To call Metta World Peace an entertaining figure would be like calling Kwame Brown a bad player: you’re only touching the tip of the iceberg.
MWP’s most recent (likely alcohol-induced) escapade on Twitter left the Twitterverse buzzing late Saturday night. But it got me thinking what a unique opportunity Lakers fans have had with MWP. Whether you like his on-court production, his off-court antics (and even his on-court antics) have left quite an impact on Lakers Nation.
When MWP was brought in following the Lakers 2009 title, it was met with some controversy, which is expected for someone like World Peace. The athlete then known as Ron Artest was supposedly brought in as a physical perimeter presence on the defensive end, namely to square off against LeBron James and Paul Pierce, should the Lakers meet them in the Finals.
And boy was his first year an eventful one as a Laker.
Sure enough, the Celtics and Lakers met in the now immortalized 7-game series in 2010. But it wasn’t without a couple famous Metta moments along the way. First was his zany haircut first sported when the Lakers traveled to Orlando for their first meeting against their previous Finals foes. Other than dying his hair blonde, Artest had the word “defense” etched into his hair in various languages.
Then came Game 5 of the Phoenix Suns series, which featured the moment that will forever sum up MWP’s career in LA. With roughly 30 seconds in the fourth quarter and the Lakers up three points, an errant shot was forced up, only to be rebounded by Lamar Odom, who passed back out to Artest.
There Artest stood, completely unguarded at the elbow, with two options: pass the ball back to Fisher or Bryant and run the clock down even more, or shoot. Obviously he chose to shoot, and obviously he missed, and obviously the Suns rebounded, and obviously they tied the game with only seconds left. At that time, Artest may have been the most hated man in LA.
But the Lakers still had a chance to get a shot up, and with Kobe, it only took one shot. The ball was inbounded to Kobe, who could only take a fadeaway 3-pointer as he fell out of bounds. It was on line, but woefully short and the Lakers seemed destined for overtime. But at the last second, Artest came bulldozing down the lane, knocking Jason Richardson out of the way en route to the ball, which he caught and laid in as time expired, giving the Lakers the victory and Artest his shining moment.
It wasn’t Artest’s only shining moment in the playoffs, with his Game 7 performance being likely the greatest moment of his career, capped off by his dagger 3-pointer in the waning moments.
Future seasons for MWP were filled with bicep kisses, seducing females in the crowd, and an errant elbow or two. But what you got was something special, something unique, and something only MWP could give you. Obviously there was his rap career, followed by the infamous name change, plus the always-erratic on-court performance.
In an injury-riddled season, few things went right for the Lakers this year. But in perhaps one of his finer seasons, MWP was always there for the Lakers. His numbers might not have been his highest, but he was a bit of a steadying presence on a team that saw constant roster overturn.
A true testament to his character came late this season. After suffering a tear in his lateral meniscus in his leg, Artest was forced to have surgery and expected to miss upwards of four weeks.
12 days after surgery, World Peace was in a Lakers uniform helping push the Lakers into the playoffs. Come the playoffs, MWP played in significant discomfort in Game 3 as a cyst developed behind his surgically repaired knee. After having it drained, he sat out what would be the team’s last game of the season.
With the Lakers in serious cap trouble next season and MWP being a great candidate for the amnesty clause, the writing appears to be on the wall. There is hope that MWP turns down his player option, yet resigns for a cheaper amount in order to stay with the Lakers. Obviously, turning down millions of dollars is something easier said than done and an all-around crazy idea.
But no one does crazy better than Metta World Peace.