Okay, I am admittedly not a big professional basketball fan. I’ll watch, I’ll enjoy, I’ll go on with my life. I really should pay attention to sports more because they are basically the man’s equivalent of The Real Housewives. So much drama. Just the other day, someone was explaining to me that half the reason coaches are needed isn’t to actually coach a team, but to manage egos. Some of the best coaches just soothe and balance athlete egos. It sounds like every episode I ever watched with Tamra.
I was enlightened by my friend Michelle (she always seems to enlighten me) about Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest Jr. who is currently playing for the Lakers and decided on Sunday that it would be a fantastic idea to elbow James Harden’s head. Yep, nothing like a nice ‘bow to the head to instill sportsmanship and camaraderie. She suggested I do a Case Files post on this troubled basketball star.
First things first, I was immediately intrigued by the apparent name change. When people decide to change their names, it generally represents some sort of issues with identity. Sure, his new name sends a nice message about World Peace. We all want that, right? Beauty queens talk about it all the time. Well, that and harsher punishments for parole violators.
“Metta is going to be the first name and it means like friendship, love and kindness,” Artest told Stephen A. Smith on 710 ESPNLA earlier this month. “World Peace is going to be the last name, so everybody can get ready to buy their World Peace jerseys.” — World Peace in September 2011, after the official name change.
The name change was the culmination of a lot of unrest and general bad behavior in World Peace’s life. He’s pretty well-known for a brawl in 2004 where he decided to attack a fan in the stands who threw a drink at him while also in the midst of a confrontation with an opposing teammate. It was the epitome of classy behavior. People are still shaking their heads at the mention of this altercation. World Peace (then Artest) was suspended for an entire season.
I wasn’t initially impressed with Metta World Peace. I mean, Michelle said he was a good candidate for The Case Files, but all I saw was a guy who was allegedly violent towards women, a guy who regularly lost control of his temper and hurt others, a guy who starved dogs, and a guy who decided to change his name to something goofy. I brushed him off as an eccentric adrenaline junkie who enjoys being a violent jerk when he’s at work.
I gave Michelle more credit though and I kept digging. I read about how World Peace won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award last season and donated his entire salary to mental health charities this season.
I was instantly endeared to Mr. World Peace. A guy who supports mental health! What’s his deal? People generally don’t support mental health unless they have struggled or they love someone who has struggled with mental health. Supporting mental health is about as taboo as a politician who doesn’t go to church. It happens, but it’s not like people don’t judge you for it.
Then, and this is where I found my soft spot for Metta, he thanked his psychiatrist after the Lakers won the world championship in 2010 calling her “crucial”. Not only did he see the benefits that mental health services have provided him, he had the ability to recognize his gratitude publicly. You can’t buy that kind of PR, especially in mental health where if you seek help, you certainly don’t talk about it publicly. You just go about your life all patched up, telling people you woke up one morning magically healed.
However, all this doesn’t absolve World Peace of his bad behavior. In fact, it sets up the precedent that he is aware he has an issue, specifically with violence. While he’s never come out with a diagnosis, I can certainly extrapolate that the guy has some issues with regulating his emotions. That’s pretty easy to see.
I won’t weigh in on what the punishment should be for Metta after this elbow-to-the-head incident. That’s not my job. My job is to flesh out what this guy is going through, which I can imagine is a lot. Walking around with the words “World Peace” on your back as you beat the crap out of some one’s head with your elbow has got to take the wind out of your sails. Something needs to happen internally with this guy, because no amount of restrictions or punishments from the NBA will change this guy. Metta World Peace is the responsible party for living up to his name. So far, he’s struggling.
I’ve removed my distaste for the incident he had in 2007 involving the starvation of his Great Dane. That’s already big for me as I’m sure most of you gather I’m quite the animal enthusiast. I will acknowledge the efforts he has made. I will choose to believe that the guy is really trying. Unfortunately, no amount of words spoken about mental health or money donated will change the behaviors. There is a reason why actions speak louder than words and in this case, World Peace still has a long way to go. I hope he gets there and his psychiatrist continues to be “crucial,” in his growth as a person and as a player.
What do you all think about Mr. World Peace’s story?
My ACA post this week: Reflections on 530 Hours