Let's give World Peace a chance
They could certainly use some peace in England right now and it appears they will soon be getting it. According to a number of reports, Metta World Peace is set to take his considerable talents to the Cheshire Jets of the British Basketball League (BBL). You don't know World Peace? No, probably not and your ignorance is understandable considering the spate of global conflicts. But trust me, World Peace does exist.
One year ago World Peace was an integral member of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship team. A small forward renowned for his smothering defence, this one-time troubled young man was also honoured this year as the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, which is handed out to the NBA player who has displayed 'outstanding service and dedication to the community'.
World Peace has been working tirelessly with troubled youngsters in and around Los Angeles, helping to encourage them to seek counselling just as he did in his battles against mental health issues. He even went so far as to publicly auction off his 2010 championship ring so he could donate the US$650,000 it fetched to the cause.
And since the man formerly known as Ron Artest has apparently found peace, he wants the rest of the world to find it as well, hence the name change. Artest has officially petitioned courts to register his new name and it should be official in two weeks. Metta, which means the Buddhist virtue of kindness, has a number of reasons for officially changing his name but primary among them is that it will appear on the back of his jersey and every time he touches the ball the announcers will have to say World Peace.
Forty-seven years ago boxer Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, but most sports writers failed to acknowledge it initially and continued to call him Clay. Ali said their refusal to call him by his new name was a racist issue and you know what, he was probably right. 'Cassius Clay was my slave name,' he said. Since we are blessed to be living in far more enlightened times, there is no need to wait a few more weeks to make this thing official. Ron Artest is no more, long live World Peace.
While a number of his NBA brethren are looking to play overseas since the league has officially locked them out, none are looking in the UK. New Jersey Nets star Deron Williams has signed to play for a club in Turkey, while Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is said to be considering an offer to play in China. The average NBA salary was US$5.4 million last season so money should not be a primary focus for these modern-day globetrotters and it certainly won't be the motivation for World Peace to play in England. 'I'm just trying to have fun,' he said. 'If I go overseas, I want to be able to have fun with the fans and with the people. That's why I'm interested in the UK, because I can really go there and make it a rap show. Just play ball, be crazy and entertain. I want to entertain.'
Throughout his career, World Peace has certainly entertained. He was the centrepiece of an infamous brawl that saw him charge into the crowd to fight some fans in Detroit and resulted in a one-year suspension. He also incurred the wrath of the league over of a number flagrant fouls.
Despite his obvious talent, the Lakers are World Peace's fifth team in the past 10 years and a few of his previous employers expressed concern about his off-court interests detracting from his play, most notably all the time spent with his hip-hop record company. He has also admitted he led a wild lifestyle during his younger playing days, including regularly drinking cognac during half-time of games, and was arrested four years ago for domestic abuse. So if this guy is truly reformed and looking to spread peace, more power to him.
Where he will be spreading that peace in the immediate future it appears is in the northeast of England as a member of the Cheshire Jets, who play their home games in Northgate Arena, which has a seating capacity of 1,300. I am not sure how he will fare against opponents like the Worcester Wolves and the Guildford Heat, but even World Peace admits the BBL is not very good. Still it beats his original plan, which was to play in that hoops hotbed of Finland. Of course, Finland is a pretty peaceful place so it would seem that World Peace is much more needed in England.
Wherever he lands, one thing is certain; the man will entertain. He is never boring and it seems far too easy to dismiss this guy's antics as an unpredictably eccentric character who craves attention. There might be a bit of truth to that, but I don't see it and that's why I pledge to respect and honour Metta and his new name because as far as I'm concerned, World Peace is no laughing matter.