Thursday, April 26, 2012

From Ronald William Artest, Jr. to Metta World Peace

Let's be serious for a second here.  Ron Artest/Metta World Peace is quite honestly one of the most fascinating athletes and personalities that has ever played professional sports.  We have seen many athletes come and go being labeled as selfish, show-boaters, thugs, overrated, over-hyped, illiterate, embarrassing, and flat out confusing.  While obviously not all of the above, Metta World Peace (this alone!) brings a unique flavor to the meaning of living life.  From the Malice at the Palace to his most recent elbow to OKC's James Harden, World Peace has spent his basketball career trying to find the balance of being a great player and, frankly, balancing his mind.

Why so serious?!
Drafted #16 overall in 1999 by the Bulls out of St. John's, the former Ron Artest had a rather normal first couple of seasons.  He even made the second team All-Rookie squad.  Midway through his third season, he was traded to the Pacers in a rather large trade involving him, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller, and Kevin Ollie for Jalen Rose, Travis Best, Norman Richardson and a pick.  Artest was a very serviceable player and his second full season with Indiana, he made the All-Star as a reserve and won the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year while averaging 18+ points a game.

While proving to be a valuable commodity on the court, his play overshadowed the kind of personal problems he was facing off the court.  During his rookie season alone, he admitted to drinking Hennessy at halftime because the Bulls were so bad.  Former college coach Fran Fraschilla who coached him for 3 years said he never even noticed a potential drinking problem. That rookie season he even applied for a job to Circuit City just to get the discount.  This seems humorous but I think it just defines his lack of focus.  Don't get me wrong, pro athletes have it made.  But a lot of them still work really hard and it can consume them.  Artest was a guy who knew there was more to life than basketball but it just expressed itself in a very negative manner.

Early in the 2004 season, he was suspended 2 games (after being suspended the previous season two different times for 7 games total) because he was tired from promoting a band on his production label and asked for a month off.  Last time I checked, that doesn't sit will with season ticket holders who pay his salary!  This disinterest eventually boiled over on November 19th, 2004.  This is the infamous brawl between the Pacers and Pistons as well as several fans.  I don't need to go into detail as we all know and can see the fight playing in our heads.  His suspension amounted to 86 games, the longest ever for an on court "infraction." Fun fact, he forfeited $7 million in salary. Man. Epic.

The next season he was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic.  He was an instant spark and got them back to the playoffs once again.  Of course, in the first round of the playoffs, he was suspended a game for elbowing Manu Ginobli.  Foreshadowing anyone?  Rather uneventful, Artest was traded in 2008 to the Houston Rockets and just like he did for the Kings, he helped the Rockets get past the first round for the first time in 12 years.  It was nearly 5 years after the brawl and while he had some altercations here and there, people thought he had come around, understood life better and thus played better.  They didn't know he had his dog taken away from him because of undernourishment.  He produced a rap album in 2006 which even featured Diddy.  He was arrested in 2007 for a domestic violence charge that he served 10 days in jail.  He was then suspended 7 games.  Ugh, what?!

He signed a huge free agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2009 and helped them to win a championship that first season.  Coach Phil Jackson said he even was the most valuable player in game 7 of the finals.  Last season Artest won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his contributions to his community!  I mean check out these past winners and tell me he fits in the list of these guys.  To cap it off, last September Ron Artest officially changed his name to Metta World Peace after initially wanting to be One Love.  But like most of his career, World Peace is just putting on a show that cover his deeper issues.  His ex-wife of 6 years was on Basketball Wives, he's trying to develop his own reality TV show "They Call Me Crazy", he was horrible on Dancing with the Stars, and his most notable (and charitable in my opinion) contribution is his advocacy of mental health issues including auctioning off his championship ring and donating those proceeds.

Now he has been most recently suspended 7 games due to the immensely flagrant elbow thrown at James Harden.  Here's what Commissioner David Stern had to say:
"I think the seven was larger than some people might have thought just from an elbow, and I think that in many cases people who thought that this was so horrible that it should result in a lifetime ban. But at the end of the day, I have to close the door and say, 'OK, what is justice here and what's fairness here,' and I came up with seven." 
I came up with seven.  I pulled it out of a hat.  Poof!  If that's not a perfect system, I don't know what is!  Further, here's what World Peace issued in defense of his elbow:
"It was bad timing for me and then, physically, it was bad timing for Mr. Harden," World Peace said after practice was over. "Who can write up a left-hand dunk and then all of the sudden somebody is right behind you? It's hard to draw that up and to plan something like that. It was just the worst timing for me."
Timing? You just happened to throw the all-time craziest elbow into a guy's head because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time?

That about sums up my feelings!  He has now been suspended a total of 14 different times for a total of 102 games.  When you look up repeat offender in sports' rule books, World Peace's face is next to the definition.  I'm not sure what else I can say.  The guy obviously just doesn't "get it." You can say all the right things time in and time out but at one point does David Stern ask himself "is this good for my product?"  Of course it is the Lakers so I'm sure there's some unfounded conspiracy there.  The NBA lockout was a chance to open the eyes of players of life without their precious little game but they instead played a crammed 66 game meaningless season.  

The NBA is damaged goods and this is just another stain on the league's underwear.  If it's me, World Peace is done.  That's it, you throw him out.  For good.  Disagree?  Fine, we obviously see he has other passions outside of basketball.  He won't ever be short on cash or media love.  For those of you who do think my lifetime ban is too harsh, get a clue, it's just a game.  It will survive one player's idiocy.  To me, he's back to Ron Artest because honestly, did that persona ever really leave?  I hope one day you figure it all out like the rest of us are trying to do Mr. World Peace but in the meantime, could you stop nearly killing people  (and your dog!) along the way? Super, thanks for listening.