SLAM: Everyday we’re engulfed in speculation and rumors of players going overseas. There are rumors of you playing abroad, in England, France, Finland etc… But your agent has come out and disputed those reports. So what’s the deal? You off to Europe?
RA: Europe is definitely a real option, and it seems more likely every day. As far as where I’m gonna play, that’s still open but I have an idea. I’d play anywhere with the best offer so I gotta look at all my options. So far I’m looking at France, Spain, Finland, Greece, and the UK. But it has to match up. If the offer matches up, I’m there. ‘Cause like, you know, the movies and all that stuff. So if it doesn’t match up, I’m not going, but if it does, I’m out.
SLAM: No doubt. Any favorites?
RA: Right now, France, Italy and Greece all are options, but I’m leaning towards the UK. It seems like the offer would match up with my other stuff and that would be dope.
SLAM: Do you think big-name superstars like Deron Williams will actually pull through and go abroad?
RA: I think so. I think some guys definitely will, Deron Williams probably will. It’s a great opportunity to play overseas; it’s not just to make money, it’s more than that. It’s a huge chance to gain more fans, gain more experience, and just live life.
SLAM: As I’m sure you know, lately everyone’s been talking about your name change. What’s up with that? How did this whole thing come about? What do people address you as?
RA: You know everyone calls me different things. Right now, most people are calling me World Peace. Not too many people are calling me “Metta,” right now, but that could catch on.
In New York it’s different, you know. People know me in New York, so they’re gonna call me Ron anyway or Tru Warrior. But most other people are calling me World Peace, and it’s cool to just have that message spread. People used to always say “I hate Ron Artest,” but they can’t really say, “I hate World Peace.” I just wanted to promote good things and bring attention to all the hostility around the world.
SLAM: What about when people call you Ron, is that an issue?
RA: Of course not, that’s all good. That’s my name, you know. That’s my AKA, Ron Artest.
SLAM: I spoke with you back in May, and you were looking forward to all the grassroots streetball tournaments over the summer. Dyckman, Tri-State, Drew League, Gershwin, and others. How’s all that stuff going? Enjoying these summer leagues?
RA: It’s a lot fun. I think Tri-States a great tournament, I love the court over there because it’s real streetball, and it’s gravel. I like the Gershwin Tournament in Brooklyn, because you know Brooklyn is hardcore, it’s the real streets. So I love that. I love the Watson games in the Bronx, love the intensity of Dyckman, and the Drew League was a great experience.
SLAM: Which tournament has been your favorite so far?
RA: I mean I love all of them in New York, no matter what borough it’s in. And when I went to California to play in the Drew League that was sick. I was playing with JR Smith and Steve Blake, and there was so much talent over there. The games were crazy.
SLAM: It’s admirable that you still go back to your neighborhood and play in these tournaments and continue reppin’ when you’ve already made it…
RA: I’m from New York City, man. Those streets made me who I am. So without them it’s like I’m empty.
SLAM: Amen. Let’s talk about some of the other things you’ve been doing. What’s good with this acting career? There’s rumors of you doing Dancing with the Stars, and you have movie plans underway…
RA: [Laughs] Yeah I got a lot going on right now. Dancing with the Stars is something I’ve always wanted to do, so we’re going to call them and see what’s up. As far as movies, I never thought I could do it but people kept calling me and saying, “Can you do the movie? Can you do the sitcom?” And I just said, “Yeah, why not? Let’s make this move.” It’s still in the works, but it’ll be really fun.
SLAM: You also just began the “Ron Artest Ultimate Comedy Tour.” You’ve done two shows in L.A. and one in New York. How’s the standup world? Are you that funny?
RA: [Laughs] I’m funny, but I don’t know if I’m funny enough to have my own set. At first I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, cause you know I’m not a comedian. I don’t look at myself as a comedian. So I just said, “Why not? This could be fun.” I’m going to have fun and just be myself.
SLAM: No doubt, I’m looking forward to hearing a few jokes. In terms of your public perception and media presence, things have taken a 180-degree turn. After the brawl in Detroit, you were suspended 86 games and labeled a villain and a menace to society. Now, you’ve just received the NBA’s Citizenship Award. How does it feel to go from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in terms of public perception?
RA: Definitely. It’s cool going from the lowest as far as image to the highest point. Winning the Citizenship Award, you know it’s crazy how everything just flipped. That’s like the number one award you can get. But I worked real hard to get back here. People know everything about Ron Artest—they know when I’m happy, sad, angry, enjoying myself, and everything else. The media knows everything about Ron Artest, so for them to portray me in a positive light is awesome, given where I’ve come from.
SLAM: Back to basketball. How are you feeling about the situation in L.A.? From the outside, it seemed like an emotional season
RA: Yeah man, it was a good year. We just didn’t close out how we wanted to.
SLAM: I hear that. What’re your thoughts on the coaching change? How do you anticipate the transition from Phil Jackson to Mike Brown will go?
RA: It’s going to be an interesting transition, but I think we’ll be fine. Mike is a great coach, he was an assistant in Indiana, and he’s a real smart guy.
SLAM: It’s going to be weird not playing in the triangle though, right? I mean maybe more so for Kobe and Fisher and those guys, but it’ll be a change for you nonetheles.
RA: Yeah the whole offense is going to change. We still have the same pieces, just a different way of using them. You know me, I don’t care what system we’re in, I just want to win.
SLAM: True. On the subject of coaches, who’s the best coach you’ve had in the NBA?
RA: Um, that’s tough. I gotta say Rick Adelman or Phil Jackson. All my coaches have been great and I’ve learned a lot from all of them, but those two really impacted my game.
SLAM: Word. Alright, so are you still the best perimeter defender in the League?
RA: [Laughs] Man, I don’t know. I’m definitely up there though.
SLAM: I still say it’s either you or LeBron…
RA: Yeah, you’re probably right. LeBron is a monster, he’s really tough. Man, that kid is tough.
SLAM: Thanks for the interview, Ron. Before we let you go, do you have anything you want to say to all your fans?
RA: Yeah definitely. Thank you to all of my fans, and please holler at me at RonArtest.com. You know I got a lot going on, so definitely holler. Look out for my artist Taz Zavala. She’s my artist, I signed her, so she’s dope, so check out all we’re doing over there. Have a good rest of the summer, and hopefully we’ll be back on the court soon.