Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, praised Jesus Christ in a recent interview despite the Buddhist origins of his name.
When a Los Angeles Times reporter inquired about teammates using his new name, World Peace decided to speak about Jesus Christ instead.
“I'm just happy that Jesus Christ did not let me lose my teeth when I was 20-years-old," he said. "Because I was wondering, like, what if you kept your baby teeth until the age of 18 or 20?"
The flamboyant player explained the reasoning behind his thought that had nothing to do with the initial question he was asked.
“I was just thinking about that, that’s pretty brilliant. He actually thought about people's image and persona and things like that,” World Peace said. “Not only did he build the world in seven days and seven nights, but he also said, 'OK. Let them lose their teeth early, rather than late.'
The forward admitted that his response about an admiration for Jesus Christ was unexpected. He told the reporter that it "has nothing to do with your question, but that was definitely on my mind."
In the past, World Peace was known less for his public declarations about Christ and more for his erratic behavior. As an Indiana Pacer, the forward punched a fan who had been heckling him after an altercation with the opposing Detroit Pistons’ center Ben Wallace in 2004.
Although he was once labeled one of the league’s top defenders, World Peace has also let his temper get the best of him. With a history of ejections and fouls, the player has been working more on his philanthropic efforts in recent years.
As a Los Angeles Laker, World Peace won his first NBA championship in 2010. He thanked his psychiatrist, auctioned off his championship ring and donated the money to mental health organizations.
When World Peace first announced that he would change his name, he was vocal about impacting others positively.
“Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world," World Peace said.
Although the athlete’s first name, “Metta” stems from the Buddhist word, “loving-kindness, which is practiced toward others,” he had no problem using the central figure of the Christian faith to aid in his goal.