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Ron Artest's name change delayed

Lakers forward Ron Artest is slowed by his outstanding traffic warrants, but he'll get another chance to become Metta World Peace at his Sept. 16 court date.

August 26, 2011|By Broderick Turner
  • Lakers forward Ron Artest takes the court before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center last spring.
Lakers forward Ron Artest takes the court before a game against the San Antonio… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Ron Artest's well-publicized plan to change his name ran into the legal equivalent of a red light Friday.

His petition to legally change his name from Ronald William Artest Jr. to Metta World Peace was delayed by a Los Angeles court commissioner because of some outstanding traffic warrants.

The Lakers forward wasn't in court Friday. But Artest gets another opportunity to swap names at a Sept. 16 court date — provided he takes care of his tickets.

Artest's publicist, Courtney Barnes, said his client has "two moving violations … they will be paid so that his name can be changed."

Despite the snag, Artest joins a long tradition of athletes who weren't completely happy with their given names.

Here are some of the most memorable name changes:

— Chad Ochocinco (from Chad Johnson)

The flamboyant wide receiver changed his name in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month in August 2008, and in a nod to his 85 jersey number. (Although "85" in Spanish is ochenta y cinco).

In January, though, Ochocinco seemed to have a change of heart, saying he'd changed his last name back to Johnson. But the receiver, traded from the Bengals to the Patriots, is still listed as Chad Ochocinco on New England's roster.

— World B. Free (from Lloyd B. Free)

Free, one of the NBA's most talented ball hogs in the 1970s and '80s, was said to have a 44-inch vertical leap and wasn't short of confidence. He was also called "All-World," though Free only made one NBA All-Star team.

He officially changed his name to World B. Free in 1980 while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

— Ervin Santana (from Johan Santana)

He was in the minor leagues in the Angels' system in 2003 when he noted that another pitcher, southpaw Johan Santana, was establishing himself in the big leagues with Minnesota.

So the right-hander changed his first name, saying, "I just came up with Ervin."

Sugar Ray Robinson (from Walker Smith Jr.)

Smith borrowed an Amateur Athletic Union boxing card from his friend, Ray Robinson, while learning to box in New York. But he was so graceful and fluid in the ring that people quickly added "Sugar" to his name.

Robinson went on to win the welterweight and middleweight titles. Ring Magazine called him the best fighter "pound-for-pound" in history.

— Jersey Joe Walcott (from Arnold Cream)

Cream, the child of immigrants from Barbados, admired the early 20th century welterweight champ Joe Walcott, known as "the Barbados Demon."

Cream grew up in New Jersey and came up with a hybrid name. He turned pro at 16 and in 1951, at the age of 37, won the heavyweight title by knocking out Ezzard Charles.

— He Hate Me (from Rod Smart)

Smart was a running back trying to get himself noticed when he played in Las Vegas for Vince McMahon's fledgling XFL football league. McMahon wanted flamboyance, so Smart put "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey.

He made it to the NFL and played for Philadelphia and Charlotte. But once there he played it smart and used his real name.

— Hulk Hogan (from Terry Bollea)

He was new to pro wrestling and promoters kept trying out different names on him, including "Super Destroyer," "Terry Boulder," and "Sterling Golden." One day he was on a talk show with Lou Ferrigno, the bodybuilder-turned-actor ("The Incredible Hulk"). Other wrestlers, Hogan recalled, noticed he was bigger than the TV star and started calling him Terry "The Hulk" Boulder.

The WWF, though, liked wrestlers with ethnic sounding names and thought "Hulk Hogan" would make him sound Irish American.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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