What’s In A Name? Ron Artest Picks Up On World B. Free, Updates the Message.

Okay. Okay okay okay.  This is awesome.

When I was six, the Point Guard Formerly Known as Lloyd Bernard Free returned to my Philadelphia 76ers.  By then, of course, Free had legally changed his first name to World (having been so nicknamed as a youngster because of ultimate vertical skills), and I was introduced to a man named World B. Free.  A man. Named World. B. Free.  Could people really do that? We’re talking circa-Rocky IV, still-afraid-of-the-Russians, Red Dawn middle ’80s. After Scooby Doo and He-Man, World B. Free was the absolute coolest thing I could imagine. It was like me telling my kindergarten teacher, “yes, my name is Christopher, but you will call me Nemesis Enforcer.”   I should have.

Today I saw a headline that said Ron Artest wants to legally change his name.  First thought? Please, please, let it be to World B. Free II.  But the truth is even better.  When the ink dries, Artest shall henceforth be known as Metta World Peace.

I absolutely love this.  I also happen to think that “World Peace” is the perfect 2010’s analog to the “Free World” concepts of the 80s.  It’s not that I think we shouldn’t want our whole world to be free, but I suppose a truly peaceful world would also be a free one.  We’ve certainly seen that war has not necessarily wrought freedom abroad or even made it more secure at home these past 10 years. Am grateful that we haven’t been attacked here for a decade?  Absolutely.  Do the erosion of civil liberties and the overt wars we’re waging worry me?  Yes, of course they do.  But it just may be that freedom will finally come through peace and sustainability and not, as we have wagered, military force.  If the President is correct in saying yesterday that we have spent a trillion dollars on war since 2001, consider the kind of economic, educational, and nutritional justice an additional one trillion dollars given to the developing word could have done for stability, peace, and public relations.  I’m just saying.

Metta World Peace, welcome to the planet, crazy diamond.

I should also say this: if your birth name is actually Lloyd B. Free, and you’re called “World” as a kid because you can jump like you’re in zero gravity and you spin-dunk like planet, you’re pretty much going to make the legal change 9 times out of 10. You owe it to yourself and to the Lloyd.

Seriously, though.  Growing up I never knew that Free was World’s own given surname.  Given the context of American history and the importance of naming conventions, that’s a birthright legacy to begin with, and a so-much-more than poignant witness to the power of endurance, hope, and freedom.  May we have these things in abundance, and every kind of peace.

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