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Essay: Win or lose, let's discuss the name of the game, LaceDarius Dunn

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But the larger point is that in all races, children with unusual names are often penalized. "Teachers and other members of society, even if they are not thinking about it, use names as a way of judging a child's upbringing," Figlio says. And kids with nonstandard names do worse in school, he found, even in the same families.

* * *

To get the story on LaceDarius, I went straight to the source. Roena (Row-eena) Lee says she got part of her son's name from his father, Lacey, but doesn't know how she came up with the whole thing. Lee, who has an associate's degree in child care, manages a barbecue restaurant called Podnuh's in Monroe, a predominantly black city of about 50,000 in Northeast Louisiana. She also has a daughter named Roniquia (Roe-nee-quee-ah) and a son named DaVarious. Roniquia has an 8-year-old daughter, Corniquia; DaVarious, who will study engineering at Grambling in the fall, has a DaVarious Jr.

Lee loves her kids' names, loves that they're the only ones who have them, loves the attention she gets when she says them. "I get excited and everybody's like, 'Where you get that from?' " Across the telephone line, you can feel the smile lighting her face.

Lee says even her mother gave her a hard time over her son's name. "She said, 'Roena, you gonna name this boy LaceDarius?' And I said, 'Yeah, Mama. I can't sit up and think of no other name. That's what his name is going to be.' "

At birth, LaceDarius had a large head and big shoulders, and doctors were preparing to give Lee an emergency C-section when all of a sudden, "this boy just popped out," Lee says. "I said this boy is going to be something one day, and here he is." People stop her on the street to congratulate her on his success.

So what does LaceDarius think?

He says girls used to call him Shoelace and he usually has to repeat his name two or three times before people get it. " 'Is it Lace and Darius? Is it two names?' " they'll ask. Ask him if he likes his name and he chuckles. "I've had it for 23 years. I can't change it. I turned it into a popular name that people come to know through the things I do," he says. "I'm enjoying it."

The Baylor star hopes to play in the NBA and be a head coach. He has a 2-year-old son . . . and the question hangs in the air. Name?

Dillion, says Dunn.

You didn't want want a LaceDarius Jr.?

"No. Not really. No, ma'am," Dunn says, and his mother interrupts.


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