World Peace focuses on inspirational goals
MIAMI — When your name is World Peace, you do not wait in line.
The former Ron Artest found that out last fall when he had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Los Angeles area to have his driver's license changed to his new name of Metta World Peace.
"They treat us pretty good," the Lakers forward said. "They let us in front of the line."
As Artest, he was infamously known as the instigator of the Malice at the Palace brawl during a November 2004 game between the Detroit Pistons and his then team, the Indiana Pacers. But now that's he's World Peace, all is so much more tranquil.
OK, a ref did have to for the first time declare, "World Peace, technical foul," in a game last Saturday between the Lakers and the Clippers. But even World Peace can sometimes still be shaky.
But World Peace is trying. In an interview with FOX Sports Florida before Thursday's 98-87 loss to the Miami Heat, he talked about life with his new name.
"With all that's going on around the world, I thought it was necessary," said World Peace, 32, who will next be spreading his message Friday at Orlando. "So now it's like there's a lot of people and stuff thanking me."
The name change became official Sept. 19, and there are fewer remnants each day of his old name. His coach, Mike Brown, makes sure to call him Metta even if some teammates still refer to him as Ron.
His jersey reads on the back for all to see, "World Peace." In the official NBA Register, he's been moved from near the front to way back, in between Terrence Williams and Antoine Wright.
"I'm in the back," said World Peace, referring not to where he is in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles but where he now is alphabetically. "It's different. I'm used to my name being called first because of the last name. But now it's like dead last. It's different."
World Peace, though, stresses he's a much improved individual since he was suspended for the final 73 regular-season games and for the playoffs in 2004-05 due to his role in the brawl. That wasn't a very peaceful act.
"It's not about what people saw," said World Peace, averaging 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds as a Lakers reserve. "It's about who you are. That's all that matters. Whatever you've done in your past, that's who you are, good or bad. You should never shy away from anything …. You can improve. You shouldn't run from yourself. You should always try to improve yourself."
While the name change from Artest has been the butt of jokes to some, World Peace insists he's serious. His first name is a Buddhist term that means loving kindness and friendliness toward others.
"I thought it was kind of cool," World Peace said of changing his name. "I like to have fun a lot. I like to entertain a lot, but if I'm not inspirational, it doesn't mean anything to me. If I can be Ron Artest to have fun and then at the same time be inspirational, that makes more sense. But if I'm just being entertaining and do everything for myself, that doesn't really make sense to me. So, with this, I was able to get back in the media but it wasn't as selfish as it could have been."
World Peace is eager to really live up to his name when the NBA season ends. He plans to visit countries in the Middle East, where there peace can be a rarity, as well as other places to offer his message.
"I got stuff planned to go to the Middle East and different countries, especially a lot of countries where there's a lot of war at," World Peace said. "My goal is to get in Afghanistan and just work with the kids. Hopefully, one day I can get there and just work with the kids and be kind of a mentor.
"People just want to hear why I did what I did. I'll give a lot of speeches, a lot of spiritual speeches …. I'm going to a lot of different gatherings, like meditation centers and things like that. I'm going to go to India. There's an equality rights group out there. I'm going to go to Geneva (Switzerland) to focus on people that are dealing with other countries, not necessarily Geneva. I'm doing some stuff in Greece also about some equality rights stuff."
As for kids who are basketball fans, he doesn't mind if some still call him by his old name. But he hopes a new generation of fans will know him as World Peace.
As for his teammates, World Peace says it's fine however they address him. Forward Luke Walton says he tries to call him Metta but invariably there are slipups.
"He's been good about it," Walton said. "He doesn't beat us up."
That wouldn't be a very good tactic for World Peace. As for an occasional technical, one believes World Peace can overcome that.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson