Sunday, October 17 2021
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While sometimes considered cumbersome and unnecessary these days, hyphenated names actually have noble origins — quite literally. They rose to prominence among English aristocracy in the 15th century as a way of keeping the family name of the bride alive for future generations. This explains why my freshman-year college roommates, who had only seen my name before meeting me, were expecting a posh, British teenager in a tuxedo to walk through the dormitory entrance.

Hyphenated names have ceased discriminating based on economic status, and can now be found across all segments of society worldwide. They could, however, be on their way out.

After a boom in hyphenated names during the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S., the practice has slowed in recent years due to the logistical issues associated with having extremely long names that contain a character often deemed “illegal” by computer software. Also, people with hyphenated names face a predicament when naming their children, since adding three or four surnames doesn’t seem like a sustainable option.

We can see this playing out in the NBA as well. According to the Basketball Reference database, 20 active players have hyphenated names. Only one, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, was drafted this year, after zero hyphenated players were drafted last year. The writing may be on the wall, and it could spell a steep decline in hyphenated NBA names for at least a generation.

So, while we can, let’s celebrate those of us with double-barreled names — the players so nice, they named them twice. Last year I put together an all-time list of the greatest NBA players with hyphenated names (see below), but this time around I’ve picked out the best hyphenated performers strictly based on last season to recognize the 2020-21 NBA All-Hyphen team.

As you’ll see, there is no shortage of hyphenated talent around the league. So with National Punctuation Day just a month away (yes, that’s a real thing), join me in celebrating the NBA’s best current players with hyphenated names.

2020-21 NBA All-Hyphen Team

Arguably the best active hyphenated player, Towns had an injury-plagued 2020-21, but continued his normal, outstanding offensive production over the course of 50 games. In addition to his scoring, rebounding and career-high 4.5 assists per game, the big man made 38.7 percent of his 6.3 3-point attempts per game, which helped land him in the 78th percentile with 1.103 points per possession on jump shots, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Were it not for the injury issues, Towns was well on his way to another All-NBA season.

An unsung hero on a team with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, Finney-Smith continued his upward trajectory as an elite 3-and-D wing by shooting a career-high 39.4 percent on five 3-point attempts per game. His shooting has improved every season, starting at a lowly 29.3 percent as a rookie, and he continues to play suffocating defense while drawing tough assignments on a nightly basis. Finney-Smith was in the 82nd percentile in offensive efficiency last season in both jump shots and around the basket, according to Synergy, which is the recipe for an excellent complementary offensive player.

By the end of the 202-21 season, Toscano-Anderson had gone from a fringe role player to a crucial part of the Warriors rotation. He averaged almost 28 minutes per game over Golden State’s 15-5 stretch to close the regular season, with his ability to play small-ball five unlocking successful lineup options for Steve Kerr. The Warriors’ net rating improved by 4.4 points per 100 possessions with Toscano-Anderson on the court last season due to his playmaking ability and 40 percent 3-point shooting.

Caldwell-Pope kept the momentum from his strong championship bubble performance going into last season, shooting a career-high 41 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers scored 4.2 more points per 100 possessions with KCP on the court, and he averaged 1.216 points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations, good for the 75th percentile according to Synergy. His ability to guard multiple positions was also essential to the Lakers’ league-leading defense, and he later became part of the trade package that brought Russell Westbrook to L.A.

The Thunder were 16-19 last season when Gilegous-Alexander played. When he was out, they went 6-31. That should tell you everything you need to know about the third-year guard’s importance to the team. He shattered his career-highs across the board as OKC’s main offensive weapon, and was well on his way to Most Improved Player consideration before a season-ending foot injury. Gilgeous-Alexander was absolutely devastating as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, averaging 1.116 points per possession according to Synergy, which was second only to Stephen Curry for players with at least 300 such possessions.

Active Hyphenated NBA Players

Per Basketball Reference

All-Time NBA All-Hyphen Team

  • C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • F – Karl-Anthony Towns
  • F – Shareef Abdur-Rahim
  • G – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • G – Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

Read the full story on the All-Time team here



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