Metta World Peace is going to have a new name in China.
Known in China as "Ci Shiping", a literal translation of "Metta World Peace", World Peace now plans to name himself after China's giant panda, a precious animal based in Southwest China's Sichuan province, where his new team is also based.
The new high-profile import,who is going to play for the Chinese basketball Association club Sichuan Blue Whales, is known as Ron Artest, but intends to change his name to "Panda Friend" in honor of his move to China, Changsha-based sports weekly newspaper Titan Sports reported.
Apparently excited by his China trip, the "Panda Friend" tweeted he would be visiting the pandas with his daughter, while also adding that he would be changing his name in honor of his move.
"New Chinese name coming soon. You guys are going to love it! " He posted on his Chinese twitter-like social media Sina Weibo.
The Sichuan Blue Whales also hinted the name change at their official Sina Weibo account, saying "in the new season, Ci Shiping, sorry, perhaps we should call him Panda Friend, will wait for you guys (fans) at our stadium."
The news of Artest's joining CBA was at the same time closely followed by Chinese web users as 8,960,000 entries for "Metta World Peace signs with CBA" were recorded on Baidu.com.
The news also went viral on China's social media as the topic "World Peace signs with CBA" got 25.75 million hits on Sina Weibo and an official account called "Metta_World_Peace", credited as "NBA star, serves for New York Nicks" by SinaWeibo, were followed by 967,204 followers.
As CBA's highest paid import player, the "Panda Friend" has signed a one-year deal with Sichuan Blue Whales worth $1.43 million, becoming the league's latest big names after Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady.