Ron Artest is one of the strangest basketball players in the history of the NBA. Frequently, strange doubles as a euphemism for off-putting, but the Lakers defensive specialist actually seems like a really nice guy, the occasional violent outburst aside. Phil Jackson had to discipline him at the beginning of the season after he repeatedly pretended to be tired in order to get his teammates more playing time. He also once sold his championship ring to raise money for inner-city schools and thanked his therapist publically for all the emotional help she’d given him. Artest’s heart is normally in the right place, sometimes it just beats at a different speed than the rest of the world’s.

The latest example of that altered rhythm showed itself this morning as Artest filed a motion in a Los Angeles court room to legally change his name to Metta World Peace. Derived from the Buddhist virtue meaning happiness, Metta might be a unique first name, but the idea of a utopian handle change is far from an original concept in professional basketball. NBA star Lloyd Bernard Free actually changed his to World B. Free in the early 1980s, and he’s happily stuck that alteration out for thirty years.

According to TMZ, a judge is expected to grant his request, though how long that ends up taking is far from certain. Also up in the air is whether the NBA will allow Artest to use “Peace” on the back of his jersey for the upcoming season. When NFL star Chad Johnson legally changed his last name to “Ochocinco”, the league ruled he had to wait a year in order to accommodate the jersey makers.

This whole thing might be a bit bizarre, but as long as Metta World Peace is willing to keep his elbows up when he rebounds, I doubt many Lakers fans will care.

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