I never liked Ron Artest. I didn't like him at St. John's, I didn't like him as a Pacer, and I particularly don't like him as his new alter ego, Metta World Peace. I've thought of him as a wasted talent, a joke of a professional athlete, and basically an attention-grubbing man child.
That said, I am beginning to think he is actually good for the NBA.
The "Malice at the Palace" is what the average fan thinks of when it comes to World Peace. That incident alone would be enough for me to change my name, but that is what is so puzzling about him. He changed his name well after that melee, for other reasons.
Along with punching fans, World Peace's disciplinary record is a lengthy one.
Now in the final stages of his career, he is looking for a second NBA championship. Sometimes I can't help but wonder if we are all playing right into World Peace's hands. At times, he can look so out of control of his emotions, but can seem so calm and well-reasoned other times.
I think players like him are needed in the NBA. As much as I cannot stand the guy, he is actually good for basketball.
Hear me out.
I would never condone his atrocious behavior, and generally find him to be a sideshow attraction rather than a serious athlete. Aside from the antics, he is still a great defender, and capable of giving you 20 points and 10 rebounds a night.
Having him in the league gives us a scapegoat, someone to blame, which is something we love in this country.
His overall craziness makes you, me, and opposing players alike focus on the circus act rather than the player. That's just what players like World Peace want.
If you think about it, it is actually pretty clever—take people's minds off of the basketball player and let them only see the crazy mask you wear.
He has demonstrated that nothing is off limits for him. When he is in the game, teams know that nothing is out of the realm of possibility. He could do anything.
I like to think of him as a controlled fire. Every so often, you are going to lose control of the fire and it will cause some damage. Most of the time, however, it is under control even though, to the outsider, it may look like a reckless blaze.
I am actually not a fan of World Peace, but I finally get it now. I get his game. He thinks basketball is just as much of a mental game as it is a physical one. Maybe he is right. Maybe his actions are controlled, but seem random to us as fans.
Whatever might be going on inside of that head, he is still a 6'7" man who needs to be accounted for on the floor. The Lakers have to face the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs, which begin tonight. In true World Peace style, he has already made inflammatory comments about James Harden, the player whom he elbowed at the end of the regular season earning him a seven-game suspension.
If the Lakers are to have any real shot beating the Thunder, they will need World Peace to be a contributor as a basketball player, not a side show.