Published June 24, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- Unconventional Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest is looking to change his name to "Metta World Peace," the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Heidi Buech, Artest's former publicist, confirmed the star filed papers in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing "personal reasons" as motivation for the change.
Artest informed the Lakers of his plans but has yet to file paperwork with the NBA to apply for a name change on the back of his jersey, according to Lakers spokesman John Black.
"My understanding is 'Metta' will be his first name and 'World Peace' will be his last," Black said.
"Metta is an early Buddhist word, with various definitions along the lines of kindness or goodwill," he added.
When asked what should replace Artest on the back of the star's jersey, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak deadpanned, "I'm an advocate of world peace."
Kupchak said the news "brought a smile to my face" when questioned by reporters at the NBA Draft. But asked if he was surprised at the news, he grinned and said, "No."
The GM said he understood the drive to change an identity. "Early on I wanted to change my name," he said. "When I was in elementary school and junior high there weren't too many Kupchaks around ... But I'm happy with it now."
After long being perceived as something of a troublemaker, Artest has made very public efforts to turn his life around in recent years.
He raised about $600,000 for mental health organizations when he raffled off his 2010 Lakers championship ring last December, and two months ago received the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for service to the community.
Court records showed Artest, 31, was due back in court for a hearing on his application on Aug. 26.