of the NBA star, there are now plenty of Giannises.
According to baby name data released by the U.S Social Security Administration late last month, the popularity of the name "Giannis" increased by 135% last year and is up 662% since 2016, when Antetokounmpo was en route to his first all-star appearance.
Fewer than five newborns in the U.S. were named Giannis as recently as 2015. In 2018, according to the data, there were 61 — including five in the state of Wisconsin.
Sports, music and other aspects of popular culture have long provided inspiration for parents as they name their children. But in 2018, there was no other name from the world of sports that spiked in popularity quite like Giannis — a clear nod to the Milwaukee Bucks forward who is the odds-on favorite to win this year's NBA MVP award.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Photo: Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports)
Here are some of the other interesting trends USA TODAY Sports found after examining changes in 27 sports-related first names over the past decade.
Baker on the rise
The only sports-related name that's somewhat comparable to Giannis, at least in 2018, belongs to another young star from a Midwestern media market: Baker.
According to the Social Security Administration data, the name was already growing in popularity before Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. But Mayfield's rise has coincided with a steep rise in his first name's popularity.
There were 336 Bakers born in the U.S. last year, more than twice as many as the previous year — including 17 baby Bakers in Ohio alone.
Cool Ks in the NBA
There were only 27 male Kyries born in the U.S. in 2010. In 2011, when Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving was the No. 1 overall pick, there were 138. And it's only skyrocketed from there — up to 1,638 in 2018.
Altogether, the popularity of Kyrie has increased 5128% over the past 10 years.
There's also been a notable increase in Kawhis, especially in 2014 and 2016. Kawhi Leonard, who is currently trying to help lead the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship, was named Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (left) (Photo: The Associated Press)
Both "LeBron" and "Bryce" have gotten significantly less popular over the past decade, though both declines have plateaued a bit in recent years.
There was a notable spike in babies named LeBron in 2004, after LeBron James was drafted first overall. The ascent peaked at 110 baby LeBrons in 2007, but it's been on a downward trajectory ever since; only 32 LeBrons were born in 2018.
Bryce is a far more popular name, generally, so it is not as closely associated with its sports namesake, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper. But it is nonetheless down 29% in popularity over the past five years.
Le'Veon and Odell
According to the data, there's been a 980% increase in the usage of "Le'Veon" since running back Le'Veon Bell received his first all-pro nod in 2014, and the name's popularity went up 39% last year as Bell notably sat out the season due to a contract dispute.
"Odell" has also steadily increased in popularity over the past five years, as Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has burst onto the scene. Though there were actually eight fewer Odells born last year than in 2017.
No Zion spike — yet
The usage of "Zion" increased in popularity at the same rate from 2017 to 2018 that it has, on average, over the past five years.
But with Zion Williamson projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, maybe the trajectory of the name will change in 2019.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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