Ron Artest, Ken Griffey Jr. Lead Athlete Tributes To Michael Jackson

There has been no shortage of tributes to Michael Jackson in the past two weeks, from mixtape tracks to concert nods. But perhaps the strangest (and at the same time most endearing) tributes came from the world of sports.

Yesterday, basketball forward (and rapper/music mogul) Ron Artest signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Lakers (perhaps he can be the new Method Man). He’ll join the defending champions for five years at $33 million, but the biggest headline-grabber was that Artest said he would wear jersey number 37 as a tribute to Michael Jackson. Why 37? That’s the number of weeks Thriller spent on the top of the charts. It’s not the first time that Artest has made a music reference in his number: While on the Sacremento Kings, Artest wore the number 93 as a nod to the Queensbridge projects (a place that also gave the world Nas and Mobb Deep), as well as the Souls of Mischief album ’93 to Infinity.

Meanwhile, Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. paid tribute to Jackson during a Tuesday night game against the Baltimore Orioles. He walked to his first at-bat to the sound of “Billie Jean” and also wore a single batting glove. Did Jackson magic help him out? Griffey drew a walk, but the Mariners were routed by the Orioles 12-4.

Plenty of athletes took to their personal Twitters to mourn the passing of Jackson, including tennis player Andy Roddick, football player Chad Johnson, former NBA star Dennis Rodman and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal.

But the best tribute yet came professional MLS soccer player Kei Kamara, who celebrated scoring a goal by donning one sparkly glove and doing a Jackson dance. The Jackson mojo seemed to work best for Kamara — his Houston Dynamo defeated the Kansas City Wizards 1-0.