Metta World Peace on NBA jersey?

In case you missed it during the numerous “Who’s that guy?” moments of this week’s NBA draft, some important news broke.  It’s not the fact that the Knicks made yet another atrocious first-round draft pick (which is never shocking, nor breaking news).  No, it’s bigger than even that.

Ron Artest is legally changing his name and his name choice is stirring more debate than the “Ochocinco” announcement did in the NFL.

According to TMZ, Artest has filed the necessary paperwork in Los Angeles County Superior Court to change his name from Ronald William Artest Jr. to“Metta World Peace.”  (Note the “personal reasons” text on the court docs). Metta, in case you were wondering, refers to the Buddhist virtue of kindness.  No, I’m not making this up.

According to Lakers spokesman John Black, “My understanding is ‘Metta’ will be his first name and ‘World Peace’ will be his last.”  Say what you will about Ron-Ron, but he’s pretty shrewd when it comes to marketing on the back of one’s jersey.

But the best line of all comes from Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who stated, “I’m an advocate for world peace.” Well-played, Mitch – you truly are the antithesis of Brian Cashman.

We shouldn’t be surprised by any of this.  Artest is the same person who:

  • Claimed to witness a fellow player get fatally stabbed on the court with a table leg during a 1991 basketball tournament.  The story was indeed true.
  • As a Pacer in 2004, was suspended for the remainder of the season (86 games) for his part in a brawl with the Pistons that resulted in a near-riot in The Palace of Auburn Hills.
  • Suddenly appeared in the shower after the Lakers lost the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston and lobbied Kobe Bryant for a trade to Los Angeles.
  • Wore jersey number 37 in honor of the number of consecutive weeks that Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the #1 album on the Billboard charts.
  • Auctioned off his 2009-10 NBA championship ring and gave all the proceeds to mental health charities.

I’m marking down August 26th on my calendar so I can go hang out in front of the courthouse to see the man known as Ron Artest one final time − sure to be a historic moment.  And if I’m lucky enough, maybe I’ll even get to see Frank and Jamie McCourt back at their favorite meeting spot for the um-teenth time this year.

All kidding aside, at least Artest is a generous person and has clearly turned his life and career around.  In a league which features the likes of “The Decision,” he’s a breath of fresh air.  He is what he is.

This makes Chad Johnson/Ochocinco’s name change look pedestrian, doesn’t it?  And it gives Lloyd “World” B. Free’s name change a run for its money as the best in NBA history.

But knowing David Stern, don’t be surprised if he suddenly institutes a ban on players’ last names appearing on the backs of their jerseys.  That is, if there even is a season in 2011-12…

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

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