If you exclude James Dolan’s publicity stunt on Sunday, bringing back numerous ex-Knicks to join him courtside, Metta World Peace was the only former Knicks employee to get a warm reception at Madison Square Garden last week.
The 37-year-old veteran entered last Monday’s contest for the Lakers in the final minute with L.A. holding a 119-107 lead over the Knicks. World Peace promptly hit a knockdown jumper over Carmelo Anthony, the final points for the Lakers on the evening. The Garden erupted with chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” for the Queensbridge native.
It’s been a whirlwind career for the 16-year NBA veteran, but a fulfilling one – especially when he got a chance to suit up for his hometown Knicks three seasons ago.
“It was great…great…[I was] grateful I got a chance to play for the Knicks,” World Peace said to the Inquisitr last week sitting at his locker in the visiting locker room. “That year, I had a chance to go [play] for [either] the [San Antonio] Spurs or OKC [Oklahoma City Thunder], and I didn’t know if I would have the opportunity to play for New York.”
World Peace appeared in 29 games for New York that season, averaging 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds. The brief Knicks tenure packed a season’s worth of memories; he rode the subway to his Knicks debut, interviewed his teammates at media day, and was released in February 2014 after a disappointing stint that included nagging knee injuries.
It wasn’t so much the disappointing run in New York as much as the chance to play in New York that mattered for World Peace. It meant more to him than anything else.
“Putting on the Knicks jersey was big and I got a chance to do it and I’m blessed [I got a chance to do it],” World Peace added with a smile on his face. “I got the [Knicks] jersey hanging up in my house….at that point in my career, I’d rather have been a Knick than [won a championship].”
DRAFT NIGHT DISAPPOINTMENT
While World Peace (f.k.a. Ron Artest) got his dream of suiting up for the Knicks, his career could’ve turned out a lot differently on the night of the 1999 NBA Draft. The Knicks had the 15th selection that year and World Peace was still available when their slot came up.
The Knicks ultimately decided to draft French big man Frederic Weis – the Bulls had the next pick and selected World Peace out of St. John’s. Weis never played a single for the Knicks and his claim to fame is Vince Carter’s pulverizing dunk over him in the 2000 Olympics. World Peace went on to become an All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and an NBA World Champion (Lakers, 2009-10).
“That night,” World Peace said reflecting on the ’99 Draft, “the only reason it wasn’t a disappointment is because growing up I was a [Chicago] Bulls fan. But I would have much rather been drafted by the Knicks…the only thing that made it better was that I was a Bulls fan.”
“So as a 19-year-old kid, as a kid, you’re being drafted by your favorite team, it’s insane.”
World Peace spent two and a half years in Chicago, averaging 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 175 games. The post-Michael Jordan era with Artest, Elton Brand, and others did not pan out as planned, and the Bulls have yet to return to the NBA Finals since Jordan’s retirement.
World Peace is a cult legend in New York; he went to St John’s, grew up in Queensbridge, and earned the nickname Tru Warier playing in tournaments across the state. He admits that he only stayed at St. John’s because he wanted to remain in New York and would’ve gone to Long Island University or Queens College for the same reason.
Instead, World Peace left school and began a 14-year journey to The Garden that went through the Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and the Lakers.
“If it was up to me, I would have wanted to come here,” World Peace said.
NO END IN SIGHT
World Peace’s quirky – at times volatile – personality has been a staple of the NBA. This is the same man who was part of arguably the worst brawl in league history, the Malice at the Palace; the same man who approached Kobe Bryant in the shower after the Lakers suffered a 39-point loss in Game 6 of 2008 NBA Finals and told him he wanted to help win a title; the same man who applied for a job at Circuit City as a rookie with the Bulls to get an employee discount.
For that last one, World Peace listed NBA player as his last job and put former Bulls president Jerry Krause as a reference. He actually revealed on ESPN’s Highly Questionable that he got the job and worked one shift. However, a separate ESPN piece says the Bulls stepped in before World Peace began his sales career.
World Peace is also the man who has struggled to stay in the NBA the last three years. He did not play in 2014-15 (split season in China and Italy) and has played in just 53 NBA games the last two seasons. However, World Peace insists his days playing basketball aren’t dwindling down.
“I don’t know if I’m in the twilight [of my career],” World Peace, who’s averaging just one point per game this season, said. “I’m going to play basketball for a long time.”
World Peace, despite his limited playing time, says he’s the guy people have to play against to prove themselves. World Peace says he’s the guy who gets off a flight and heads down to an Equinox Fitness or New York Sports Club to play pick up games. World Peace adds that lifting weights, running suicides, and mentoring young players is still fun for him.
World Peace says the day when he’s not a basketball player could “come soon” – three consecutive years of struggling to land an NBA deal doesn’t bode well. However, whether World Peace is in an NBA uniform or not, he’ll be a basketball player.
“The league doesn’t make me professional, I am professional,” World Peace said.
[Featured Image by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]