WESTWOOD -- Metta World Peace shook hands and introduced himself, then took an open seat in a circle of patients in the psychiatric ward at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at UCLA.
He is just as comfortable there as he is in the Lakers' huddle.
Here, they don't call him crazy or Ron Artest. They call him healer.
World Peace was just presented with the prestigious Ci Care Award, an honor for someone who fulfills the hospital's vision of "healing humankind, one patient at a time, by improving health, alleviating suffering and delivering acts of kindness." It's an honor never previously given to anyone outside the UCLA health system.
World Peace told them he just won an award, but was being humble about it. So Thomas Strouse, the medical director at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, gave him an assist.
Strouse told them World Peace got the award, in part, because he is the only celebrity who has walked through the doors into the psychiatric unit, where you need security clearance, and talked to people.
"I'm glad people recognize some of the good things I try to do," World Peace said. "I don't shy away from the person I am. I'm not perfect. At the same time, I try to do lot great things in the community. I'm happy to be part of people who are trying to do good things in the community. You don't see it every day."
World Peace has visited three times. He resonates because he has dealt publicly with anger, frustration and issues. He said from age 6 to 13 he was suspended from school at least once a year.
"You're definitely not the only one," World Peace said.
He's one of them. He's been there. So many people have.
If you don't think this kind of award means more than championship rings, then you don't know the story of how he gave his champion ring to an auction so that money raised could benefit the mental health community.
If you don't think talking to people about mental health issues and sharing his story -- being part of a family with issues of depression, schizophrenia, anger, abuse and jail time -- then you don't know that after the Lakers won the NBA Finals in 2010, World Peace said on camera: "I'd like to thank my psychiatrist."
A woman in the circle told him: "You basically came out and said mental health issues happen to all of us. Some of the stigma might lessen."
A man asked him why he did that, but before he did, said: "I thought that was the coolest thing ever."
World Peace actually corrected the message that was broadcast into millions of homes.
"I didn't know. Actually, she's my psychologist," he said.
It's no matter. He was helping shed some light on issues that often are kept in the dark.
World Peace has inspired people oustide the mental health industry, too. His idea to auction off his championship ring sat so well with AEG owner Tim Leiweke that he's giving four charity organizations a Kings' Stanley Cup championship ring so they can auction them.
"I think that's cool," said World Peace, who learned of that for the first time. "Obviously, it's very important to me, winning a ring. It's something I always wanted. It's not something you can just give away without feeling a certain way. The ring was a great way to raise several hundred thousand dollars. We could've raised more. That ring did so much."
And so has Metta World Peace, walking through the doors of the psychiatric ward to talk to people.