It’s the game of the names: From Metta World Peace to not Johan Santana to J.R. Sakuragi

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When the Lakers’ Ron Artest went another cup o’ crazy and filed paperwork recently to formally change his name to Metta World Peace - an L.A .Superior Court date has been set for Aug. 26 to consider the petition – he added his name (and new name) to a list of Southern California athletes who, for various reasons, decided to retool the backs of their jerseys.

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Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was asked if Artest’s new jersey would have “Peace” or “World Peace” on the backside.

“I’m an advocate of World Peace,” he said.

Some have pointed out that Artest’s decision came just as it was announced that his wife, Kimsha, had been added to the VHI’s “Basketball Wives: Los Angeles” reality show, which starts in late August. If there’s no NBA season, this could be the first place he debuts his new identity.

That’s just good marketing.

Not the only one who’s taking a piece of the action, Peace joins this list that has revamped his image from more than having to get new business cards, and how the public accepted it:

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Given name: Johan Ramon Santana
Changed name: Ervin Ramon Santana
The verdict: The Angels’ Dominican pitcher changed his name in 2003 while in the minor leagues to avoid being confused with the Johan Santana who was a rising Venezuela star pitcher for the Minnesota Twins at the time. He could have picked Carlos. But he didn’t. “I just came up with Ervin,” he said. “Ervin Santana, that sounds good.” Johan Santana was on the AL All-Star roster in 2005, ’06 and ’07. Ervin Santana made the squad in 2008. Johan was back as an NL All-Star with the New York Mets in 2009. The Angels’ recent series in New York saw neither Santana — the Angels’ missed his turn in the rotation, and the Mets’ continues to be on the DL. Someday, the two Johans shall meet.

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Given name: Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor
Changed name: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The verdict: After the UCLA All-American lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the 1970-71 NBA title in his second pro season, Lew Alcindor announced he was converting from Catholicism to Islam and legally changing his name to a phrase that translates to noble servant of God. He also married Janice Brown (who changed her name to Habiba). Abdul-Jabbar told a magazine that he considered the name change because in researching his heritage, he found that many Muslim slaves were brought to America, and his family came to the U.S. from Trinidad by a French planter named Alcindor. Unhappy in part with how the name went over in Milwaukee, he forced a traded to the Lakers in 1975, staying through 1989.

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Given name: Walter Raphael Hazzard Jr.
Changed name: Mahdi Abdul-Rahman
The verdict: In 1971, shortly after he was traded from Atlanta to Buffalo, the former Lakers (1964-’67) and UCLA star guard (1962-’64) converted to Islam and changed his name for the last three years of his NBA career. However, he wasn’t happy with how others received it. Thinking it cost him job opportunities, he returned to the name Walt Hazzard for professional purposes, while as coach at UCLA (1984-’88) and working as a scout and consultant for the Lakers.

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Given name: Jackson Keith Wilkes
Changed name: Jamaal Abdul-Lateef, later to Jamaal Wilkes
The verdict: The former UCLA basketball star (1970-’74) converted to Islam after entering the NBA in 1974 with the Golden State Warriors and legally changed his name. But he kept his surname through his personal and NBA career that included eight seasons with the Lakers (’77-’85) and his last with the Clippers (’85-’86)

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Given name: Sharmon Shah
Changed name: Karim Abdul-Jabbar, later to Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar
The verdict: The UCLA tailback led the team in rushing in 1994 as Shah. A year later, he set the school rushing record (1,571 yards) as Abdul-Jabbar, changing his name for Muslim religious reasons. Once he joined the Miami Dolphins in the NFL, some broadcasters mistakenly thought he was the son of the former UCLA and Lakers basketball star. In 1997, he was sued by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for using “Abdul-Jabbar” and wearing number 33 – even though names are not protected under U.S. copyright laws, and Karim said he had the number because his favorite player was Tony Dorsett. He altered his name to a second version, with just the name “Abdul” on his jersey as he retired with Indianapolis Colts after the 2000 season.

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Given name: Maurice Drew
Changed name: Maurice Jones-Drew
The verdict: The UCLA tailback led the team in rushing as a freshman and set a school single-game rushing record as a sophomore (322 yards, five TDs) as Maurice Drew. He altered his name after the second game of his junior season (2006, also his last before going pro) to honor the grandfather who helped raise him but died of a heart attack. It has carried over into his successful NFL career.

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Given name: Milton “J. R.” Henderson, Jr.
Changed name: J.R. Sakuragi
The verdict: The All-Pac-10 center for UCLA’s basketball team (1995-’99) spent one year in the NBA (Vancouver) before going overseas. He landed in Japan in 2001 and decided to become a Japanese citizen in 2007, which led to his name change (to speed up his naturalization process) and desire to play on the country’s national team. He picked a last name that translates to the Japanese cherry blossom tree.

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Meanwhile, here’s a jersey they won’t let you order on MLB.com, but you can manipulate one if you go back to the Dodgers’ ad campaign from a year ago.

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