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Saturday, June 25, 2011
Ron Artest plays name game

By Viv Bernstein

With the U.S. military still knee-deep in Afghanistan, ongoing hostilities in Libya and drone strikes in Pakistan, it's clear there will be no world peace at any time in the near future. But thankfully for us all, there will be World Peace in our time.

That's Metta World Peace, to be precise. Ron Artest, the NBA player who once was suspended for 73 games (plus playoffs) for attacking a fan in the stands in Detroit in 2004, an incident that set off a massive brawl, has petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court to change his name to Metta World Peace. That would be like Michael Jordan suddenly calling himself Championship Owner.

Apparently, it's not about being real. It's about being on reality TV.

And Artest, er, World Peace, is on the cusp of that reality. According to hollywoodreporter.com, his wife, Kimsha, has been cast in the new VH-1 reality show, "Basketball Wives: Los Angeles." (No word yet if she'll take the same last name).

Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, Artest also is hawking his own reality show, called "Last Second Shot," in which he talks to prisoners and parolees about changing their lives. What better way to draw attention, and market the shows, than with an over-the-top name change?

Hey, it works. Ask Chad Ochocinco. Or do you really think a wide receiver from Cincinnati named Chad Johnson would have gotten a shot on "Dancing with the Stars?''

Artest joins a long list of athletes who have changed their names over the years, from the serious (Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali) to the absurd (Rod Smart to "He Hate Me," although that was only his name on his XFL jersey). And then there's former NBA guard Lloyd B. Free, who changed his first name to "World." At least that one wasn't out of the blue: Free was nicknamed "World" because of his all-world game when he played street ball as a kid.

Where Artest came up with Metta World Peace remains a mystery, although the "Metta" supposedly is Sanskrit and means "benevolence toward all beings." And to be fair, after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in 2007, Artest has tried to change. In April, he received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the Professional Basketball Writers Association for his work on behalf of mental health, speaking to high school students and raising money for charities.

So far, he has yet to fully explain the name change. But it's already drawing guffaws from his own team. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, when asked what name would be on the back of Artest's new jersey next season, told the Associated Press, "I'm an advocate for world peace.''