James Harden is back on the court and playing well for the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s a great thing, considering that he was the victim of a brutal elbow to the head from Metta World Peace just 10 days ago.
While Harden has now returned to the court and is playing well in these playoffs, World Peace has yet to reappear, after being slammed with a seven-game suspension by the NBA.
World Peace is a player who will probably always have a legacy of violence, and this particular elbow itself could very well be remembered as one of the worst plays in NBA history.
While the player formally known as Ron Artest will be primarily remembered for the Malice in the Palace brawl of 2004, this play is probably second on the Artest list for many reasons.
One thing that really seemed to enrage many is the fact that Artest elbowed Harden without really any provocation. Artest had just dunked over two Thunder players, and he was running back down the court. Harden was going to catch an inbound pass. They bumped and Artest responded by blindly throwing an elbow as hard as possible.
While you may hear some argue that Harden provoked the play, it doesn’t seem likely when you look at the tape. Granted, Harden does get in the way of Artest’s path, but that happens all the time in the NBA. To call the elbow provoked is stretching an argument a bit too far past logic.
If this play had happened during play, perhaps in the low post, it would be looked at completely differently. Elbows are thrown down there all the time, and while some do earn punishments from the league, there is no way it would have been as tough as a seven-game suspension.
This elbow was after the play was stopped and while the opposing player was really just trying to get the game going again. It makes it worse.
So far, Artest has not shown the level of remorse necessary to get forgiveness in the court of public opinion. While he did apologize on that day, he merely did so for the fact that it happened.
He did not accept responsibility or any blame at all. Artest states that “it was unfortunate that James had to get it with an unintentional elbow.” Seriously?
First of all, let’s examine the “had to” part. Artest is saying that Harden “had to” get hit with an elbow, as if it was something that needed to be done for some greater good. Then, he called the elbow unintentional. It may have been unintentional for Artest to elbow Harden specifically, but the elbow itself was every bit intentional. Artest felt a body there and chose to elbow it out of the way.
When you add these comments to the fact that Artest does not even look back to see who he has clocked, it tells you something about how bad this guy really feels about what he has done. He didn’t care a bit until he realized that Harden’s Thunder teammate Serge Ibaka was coming over to drop him.
These actions are not those of a man who is genuinely remorseful about what he has done. They are those of a man who only cares about the effects those actions have had on him. That may not be really how Artest feels, but that is what his actions reflect.
And it is part of the reason this elbow could go down in infamy. A lack of remorse is what makes a villain truly villainous. Is Artest a villain? No, but the villain stereotype is something people could latch on to. Hopefully, they won’t.
This play merely added itself to a laundry list of Artest’s mistakes and missteps throughout his pro career. However, it will probably end up being the second-worst thing on that list because of the outrage it invoked, the lack of provocation and the lack of a show of remorse.
Those three factors could lead to that elbow being one of the most infamous elbows in sports history.