The Cuddle Monster brought a colorful and lovable cuteness overload to The Masked Signer on Trolls Night and was unmasked by the episode’s end.
As part of Group C, the mystery celeb entered The Masked Singer as the latest Wildcard contestant for Season 10.
From the moment Cuddle Monster arrived, panelists and viewers could tell it was someone big, as in a tall individual, possibly from basketball.
As clues arrived, there were sneakers, a golden Wall Street bull, boxing gloves, and a globe with the word “Champ” on it.
That had panelists guessing several of basketball’s greats, including Hall of Famers Dennis Rodman and Shaquille O’Neal.
While it was neither of those former NBA stars, it was another who also played for the Los Angeles Lakers and won a championship there.
Former Lakers star performs as Cuddle Monster
The Cuddle Monster was tall, furry, and huggable, as even panelist Nicole Scherzinger joked she wanted one for Christmas.
During the evening, he performed New Kids on the Block’s You Got It (The Right Stuff) on a night featuring boy band hits.
He made up for what he didn’t have in musical talent with his enthusiasm and doing what he could to entertain the viewers.
Following the audience vote, Group C’s Anteater and Cuddle Monster were the contestants with the lowest votes, forcing them to compete in a Smackdown. Meanwhile, Candelabra and Donut moved on.
For their faceoff, Anteater and Cuddle Monster performed Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling from the soundtrack for the Trolls movie.
Following the two performances, Nicole told Cuddle Monster, “You get the people going!”
However, it was clear that Anteater still had more musical talent, which helped him earn the panelists’ votes to move on. That meant Cuddle Monster had to unmask.
Cuddle Monster revealed as Metta Sandiford-Artest
When the mask was removed, Cuddle Monster was revealed as former NBA star Metta Sandiford-Artest, known previously as Metta World Peace and Ron Artest.
Host Nick Cannon introduced him as Metta World Peace and mentioned he is an NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Cannon called it “a surprise to us all” as none of the panelists correctly guessed Cuddle Monster’s identity. As mentioned, the panelists’ guesses included Rodman, Shaq, and current Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green.
“One of the great defensive players in the history of the NBA,” Thicke said of Sandiford-Artest before he and Ken Jeong admitted they were “starstruck.”
Sandiford-Artest is a former NBA first-round pick from St. John’s University. His NBA career spanned from 1999 to 2017, including seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Knicks.
NBA star’s career included infamous fight and winning a championship
A pair of boxing gloves was revealed during his initial Masked Singer clue segment, possibly linking him to the infamous Malice at the Palace incident in 2004.
During that November incident, Artest, a member of the Pacers, got fouled by the Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace, which led to an altercation near the scorer’s table.
Artest laid down on the scorer’s table during the brawl but was taunted by Pistons fans and hit by a soda someone threw at him. That prompted Artest to charge into the stands to confront fans.
Ultimately, he was suspended for the rest of that NBA season after going into the stands to fight fans and punching one.
In addition to winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, Sandiford-Artest was also a 2004 NBA All-Star.
He achieved the only championship of his career in 2010 as a valuable part of the Lakers’ roster alongside Kobe Bryant, as they defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games.
“Y’all I had a blast!!! It was me behind the #CuddleMonsterMask,” he wrote in an IG carousel post’s caption after his unmasking aired.
“It was an amazing experience. I love the character and the chakras,” Artest told host Nick Cannon of the Cuddle Monster costume, adding he “couldn’t wait for [his] grandbaby to see this.”
Sandiford-Artest is the first professional athlete unmasked during Season 10. Previous seasons featured former NFL stars Terry Bradshaw and Antonio Brown, as well as the NBA’s Victor Oladipo and MLB pitcher Barry Zito.
The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.