Thank you God. Thank you for bringing Metta World Peace back to the NBA. Thank you for getting him the hell out of China or wherever he played so he could crawl back into the hopeless arms of the Los Angeles Lakers and do the only thing that makes him even remotely interesting: talk crazy and talk funny and say the most ridculously humorous, quotable, wrong but right things.
He will never be Metta World Peace to me. That is not to say I don’t acknowledge his name change. I do. I accept that World Peace will always have 2010 as his signature NBA moment, a three point shot that sealed a NBA title. But really, that only anointed him to the professional class, a world that suddenly accepted his craziness because he was a champion. But, he never metamorphosized. He was never the caterpillar that became the butterfly.
Ron Artest was who we loved. Ron Artest who worked in the offseason at Circuit City because he wanted to get the employee discount, that Ron Artest, the one who was playing for the Bulls and who was straight out the hood. Artest claimed he drank Hennessy in the locker room at halftime of Bulls games.
When he was with the Pacers he wore a bathrobe over his uni one day because, well, he was Ron Artest. Ron Artest asked for time off so he could promote his rap album, that was a personal highlight of mine. He got into a feud with Pat Riley. He pissed a bunch of players off because he used his dirty tricks, enough to deliver him the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004. Ron Artest brought street ball and bully ball into NBA arenas.
By the time Ron Artest had a brain freeze and erupted at the Palace, the league was tired of Ron Artest. I wasn’t. The league was exhausted when he was arrested for domestic violence in Sacramento and sentenced to twenty days in jail; he served ten. But I forgave him. I understood he was a work in progress.
Now that he’s back in the league, he’s really, really back. He had this to say about the state of the league.
“I remember I came into the NBA in 1999. The game was a little bit more rough. The game now is for kids. It’s not really a man’s game anymore. The parents are really protective of their children. They cry to their AAU coaches. They cry to the refs. Sometimes I wish those parents would just stay home, don’t come to the game and now these same AAU kids whose parents come to the game, these kids are in the NBA. So now we have a problem. You’ve got a bunch of babies professionally around the world. It’s no longer a man’s game. It’s a baby’s game. There’s softies everywhere. Everybody’s soft. Nobody’s hard no more. So you just deal with it. You adjust and that’s it.”
Classic Ron Artest. But, alas, Artest is gone and buried and Metta World Peace is here for the duration. But even as he doesn’t realize it, World Peace’s version of the NBA is gone and buried too.
There’s a famous saying by a famous writer who wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That’s World Peace’s view through this very lens of his own history and it makes all the sense in the world that he has this romantic dreamy eyed vision of what used to be. Some of what he said is true. AAU has ruined the NBA. The fundamentals are garbage. Players come in and don’t know how to play. Athletic doesn’t mean basketball. Athletic means entertainer.
That said, the product World Peace describes is part of his selective amnesia. Sure, the players were tougher back then, some of them. Dale Davis. Bonzi Wells. Kenyon Martin. There were soft players then too. The biggest criticism of Chris Webber was that he was 1) soft and 2) he couldn’t deliver in the clutch. And he was a star in World Peace’s era.
But players, generationally, get bigger, faster, stronger. Metta’s style of play was never going to sustain itself over time. The NBA is in the talent delivery business. Too much was at stake. Injuries harm the product. Plus it was tough to watch bully ball. In any case, explosive athletes took over the game and by nature of their talent they were elusive. They didn’t want to get hit and who could blame them.
World Peace is 35. His NBA had its moment, but that moment is gone. World Peace, if he makes the Laker team, will be a mentor which takes a second to wrap your brain around. World Peace will school and teach Julius Randle on the toughness of the game and all his old tricks which only legitimizes and attaches World Peace to a distorted view of a world that no one really misses. Except for him.
World Peace will play when the Lakers are down 20. He will cheerlead and motivate from the bench, endlessly engaging with the paying customers. And then post-game, someone will put a micorophone in front of his face. To my way of thinking the Lakers may not need Metta World Peace, he doesn’t really matter to them.
But the NBA? They definitely need World Peace.
photo via llananba