There is a battle going on for the heart and mind of Ronald William Artest, Jr. and unfortunately, not even one of the league’s premier defenders over the past 12 years can stop Metta World Peace. Ron Artest, the Hennessy-drinking, fan-punching, former world champion, professional basketball player of yore, is being buried under a pile of shameless and egregious self-promotion so high, we may never see Ron Ron again.
Move over Dr. Jekyll. You too Mr. Hyde. Fight Club’s got nothing on this brand new script out of Hollywood. It’s a drama, and a comedy. It’s Ron Artest versus Metta World Peace, and make no mistake, World Peace kills Artest in this film.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Los Angeles Laker forward, Ron Artest has filed a petition to have his name legally changed to Metta World Peace. Why? I can’t answer that. Let’s go to the source.
“I changed my name because I got tired of Ron Artest, he’s a (expletive). And when fans get mad at me, they can’t say, ‘I hate World Peace.’”
Hmm. Seems like a joke. Well, maybe this is about religion, like when Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
“World Peace is going on the back of my jersey, so Metta is my first name. It’s Buddhist, but I’m Baptist.”
Huh. That’s not it either. The request to change his name does come on the heels of Ron auctioning off his ’09-’10 Championship ring for mental health awareness, and accepting the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for shedding light on mental health issues, so perhaps there is an altruistic reason embedded somewhere in this ostensibly odd choice. The only problem is, every news story and conversation about Artest’s name change has had nothing to do with any underlying reason he could possibly proffer for the switch, and everything to do with the latest in a line of wacky moves by the wacky Ron Artest. The only psychiatric issue he’s highlighting with this stunt is his own. His irrational and selfish need for attention belies his stance on mental health.
This is two identities wrestling over one body. Only one can be famous, and Metta World Peace is out for blood. When the name change is official, Metta takes over, and Ron is no more. The kid from Queens erased for good. The murder scene, though, will have to wait. Last week, a Los Angeles court commissioner delayed ruling until Artest takes care of his outstanding traffic tickets. A stay of execution for Ron, even if he got it by not being responsible.
Any hope that Artest could fight back, and pull out a miraculous victory against his arch nemesis was crushed last night, with Metta World Peace leveling a fatal blow. Despite denying rumors on multiple occasions, to multiple media outlets, Ron was announced as a cast member on the upcoming season of ABC’s reality-competition series, Dancing with the Stars, alongside other luminaries such as Nancy Grace, David Arquette and Ricki Lake (and those are the big names). The LA Times is now reporting the Laker star plans on donating the money earned from the show to cancer research. Certainly a noble cause, but Artest donating a scant few dollars from Dancing with the Stars (especially in comparison to his career earnings) does not hide the true reason he’s on the show – to build the celebrity of Metta World Peace. LeBron James tried the same move – giving away the money made from ESPN on his ghastly “Decision,” as though the Boys and Girls Club of Connecticut had anything to do with that TV special.
So, put Metta’s dance shoes alongside his perpetually, newly dropped rap albums, his incessant promotion of the other “artists” on his “label,” his stand-up tour dates, his new reality show, his appearances on every LA-based talk show, and the movie he’s finishing in Great Britain, and you’re forced to ask the question: What’s this guy’s job again?
Legally, you’re not allowed to like Metta World Peace and hate Chad Ochocinco. It is against the law. They’re the same guy, putting on the same sideshow for all to see. Ocho has a new touchdown dance for every trip to the endzone, while Metta flexes on court and gets tossed out of Playoff games. Each desires cable television infamy, and soon both will have danced for the “coveted” Dancing with the Stars Mirror Ball Trophy, and both will have changed their name. What’s more damning is each has auctioned off the last few years of their once proud sporting careers, hoping to parlay it into some sort of post-athletic notoriety. Somebody should tell these guys they’re in danger of being remembered only as the wacky athlete. Then remind them, once the athletics are gone, the wackiness is no longer special, and certainly not unique. Ask Dennis Rodman, who’s eccentricity used to be Sports Illustrated cover story news, and is now, longer of interest to the American public.
Ultimately, Ron Metta World Artest Peace can do what he wants with his life outside of basketball. He’s a grown man, and individual, who’s worked hard for the opportunities he has in front of him. But Ron Artest is also a part of a team, and the “look at me” attitude that’s pervasive in his free time, must be left outside the gym. Laker fans cannot kid themselves. After a disappointing ’10-’11 season, the entire team is aging gracefully, if not quickly. This team grew complacent, their bellies full after back-to-back titles. Their three-peat ran out of gas, and to regain their championship form will require a unity, dedication, and a shared, singular focus. But while Kobe’s adding Dirk Nowitzki’s post moves to his repertoire, and Bynum’s tirelessly working out with elite boxing trainers, and Gasol’s rejuvenating his fire with the Spanish National Team, and Fisher’s fighting for the league itself, Artest is busy choosing a new number to put on his jersey (the 7th in his career), and the name that goes above it. You know, when he’s not dancing on television.
Metta World Peace will be alive soon. He will vanquish his foe and walk this Earth, hungry for the spotlight on him, and him alone. Turns out it wasn’t much of a battle after all.
I just hope Ron Artest is somewhere lurking in the shadows.