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The 5: Most difficult names to spell in Arizona sports history

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is here to remind you this week that a 6-year-old can spell words you don’t know better than you.

Doesn’t feel good, does it?

Well, how well would those young spellers do in a competition to spell some of the most difficult names in Arizona pro sports? (Psst. We’re not talking about David Johnson, Devin Booker or Paul Goldschmidt).

While the list of tough-to-spell names goes beyond five players, here are ones who fit the criteria based on, loosely, 1) how well known they were in the Valley and 2) whether both of their first and last names are hard to spell.

Dan Majerle

Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle yells on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)No, Dan is not a difficult name to spell, but Majerle’s fame in the Valley can’t be matched by any of the below players. When you’re that famous and people still can’t get your last name right, that means it’s just darn difficult to spell.

As a Suns All-Star, then as Phoenix assistant coach and now as GCU head coach, Majerle’s name transcends decades.

Just think, even 18-year-old Arizonans who don’t remember watching Thunder Dan play a live NBA game will screw up the spelling when they use a Yelp search to find the closest Majerle’s restaurant.

Nikolai Khabibulin

Phoenix Coyotes goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, shown in this April 22, 1998 file photo, eyeballs game action against the Detroit Red Wings. Khabibulin, who has a history of tormenting the Red Wings at playoff time, left Game 4 midway through the second period with an apparent injury. But that can be misleading. Teams in the NHL almost always fib about injuries. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Nikolai could very well be a common name in parts of Eastern Europe, but couple that with a last name that stops a speaker cold when trying to pronounce it, and it’s hard to beat the Russian goalie in terms of his name being difficult to spell.

By the way, Khabibulin was pretty good.

He was an All-Star his first year in Phoenix and spent the next two as the Coyotes’ starting goalie, tallying 19 of his 46 career shutouts in that span.

Iakovos ‘Jake’ Tsakalidis

There’s a reason people gave him the nickname “Big Jake.” The guess is English-speakers didn’t want to deal with spelling or pronouncing Iakovos. Anyhow, Tsakalidis was the 25th pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, and the Suns hoped he’d become a true dominating force in the paint at 7-foot-2 and 280-some pounds.

It’s not the best news that the top YouTube video of his time in the Valley is titled “C-Webb schools Tsakalidis,” but the center of Georgian origin and Greek descent did drop 19 points on Shaquille O’Neal once.

Zbynek Michalek

Arizona Coyotes bring Zbynek Michalek back to the desert

Michalek has three stints with the Coyotes in his lengthy NHL career. You probably require as many tries to get the full name of the Czechoslovakia defenseman right.

Also, while this following video isn’t about spelling his name, it is about the pronunciation.

And it’s sort of weird.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Arizona Diamondbacks' Jarrod Saltalamacchia (8) celebrates his home run against the San Diego Padres with David Peralta, left, during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)He wasn’t with the Diamondbacks a full season in 2015, but the veteran catcher sure did force a lot of typos during his time in the desert.

Saltalamacchia made things tough with a first name that’s not quite Jared and a last name that includes five As and 14 letters total.

Let’s just say we’re salty about it. Also, let’s just call him Salty.

Honorable mention: Yhency Brazoban (D-backs), Ilya Bryzgalov (Coyotes), Zarko Cabarkapa (Suns), Jakob Chychrun (Coyotes), Mike Gruttadauria (Cardinals), Maciej Lampe (Suns), Robert Nkemdiche (Cardinals), Scott Schoeneweis (D-backs), Alameda Ta’amu (Cardinals), Keith Tkachuk (Coyotes), Cezary Trybanski (Suns), Nikoloz Tskitishvili (Suns), Oleg Tverdovsky (Coyotes), Jake Voskuhl (Suns), Juha Ylonen (Coyotes)


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