Metta World Peace. Need I say more? Basketball brawler to model citizen. Okay, maybe not “model citizen,” but close. How close?
This year he published a children’s book titled, “Metta’s Bedtime Stories” with the motive to “show everyone that you can always have a better day tomorrow, if you have a hopeful heart and keep positive thoughts.” He has also made appearances on “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Sesame Street.” He has been a champion role model in raising mental health awareness, and he is an NBA champion (2010). He auctioned off his ring, and raised over $500k to benefit the Xcel University charity. And a portion of his book proceeds will go to Xcel University and The Artest Foundation, both non-profits dedicated to helping kids with mental illnesses.
But the thing is, he hasn’t always been Mr. Perfect—in fact, he was quite the opposite. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the “Malice at the Palace.” Remember that time a fan in Michigan chucked a beer in the face of Ron Artest who then stormed the bleachers and knocked the guy out? His teammates Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and Ben Wallace charged up after him. The benches nearly cleared, and heavy handed consequences were laid down to players and fans. The most notable being that The League suspended Artest for the remainder of the season, totaling 86 games including 13 playoff appearances.
He did a Q&A shortly after, and when asked, “Why did you punch the shit out of the guy?” he answered with this:
“He fucking disrespected me. Ain’t nobody gonna do that to me. I’m Ron Motherfucking Artest baby. I got an image to create [sic].”
Backtracking to the headline of this post, how does Ron Artest—fresh-faced and picking fights—turn into Metta World Peace? That don’t rhyme.
I like to say it all started with a chance. In 2009, the Lakers traded Trevor Ariza (who the team arguably wouldn’t have won a ring that year without) for Artest (who had a huge beef with Kobe Bryant the duration of the Lakers-Rockets playoff matchup). The Lakers were able to see past Artest’s unpredictable past, and instead value him for his lock-down defense. Post-trade, Artest said it would be different with purple and gold on. To say that it was different is an understatement.
His four-year stint with the Lakers included his first championship ring, the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and a name change. Suddenly, instead of “Ron Motherfucking Artest,” he transformed into mental health activist, Metta World Peace. And all it took was a trip to the City of Angels.
Now matured World Peace is returning home to New York to don blue and orange under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Though I will say that even though Metta has grown-up, he is not any less entertaining, just take a glance at his Twitter feed and you’ll know exactly what I mean. All I gotta say is I want to thank my hood, I want to thank my psychiatrist and I GOT WHEATIES.
Metta, it’s sad to see you leave Los Angeles. The interviews were priceless. You brought an unmistakable, one-of-a-kind flare to the purple and gold. I know they’ll treat you well out there in NY, keep doing good and keep dreaming crazy.