They have officially amnestied World Peace. I can’t get over how weird that sounds. For tax and basketball reasons it’s correct. For fun reasons, it’s not. Metta was fun. We’ll talk about him all the time. Happy trails and thanks for the memories. Best regards to the shrink who gave LA Lakers the title in 2010!
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when I think back on two seasons of covering Ron Artest, plus two seasons of covering Metta World Peace in Los Angeles?
“I can’t remember.”
It was World Peace’s go-to answer in the postgame locker room when we asked about anything that made him remotely uncomfortable — a foul, a missed shot, a turnover, a referee’s decision, a teammate’s shoddy play.
But despite all the times he feigned memory loss, for me, covering the guy was unforgettable.
He is one of the game’s true characters, a living contradiction as a fierce, muscle-bound competitor with the wacky, off-the-wall humor of a cartoon character.
Phil Jackson once described him as a “naïve, innocent lamb.”
James Harden once received a vicious, violent elbow from that lamb, right in the chops.
He was capable of inspiring you — coming back to the court just 12 days after knee surgery last season; working day and night to lose more than 20 pounds in the middle of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign; opening up about a painful childhood to try to erase the stigma and discrimination attached to those with mental health disabilities and really becoming a champion of the cause.
He was capable of infuriating you — bullying younger players like Brandon Knight andMichael Beasley both physically and verbally without prompt; mocking former Lakers head coach Mike Brown for his background as a video coordinator.
And he was capable of making you shake your head and laugh — making one of his haphazard failed coast-to-coast attempts that made you hear the “Benny Hill Show” theme song in your head; choosing to wear No. 37 to honor the number of Michael Jackson’s No. 1 chart-topping singles; punctuating a successful play by kissing his biceps and blowing kisses to the crowd.
And through it all, he gave Lakers fans a boatload of memories.
From the serendipitous 2010 playoff run that resulted in three all-time great Laker moments:
1. His game-winning putback layup (cleaning up a Kobe Bryant miss) in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, assuring L.A. would go into Phoenix up 3-2 for Game 6, rather than facing a potential elimination game on the road.
2. His game-sealing 3-pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against Boston (cleaning up a night where Bryant missed 18 of the 24 shots he attempted) that doubled L.A.’s lead from three to six with exactly one minute remaining.
3. His scene-stealing comments to the media following the game where he was joined by nine members of his family on stage with him as he dropped the following classic one-liners:
– “I got Wheaties!”
– “Acknowledge me, please!”
– “Why are you staring at me, daughter?”
– “I just can’t wait to go to the club.”
– “He never passes me the ball, and he passed me the ball! Kobe passed me the ball!”
– “(Phil) can speak to you. He don’t even need a microphone. You can hear him in your head, ‘Ron, don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.’ I said, ‘Whatever! Bong! Three! Whoo-hoo! Yes!”
To the everyday absurdities of him messing up Right Said Fred’s lyrics by saying he was “too sexy for his cat,” or showing up on a local newscast to do the weather, or sprayingLamar Odom’s patented cologne on Lakers radio voice John Ireland during a live TV interview.
But as much as the sideshow threatened to overtake the part of performance that mattered — contributing to wins — World Peace always seemed to be able to dial back the distractions and remind us that he still cooked a good meal, even it came with a fancy centerpiece on the table.
In the end, World Peace leaves L.A. as one of the most caring players a teammate could ever hope to share a locker room with, and one of the most determined players an opponent could ever hope to face.