Sat, Dec 31, 2011 - Page 19 News List

NBA: Los Angeles, NBA warm to notion of World Peace

NY Times News Service, EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Metta World Peace looks on during their preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles on Dec. 19.

Photo: Reuters

World Peace is possible. Just check the box score.

World Peace is there, between Blake and Murphy. On many nights, World Peace can be heard echoing across South Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles.

In this holiday season, World Peace is in the air, but only when he jumps.

The locals are still getting used to the phenomenon.

In September, Ron Artest — the Lakers’ burly, quirky, unfailingly unpredictable forward — legally changed his name to Metta World Peace. The first name is a Buddhist term meaning “loving kindness.” The last name is self-explanatory. The intent is noble — the jokes and puns irresistible.

“Give World Peace a chance,” read a Los Angeles Times headline on Sept. 24, a week after the name change was stamped as official by the county court commissioner.

The name also leads to unfortunate assertions, such as a recent story claiming that “World Peace certainly wasn’t winning over many fans” in the preseason.

They seem to have come around, gleefully chanting “We want World Peace,” during a game at Staples Center earlier this week.

This is, more or less, what Artest intended when he made the change: To make the public, unwittingly or consciously, seriously or in jest, consider the concept.

“If you look at a young kid and you tell them, would they love world peace? They would definitely tell you yeah,” he said on Thursday after the Lakers’ shootaround. “But as we get older, we change and we adjust to our environment, and we don’t think about little things anymore. But kids love, they love other kids. They love world peace.”

Kids might also love World Peace, although so far he has not seen many wearing the new jersey yet.

(For the record, World Peace will cost you US$49.99 at the NBA’s online store.)

In a statement released in September, World Peace said: “Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world.”

It probably sounded curious, coming from a tough, notoriously hard-nosed enforcer, but the World Peace of today is not the Ron Artest who ignited an infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers in 2004. He worries Laker fans with his shot selection, but rarely with his behavior.

Last spring, Artest was ejected (and later suspended) for striking Dallas’ J.J. Barea in the face with a forearm. However, he has generally steered clear of fights, flagrant fouls, technical fouls and controversy for the past several years. On more than one occasion, he has even played peacemaker.

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