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Original Issue

Identity Crisis

When athletes share the same name, bad things can happen to good people

LAST WEEK former NBA star Eddie Johnson, 51, was arrested for sexual assault. The news rankled another former NBA star--also named Eddie Johnson, 47, who now works in the Phoenix Suns community-relations office. Several media outlets erroneously named the Suns' Johnson (above) as the one arrested. "The thing that disappointed me the most is some people were overzealous enough to think it was me and attack me with a ferocity I can't comprehend," said Johnson. "That's the part that didn't allow me to sleep last night."

Johnson isn't the first to find that sharing a name can be confusing.

• When Duke's Jason Williams (left) entered the NBA in 2002, there were already two guys with that name on the league radar: Jason, a point guard (now with the Heat) who had failed two drug tests and been kicked off the team at Florida; and Jayson, a former Net who was charged with manslaughter for shooting his chauffeur. The youngster's agent suggested he change his name to avoid confusion, and Williams went along with the idea. So for the rest of his NBA career, he was known as Jay.

• Before the 1994 season the Braves released catcher Greg Olson and then signed reliever Gregg Olson. It was fitting they shared teammates, because they shared plenty of other things. "I've gotten six of his baseball cards to sign and one of his 1099 forms," said Gregg.

• In the Brewers' 1989 media guide, stats for then minor league pitcher Kevin Brown seemed inflated: a 19--27 record in 427 innings. The team had accidentally combined numbers for three Kevin Browns then pitching in the minors. Another Brown (left), this one a Ranger, wasn't surprised. "One of the other Kevin Browns was hit in the face once, and I got all sorts of sympathy calls." That Brown's given name was actually James, but he went by his middle name for obvious reasons. "In college a professor would call on me as James Brown, and I would yelp--Owww!--as if I was the Godfather of Soul."

• Former LSU player John Williams was drafted by the Bullets in 1986, the same year John (Hot Rod) Williams, who had been implicated in a point-shaving scandal at Tulane, entered the league. The good news: Williams (right) was given a nickname of his own so he wouldn't be confused with the accused cheater. The bad news: The nickname was Hot Plate, in honor of his 6'8", 320-pound frame.

• In 1985 the Giants traded Jack Clark to the Cards for a package that included a player to be renamed later. San Francisco acquired shortstop Jose Gonzalez, who promptly declared that there were too many Gonzalezes (including a Jose Gonzalez with the Dodgers) and he would go by Jose Uribe.