"Jeff Pendergraph" has officially gone the way of Lew Alcindor, Chris Jackson, Brian Williams and Ron Artest.
Unlike some of his name-change predecessors mentioned above, Ayres' decision was motivated by his immediate family's history rather than religious, ancestral or inspirational purposes.
Hold on, because this back story gets a little complicated: the Express-News reports that the newly-christened Jeff Ayres was born Jeff Orcutt (his mother's maiden name) and that he didn't know who his biological father was until later in life. He then switched to Jeff Pendergraph while in elementary school when his mother married his stepfather, who is apparently no longer a part of Pendergraph's life. From there, Ayres decided to go through the process of taking his biological father's name after he and his wife had a daughter in June.
“I didn't know who my dad was until I was a senior in high school,” Jeff Ayres said Wednesday, during a break from pickup games as the Spurs' practice gym.
Ayres saw no need for [daughter] Naomi to carry a name he felt no connection to himself. He didn't want her to grow up with questions about the Pendergraphs. Not wanting to switch back to Orcutt, the soon-to-be-former Jeff Pendergraph and his wife contemplated starting from scratch with a completely new moniker. They joked about legally dubbing themselves “Mr. and Mrs. Awesome.”
“Then I thought, I bet my dad would love it if I took his name,” Ayres said. “As a son, that's kind of the idea. You're supposed to take your dad's name.”
Ayres, 26, was a second round pick in the 2009 draft out of Arizona State. He spent his rookie season with the Blazers before he was released in 2010 after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. He then spent two seasons with the Pacers before he signed a two-year, $3.6 million deal with the Spurs in July. A hustle player who specializes in hitting the glass, handing out fouls and getting his teammates hyped up before games, Ayres holds career averages of 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds.
The change removes one of the more unusual surnames from the league and cuts the number of characters in Pendergraph's last name from 11 to five. That's a minor footnote compared to the father/son and father/daughter bonds at work here, but this decision serves a practical purpose too. His name was so long that it required a steep semicircle arcing when stitched onto the back of his jersey. No more.