Metta World Peace Talks Depression, Being 'Super-Panicked' After Malice at the Palace

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 20, 2021

AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers #91 leaves the floor after a melee involving fans during a game against the Detroit Pistons November 19, 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills, in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Copyright 2004 NBAE  (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The aftermath of the infamous "Malice at the Palace" adversely impacted the mental health of former NBA star Metta World Peace as he served a 72-game suspension during the 2004-05 season.

World Peace explained to ESPN's Anthony Olivieri how much he missed getting to play that year. He also felt a level of anxiety once he was eligible to return because the fallout may not have been over:

"I worked out from November until the playoffs. And then beyond the playoffs, in the summertime, I started to get depressed. And then the season's coming back, then I started to panic a little bit when that season came back. So, then that's when I requested the trade. I was like, I just need to get out of here. Then, I really went into depression. I went from 248 to 273 [pounds] when I got to Sacramento [where I was traded]. When I went back after the suspension, I was more worried about what was going to happen in the arena. You're worried about if somebody is going to test you. Somebody [could] throw something at you. I was just super-panicked, but I had a support system. I still had my therapist."

The 41-year-old, who said he'd already been in therapy before the incident in Detroit, went on to say he got to a better place mentally later in his career when he discovered how to better balance his exploits on the court with his life off it.

"To find balance, you got to go in the opposite direction sometimes, which will pull you from your greatness. But for me, I had to take a couple of steps back from giving my all to the game. I had to give a little bit to me personally. It was unfortunate because I was in the prime of my career but, in the end, I felt better. It took a long time. Though, I would say about the age of 28, 29 was where I started really being able to understand what was going on."

The November 2004 melee represented a turning point for World Peace and the Indiana Pacers as a franchise. 

The Pacers seemed to be trending upward after reaching the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. Two seasons later, they got bounced in the first round by the New Jersey Nets and then started a four-year playoff drought. 

World Peace, meanwhile, was an All-Star and the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 2003-04. After the "Malice at the Palace," he made only 16 more appearances for Indiana before the team traded him to the Sacramento Kings.

World Peace eventually went on to win an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. Following Los Angeles' Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics, he made it a point to thank his psychologist, Dr. Santhi Periasamy.

"I spilled my guts to her, so I can fix it, become a better parent, become a better person, be relaxed, enjoy the blessings of everything in my life," he later said to ESPN's Shelley Smith.

World Peace also told Olivieri he believes leagues should be including mental health support in their programs from youth players to the pros.