Lakers forward Ron Artest is going to legally change his name to Metta World Peace. This isn't a joke. He filed official change of name documents with Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday.
Seven years ago, the last person you would associate with peace was Artest. Now you'll have to.
The guy who incited the most notorious brawl in NBA history, when he went into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit in 2004, is making another effort to promote peace. Since joining the Lakers before the 2009-10 season, Artest has been on his "best" behavior. Over the last year, Artest has become a spokesperson for mental health awareness. He auctioned off his 2010 championship ring and donated the money to mental health charities.
It's a noble thing that Artest did - giving his championship ring away to raise money for a cause he believes in. He even thanked his psychiatrist during a post-game interview after winning the NBA Finals in 2010. He's trying to make kids, athletes and people know it's okay to reach out to a therapist or counselor for help.
Now he's taking it a step further. Metta World Peace. Think of all the Lakers jerseys that will be sold with "World Peace" on the back.
But the question remains - what is the point of changing your name to something that will produce more punchlines than solutions? Artest has always been a different cat, a bird of a different color. It's certainly not surprising he's the one doing something like this.
Perhaps it's Artest's, excuse me, Peace's way of being political. We all want world peace, but I guess not as much as Ron, err, Metta.
Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It worked out for both of them. Now Ronald William Artest, Jr. will become Metta World Peace in August, which is the first time he can get in front of a judge to make it official.
This isn't the first time an athlete has changed his name for "personal reasons," as Artest put on the name change document. Lloyd Bernard Free, who played in the NBA from 1975-1988, changed his first name to World, as in World B. Free. He must have been some sort of inspiration to Artest.
Of course, there was Chad Johnson becoming Chad Ochocinco in 2008 - a nickname the attention-hungry NFL receiver took a little too far. But it made headlines, which was all Ochocinco was looking for.
So is this a media ploy by Artest? Perhaps. An honest effort to raise awareness for peace? Maybe. Will it encourage others to change their name to something outrageous? Hopefully.
Maybe Mike Tyson will change his name to Cuddly Teddy Bear.