When the South Bay Lakers open their training today at the UCLA Health Training Center, the players will get their first chance to work Metta World Peace, aka the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, who will serve as player development coach.
World Peace spent six seasons over two separate stints as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, from 2009 to 2013 and from 2015 to 2017). The Queensbridge, Queens, NY native was a key player on the 2010 NBA Champion Lakers and ranks ninth all-time in three pointers made (420) in franchise history.
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A four-time All-NBA Defender, he averaged of 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his 17-year career with the Bulls, Pacers, Kings, Rockets, Knicks and Lakers.
World Peace is one of the most unique characters to ever blaze across the NBA constellation. He was one of my favorite players back when I saw him in high school and later at St. John’s University, a rugged throwback to the late ’80s, early ’90s era of basketball that he grew up watching.
He may be Metta World Peace today, but at St. John’s, we just know him as Ron-Ron. Straight out of Queensbridge, Ron-Ron played for perhaps the greatest AAU team ever. Along with Elton Brand and Lamar Odom, Ron-Ron and the Riverside Hawks went 69-1 in ’96.
Some people, at the height of his hunger and defensive prowess, questioned whether he crossed the line to become a dirty player. But to mistake his tenacity for playing dirty was inexcusable, because he simply played every minute as if his next meal, as if his very life depended on it.
“It’s not like I brought this aggression to the league,” World Peace told ESPN in 2013. “I didn’t invent this. This is what we watched, this is what we saw. The Bill Laimbeers and the [Dennis] Rodmans, they play hard and they wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. They played hard. They played with passion. We grew up wanting to play with passion. So, when the guys say we’re dirty, we’re just playing hard. We’re not playing dirty. We’re just playing. We’re reacting. We’re going hard. We want to win.”
Metta World Peace scored 18 points as the Lakers defeated the Pelicans 108-96 and won their 5th straight game!
That aggression and passion for the game can’t be faked. One thing the man has always been is true to himself, with a quirkiness that endeared him to many along the way. Most players would have never survived the fallout from The Malice at the Palace incident, but he did because of a unique genuineness that’s inherent in his spirit.
Similar to the way he thanked his therapist after the Lakers won the 2010 NBA championship, along with thinking that Jesus Christ is brilliant because of how designed the perfect time to lose one’s baby teeth, World Peace will always bring something to the sport and to a team that goes beyond X’s and O’s.
Ron Artest thanks his psychiatrist for guiding him through the NBA Finals.
“Growing up as a kid, I remember playing in Far Rockaway [N.Y.],” World Peace said in that 2013 ESPN story which explored whether he was a dirty player. “There’s only one way in, one way out. Far Rockaway is like the New Orleans of New York. It’s like hardcore, right? If you go into their hood and you play ball and you play hard [there are repercussions]. I never back down so I play hard. My man got hit over the head with a bottle — boom — at the free-throw line while he’s shooting free throws. Bats and guns come out. We got to get out. The next day we go to another hood to play ball.”
Video by Melissa Rohlin
Most young players are enamored with the fame and fortune that comes along with the pro baller lifestyle. But for the young, impressionable players with the South Bay Lakers that have aspirations of living the NBA dream, they’ll get a dose of humility and a reality check from one of the Truest Warriors the game has ever known.