Growing up with a last name that is famous – and at times infamous – can be tough for any celebrity’s son. But that became even more complicated for Jeron Artest when he was just nine years old.
Back then he was living with his mother and was involved in his own basketball games and especially his schooling – today he’s a student with a 4.3 grade point average and scored 1,450 on his SAT test — and didn’t follow all the exploits of his dad, Ron Artest, the NBA All Star, known for his outspoken and sometimes eccentric ways, his hard-nosed defense on the court, his good deeds off of it and one of the most remembered – and punished – altercations in the history of the NBA.
“During that time I was living in L.A. and would visit my dad sometimes, but I just got random news on him,” Jeron said.
“Then I get to school one day and one of my friends says, ‘Hey, did you know your dad changed your name to World Peace?’”
He started to laugh as he remembered the conversation: “I was like, ‘What do you mean?’
“And he said, ‘Your dad just changed his name to Metta World Peace.’
“I was just really confused for a while. Then I realized that’s his thing, it’s not mine.”
Jeron’s has been able to draw on certain things from both his parents. While he said his athletic talents come from his dad, he said his mom, Jennifer Palma, has blessed him with his intelligence. And with all of it he said he’s worked to be his own person.
As his delightful personality and wide range of interests show, he’s done a good job of it.
Along with is honors classwork, Jeron, now 17, creates apps and programs, is into robotics, has an interest in film and making music and regularly plays the stock market.
Talking to an Arizona reporter recently, his dad called him “The CEO” and also noted he’s an ever-blossoming basketball talent.
And that’s what got Jeron to Trent Arena this past weekend for the Flyin’ to the Hoop Tournament.
A 6-foot-3 junior guard, he’s playing in his first season with Bella Prep Academy out of Scottsdale, Arizona, after spending a season at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix and starting out at Beverly Hills High School in California.
Growing up with hoops
Jeron’s Facebook page features a photo of the NBA ring his dad won with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010 – and later auctioned off with all proceeds going to charities that promote mental health.
That’s one of his prime interests and those efforts along with his promotion of PETA won him the NBA’s 2011 J.Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to a player or coach for outstanding service and dedication to the community.
Jeron said his parents met at St. John’s University. They never wed.
Ron married another woman, from whom he’s now divorced, and they had three children, including Ron III, who teamed with Jeron last year at Hillcrest and now plays at Cal State Northridge.
Jeron spent his elementary school years in New York City, the moved with his mom to Southern California.
His parents had a volatile relationship over the years, with his mom once filing a lawsuit for more financial support for Jeron and his dad pressing legally to gain custody of his son.
“My mom and dad are a lot alike in some ways,” Jeron said. “They’re both very stubborn. That’s why they didn’t always get along.“
He said he admires both his parents for the perseverance they’ve shown no matter what the situation:
“My dad has shown he can get through all kinds of stuff, all the hate, everything.”
A first round pick out of St. John’s, Ron Artest played 17 seasons — in 1,076 games with six teams – in the NBA. He also played briefly in China and Italy.
He was voted the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, hit a late-game three pointer that sealed the NBA crown for the Lakers in 2010 and was once labelled a menace for his part in the Malice in The Palace incident when his Indiana Pacers played Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills early in the 2004-05 season.
A scrap started. A fan threw a soda on Artest and he went into the stands and had an altercation there and one on the court with another fan. Several players were involved, but he was suspended for the rest of the season and for the playoffs. It remains the NBA’s longest suspension for an on-court incident.
While it was a stain on his resume, it didn’t define Artest as the Citizenship Award proved.
During the latter half of his dad’s career, Jeron said he would sometimes go to games.
“I even had my own little Artest jersey,” he said with a smile.
His dad retired from basketball two seasons ago, but has remained in the public eye. He’s been involved with reality shows like Dancing With The Stars and Big Brother, starred on Comedy Central with Key and Peele, published his own rap album or created his on reality show, “They Call Me Crazy.”
Jeron laughed and said: “With me, all that stuff is like an inside joke. I see the other sides, too.”
Saturday evening, Bella Prep coach Kyle Weaver called Jeron off the bench late in the game against Huntington Prep and hoped he would channel his dad.
With Huntington guard AJ Hoggard – who has offers from UConn, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Temple and Wake Forest – driving through the Bella Prep defense for score after sore, Weaver inserted Jeron into the game with hopes of slowing him down.
Jeron relished the challenge:
“I find it pretty glorious when you can make a defensive play that just turns a whole game.”
It was a difficult task against Hoggard, but he managed to force him into a couple of misses and a turnover. But he also saw the gritty 6-foot-4 guard drive past him a couple times and score.
With 33 seconds left, he fouled Hoggard, who made both free throws to put Huntington into the lead for good in what ended up a 72-67 victory.
“If I could have shut him down on that play maybe the game would have turned out different and it would have been glorious,” Jeron said quietly.
He was reminded there will be plenty more games – after another year of high school comes college, where he said he now has offers from Wyoming and St. John’s – and along the way he can show the same perseverance he sees in his folks.
Asked about what’s ahead, he thought a moment, then said:
“Well, I’d like to make it to the league (NBA) and be successful in business, but mostly I’d just like to be a better person than I am now. I’d like to do something for other people.”
Like world peace?
He smiled and shook his head
As he said before, “That’s my dad’s thing, not mine.”
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