Ron and Metta
A One-of-a-Kind Lakers Legacy
Ron Ron to L.A.
Moments after one of the most devastating losses of his career, Kobe Bryant stewed in the locker-room showers, while the Boston Celtics begun their championship celebration back on the court.
As Bryant tried to recover from his Lakers’ 38-point shellacking, the most unlikely of people suddenly appeared.
In walked a fully clothed Ron Artest, who offered his help as water drenched his shoes.
Artest expressed to Bryant his desire to come to the Lakers, but first they would have to go head-to-head in the following postseason.
Artest joined the Houston Rockets over the offseason, teaming up Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
A fifth seed capable of doing some damage, Houston pushed the Lakers to their limit in the Western Conference Semifinals, where Bryant and Artest entered a heated duel.
It didn’t take long for the series to intensify, as the Rockets stole Game 1 before Bryant put up 40 points to capture the following contest.
Artest and Kobe Bryant are separated by an official after a heated exchange.
That Game 2 saw tempers flare as Bryant and Artest tried to box each other out in the fourth quarter. Artest — upset that Bryant caught him in the throat with an elbow — was ejected while drenched with boos from the Staples Center crowd.
The two continued to go at it, as Artest was once again tossed in Game 3, and the series required seven games to determine the victor.
And as Bryant and the Lakers continued their march to the 2009 championship (while Artest watched from courtside as a fan), the defensive savant readied himself for an opportunity to join the purple and gold.
Shortly after the Lakers defeated Orlando in the NBA Finals, they began their quest for back-to-back titles by bringing aboard an old foe. Artest issued a statement about his new team, saying, “It will be great to finally not get booed in the Staples Center.”
Artest takes questions at his Los Angeles Lakers introductory press conference.
Artest wasted no time bringing his trademark zaniness to Los Angeles, choosing to wear No. 37 in honor of the amount of weeks that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” topped the charts.
But as soon as he hit the floor, it was all about the lockdown defense that the Lakers expected when they signed him.
By the third game of the season, he had impressed Bryant, who said that “we picked up our intensity, and it all started with No. 37,” after one of 18 Lakers victories in their first 21 games of the year.
With Artest leading the way defensively, the purple and gold rolled to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. And the former Defensive Player of the Year set the tone with his trademark flare, particularly at the end of the year.
With the playoffs looming, he spent about three hours at the barber and returned with a Lakers-gold head of hair. Inscribed in purple across his dome was the same word written in Japanese, Hebrew and Hindi: defense.
Playoff Ron Ron was ready.
Just about everyone in the sold-out arena knew that it was a bad shot — except for Ron.
With a minute left in Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, Artest clanked a mid-range jumper that was fortunately rebounded by Pau Gasol. But when the ball found its way back to Artest with a full shot clock and a three-point lead, he unexpectedly elected against running some time down.
Instead, he launched a 3-pointer amidst cries from the vocally shocked Staples Center crowd, which missed once again. Artest, who had shot just 1-of-8 from the field, had given Phoenix life.
The Suns seized the opportunity, banking in the tying shot with only 3.5 ticks left.
Out of a timeout, the Lakers fed the ball to Kobe, who was immediately draped by two Suns defenders. Bryant’s attempt airballed, but Artest was ready for anything.
Originally spotted at the 3-point line, he darted to the paint as soon as he saw Bryant’s shot go awry. With time expiring he grabbed the miss and threw up an ugly layup that somehow banked in. Teammates swarmed Ron as he celebrated his moment of redemption.
“He has an uncanny knack of doing things and sometimes it just works out,” coach Phil Jackson said. “He just has a knack for being around crucial plays.”
Artest tips in a missed shot to win game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
Artest’s game-winner was an improbable finish to an unsightly game, and Phoenix put its championship hopes on that shot being an anomaly.
Facing elimination in Game 6, the Suns’ defensive strategy was to give Artest open looks, focusing their attention on the other Lakers.
Artest took this “disrespectful defense” personally and lit Phoenix up for 25 points, including four 3-pointers, as his offensive ascension pushed the Lakers to a third straight NBA Finals appearance.
“These guys (Phoenix) know what type of player I am,” Artest said. “So why are they leaving me open? I felt disrespected.”
Ron’s next task would push him on the other end of the floor.
He has an uncanny knack of doing things and sometimes it just works out. He just has a knack for being around crucial plays.Phil Jackson
Playing in his first Finals, Artest was asked to be the defensive stopper that the Lakers signed him to be. His mark was the man who burned the Lakers just two years before: Paul Pierce.
The Celtics superstar and 2008 Finals MVP had his moments — including a 27-point Game 5 outburst that put the Lakers one loss away from another championship defeat — but Artest stepped up when needed most.
In particular, he held Pierce to 5-of-15 shooting in Game 7 — arguably the biggest game in franchise history.
But as Pierce was held in check, so too was nearly everybody else, including Bryant and Gasol.
Thus, Artest had to answer the call on both sides of the ball, leading Los Angeles with 20 points on one end and five steals on the other.
Artest hits a three-pointer in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals over Paul Pierce.
Up by only three with a minute left, Artest provided the defining moment of his career.
As Bryant drew two defenders, he found Artest open just outside the 3-point arc. Ron froze Pierce with a jab step and then rose up to swish the lead-buffering triple.
Artest blew a kiss to the frenzied crowd and — after the confetti had fallen on the victorious Lakers — recalled the moment in his legendary postgame press conference.
“He passed me the ball!” Ron exclaimed. “He never passes me the ball! And he never passes me the ball. Kobe passed me the ball!”
Artest went on to claim that Phil Jackson telepathically told him not to shoot the ball, among many other moments of “Ron being Ron.”
Two years after Artest had told a defeated Bryant that he could help bring a championship to Los Angeles, he had fulfilled his promise.
Introducing World Peace
Ron Artest worked his entire life toward winning a championship ring. Then he suddenly let it go.
Six years before his title, Artest was at the center of the infamous “Malice at the Palace,” which nearly cost him his career.
It took extensive soul-searching and the help of those such as his therapist — whom he thanked minutes after winning the Finals — to help him overcome the mental issues that led him into that brawl.
So, after winning his title with the Lakers, he decided to give back by auctioning off the ring that he had worked so hard to obtain. The result was $651,006 donated to various mental health charities.
“That was the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life outside of being married and having my kids,” Artest said.
His generosity was commended with the 2011 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award — an accomplishment that marked just how far he had come in such a short amount of time.
He was pretty much an entirely different person, and, five months later, took that to a near-literal level.
Ron Artest was gone. In his place (after an unpaid parking ticket briefly held up his name change) was Metta World Peace.
World Peace continued the good work that Artest had begun, gifting more than $100,000 — much of which came from the ring — to charities based in his native New York City.
Metta also kept up the wackiness by competing on “Dancing with the Stars.” However, his cha cha wasn’t nearly as refined as his perimeter defense, making World Peace the first contestant eliminated.
Back on the hardwood, World Peace remained one of the Lakers’ top players, though they fell in the Western Conference Semifinals. The following year began with championship aspirations as the team added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, but an injury-plagued campaign resulted in a season to forget.
That was the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life outside of being married and having my kids.World Peace on selling his 2009 ring
World Peace was one of those hit hardest in the health department, yet he continued to give his team all he could. Just before the playoffs, he even returned to the court just 12 days after undergoing surgery on his knee.
Metta claimed that his doctors were “amazed at how the swelling didn’t even exist,” but even his rapid recovery couldn’t prevent L.A. from being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
A few months later, the Lakers chose to part ways with the fan favorite, releasing World Peace using the amnesty clause.
Bryant took to Twitter in support of one of his most trusted teammates, saying: “No game 7 win without Metta! This is a tough day for laker nation.”
Meanwhile, Metta himself took the news in stride and kept his fans smiling even through this tough news, tweeting: “I’m retiring and playing hockey.”
I Love Basketball
Metta never did end up lacing up his skates and hitting the ice.
Instead, World Peace let basketball help him live up to his global name.
After departing from the Lakers, he briefly played for his hometown Knicks before heading overseas for a year.
He started in China, where he picked up another name (“The Panda’s Friend”) before continuing to Italy, where he once fouled out of a game in one minute.
But his loyalty remained in Los Angeles, where he felt that he could contribute to a budding Lakers squad looking for veteran leadership.
In 2015, a 35-year-old World Peace managed to secure a spot on the Lakers’ training camp roster.
Despite his lengthy absence from the NBA, World Peace managed to capitalize on that opportunity and served as the team’s elder statesman alongside his longtime teammate, Kobe Bryant.
World Peace didn’t play much, instead making an impact in the locker room and on the practice floor. He also left his mark outside of the game, raffling off his 2004 Defensive Player of the Year trophy to raise more money for mental health charities.
Metta World Peace warms up during the first session of training camp in his second stint as a Laker.
World Peace, who was initially given a 50 percent chance of making the final roster, claimed that his presence on the squad was one of the biggest accomplishments of his career.
"This is probably the hardest thing I've ever done — get a minimum contract," he said. "It really was. I had to re-prove myself again.”
But it wasn’t over for Metta, who still felt that he could help the team the following season. This time his odds of surviving the final cut were set at 10 percent.
Sure enough, he defied the odds for the umpteenth time in his career.
World Peace — who prolonged his career through a strict diet, including abstinence from alcohol — was once again a favorite among fans and teammates.
Early in the season, he was selected to shoot technical free throws against Indiana. After making the first, TV cameras caught him shouting, “I love basketball!” to no one in particular.
His fellow Lakers found it hilarious, as Larry Nance Jr. said, “We watched that clip on the plane home 50-60 times.” Soon, Metta’s words became the team’s rallying cry, as they broke every huddle with “I love basketball!”
Three months later, he had a shining moment in possibly his last hometown game. Late in the Lakers’ blowout win over New York, World Peace entered the game much to the approval of the Madison Square Garden crowd.
When he hit a jumper over Carmelo Anthony, the pride of Queensbridge was serenaded with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
But his finale was saved for his current home of Los Angeles.
World Peace shooting one of the four successful three-pointers of his final home game as a Laker.
Before Lakers’ final home game of the year, World Peace’s head coach and former teammate, Luke Walton, announced that the 17-year veteran would get the starting nod.
Despite his presence in the opening five, Metta was largely deferential, heading into halftime with a scoreless line. But it wouldn’t stay that way much longer.
He found his scoring touch in the third, collecting seven points. Then, he sent Staples Center into pandemonium by putting up 11 more in the fourth, thrilling the crowd with each of his four 3-pointers.
His 18 points were his most in five NBA seasons, and fans showed their appreciation with roars of “Met-ta! Met-ta!”
His teammates might have gone even crazier, feeding him the ball on almost every possession and erupting from the bench after each basket.
Almost a year after they had doused Kobe with champagne after he went for 60 points in his career finale, the Lakers celebrated Metta by pouring ice water on him back in the locker room.
“Kobe got Dom Perignon, I got water,” World Peace said. “I loved it.”
The Lakers cruised to victory that night, giving World Peace a hero’s sendoff in his final home game in purple and gold.
Two days later, he was informed by new President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson that he would not be retained for the next season.
World Peace took the news in stride, publicly thanking Johnson, Walton and others — including the late Dr. Jerry Buss and current owner Jeanie Buss — for “closing out my Lakers ball career in fashion.”
What lies ahead for Metta is uncertain.
He is enrolled in classes at Concordia University Irvine and UCLA. He has vocalized a desire to play 20 seasons — in the NBA and overseas — and needs only two more to accomplish this. He wants to coach someday, and the Lakers have expressed interest in him taking some sort of similar role.
Still, the only certainty with Ron Artest is that you never know what Metta World Peace is going to do next.
I also decided not to play hockey because all the players said they would retire. I told them I am a nice guy , don't be intimidated— Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace) July 12, 2013