World B. Free's game-changing name change - 10/10/2011

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World B. Free, born Lloyd Bernard Free, was drafted in the 2nd round 23rd overall in the 1975 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He spent his first five years with the 76ers before playing for the Clippers, Warriors, Cavaliers, and Rockets. Currently, he is Director of Player Development and an Ambassador for the 76ers. We recently sat down with him and talked about changing his name. When did you decide you wanted to officially change your name?

World B. Free: I decided to do it when I was with the Golden State Warriors (1981-82 season). At first, the NBA and people thought it was a "self proclaimed" name. That name was given to me from the streets of Brooklyn, in the Brownsville section, for being one of the talents from there they thought might have a chance to make it in the NBA. Anyone who had a little bit of greatness about them back then, they would nickname. They had guys in my era like James "Fly" Williams and Phil "The Thrill" Sellers from Rutgers. They had guys they named before me like Doc, Connie Hawkins, and Nate "Tiny" Archibald. My nickname was "All-World" for doing 360 slam dunks. The guy who nicknamed you was Herb Smith. A lot of those names stuck. Lloyd B. Free was my given name so I just changed Lloyd to World.

S.C: So people were calling you World even before you changed your name?

WF: People have been calling me World ever since junior high school. I had a 44-inch vertical leap. I could do 360 slam dunks in junior high but I couldn't shoot the basketball well enough.

S.C: Besides the name 'World B. Free' sounding cool, there's the obvious meaning of those words. That was important to you as well, right?

WF: That was very important to me. I saw how things were going and I just wanted the world to be at peace and be free. That's why I made that statement with the name change. I told a lot of reporters back then it wasn't self proclaimed. That had nothing to do with it. It was just a statement.

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S.C: Was the actual process of changing your name difficult?

WF: That was tough going through the paperwork to get it done but the toughest part was to get people outside of the area where I was from to call me World. I never really left New York until college. People must have thought, "oh this guy's running around calling himself World, he must be an egomaniac." It wasn't like that. It was tough when I changed it, because people thought I was a Muslim. It was a street-given name.

S.C: Did any opposing announcers give you a hard time over using your new name?

WF: I remember being in Dallas, playing the Mavericks. Al Attles was our coach with the Golden State Warriors. He told the announcer "the man changed his name legally to World B. Free, it's not Lloyd anymore so we would like you to respect his wishes and call his new name." The announcer was like, "I'm not calling this guy World." After the national anthem, he called the starting five and says "Lloyd B. Free" and I didn't get off the bench. He said it again, "starting at guard, Lloyd B. Free." Al Attles comes over to the guy and says "look, I told you the guy legally changed his name!" The announcer still called me Lloyd. I was hot. So I went at them [the Mavericks] every time I saw them. By the third meeting with the Mavericks, this guy was calling it like "Woooooorld Beeeeeee Freeeee!!!"

S.C: Did you take a lot of heat from fans getting on your case about your name change?

WF: I took more heat from the players! Norm Nixon and those guys like to rib you because you're busting them up. You're out there on the court and they're like "okay Lloyd." Every time they did that, they had to realize it was 10 more points added onto my average.

S.C: Do you think the name change has helped you stay more recognizable over the years?

WF: Yes, I do. I believe it's one of those unique names that you're never really going to see again. Besides that, the god-given talent I received to be an exciting basketball player all helped to be who I am and what I am. If I had to do it all over again today, I'd do it the same way.

S.C: These days, there are a lot of athletes who seem to change their name just to do it. What are your thoughts on that?

WF: Put it this way... for myself, being a trendsetter, I say if you're really serious about it, go for it.


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