“Coaching and China is what’s on my mind right now,” Metta World Peace shockingly stated. “China is number one. If I don’t go to China, then I’ll probably want to do something adventurous. Maybe play football.”
With that, World Peace appeared content to call it quits on his NBA career.
On a Friday afternoon in El Segundo, Nick Young had his day in front of a small contingent of media. The Lakers’ newest signing was thrilled to become a Laker, and the media session was brief by Lakers’ standards.
Considering the muted media presence, only two writers remained in the press room after the cameramen cleared out: Dave McMenamin and me. As we hammered away at our laptops in silence, a voice was heard in the hallway. It sounded familiar, but I was slightly more focused than my ESPN counterpart. He nonchalantly stood up and ambled into the hallway.
As he did so, I realized that I, too, recognized the voice and peeked around the corner. Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, was standing by the front desk, and his voice was a gravitational force that was impossible to fight. I was a regular interactive fixture in the locker room all of last season, so I walked over. World Peace offered a handshake and a smile.
He asked Dave and me what we were doing there, and we told him that it was Nick Young’s press conference day. Metta told us that he liked Nick Young and asked if Mitch Kupchak was around. Whether he dropped in unannounced was unclear, but he promised to talk with us when he was done with the Lakers' general manager. World Peace had been waived via the amnesty clause the night before, so this was his first day not being a Laker in four years.
As Dave and I walked back to the press room, I commented on this being a rather unexpected surprise.
“Eighty percent of success is showing up,” Dave responded with a quote from Woody Allen. On most days, I wouldn’t argue with either Dave or Woody Allen.
I was scheduled to do a radio interview in Hawaii discussing Metta’s amnesty and the Lakers’ recent signings, but I immediately cancelled because World Peace was in the building.
A half hour later, World Peace descended from the offices of Lakers’ management. He grabbed a seat in the hallway, and Dave and I sat on either side of him with recorders in hand. For those who are unaware, World Peace is not a shy individual. He is an approachable, thoughtful, sometimes eccentric, and always energetic being. Whereas other players can often sound like a dull broken record, World Peace’s thoughts are always unique and interesting.
First, we discussed the recent amnesty. He referred to the Lakers as a family business and understood that the decision saved the organization considerable money. He went on to say that he was close with the family, so he “supported” the decision.
Then, we discussed his time in Los Angeles and his lasting memories. Along with his charity work, Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals offered him his favorite memory since arriving in Los Angeles four years earlier. However, World Peace’s favorite Game 7 memory was not his late 3-pointer or the comeback; it was Derek Fisher’s speech entering the fourth quarter of Game 7.
“It was the craziest experience ever. It was like Martin Luther King,” Metta said. “That was the craziest thing I ever experienced in my life. It was the craziest thing ever. Derek was just amazing.”
Truthfully, Dave took the lead in questioning, and I was happy to have him do so. However, I was an active participant, so I asked Metta if he had given thought to where he would like to play next or how long he would like to play for.
After initially saying he wasn’t sure, he revealed that his adventurous nature was guiding him to look beyond the NBA: Knicks? No. Nets? No. Clippers? No. Spurs? No. Thunder? No.
He revealed that when unverified reports hit the internet saying he was going to be waived with even Kobe Bryant tweeting about it, he contacted Kupchak and immediately told him that he wanted to be a player development coach for the Lakers. However, Kupchak responded directly that no decision had been made and told him not to believe anything. The Lakers had not decided at that point, and some reporters had jumped the gun.
Eventually, the decision was made to waive World Peace. However, his initial desire to become a player development coach had seemingly only strengthened.
“I’m a great trainer,” he boasted and credited former Lakers Assistant Coach Chuck Person for helping him.
Were his basketball playing days over, then? Well, not exactly. World Peace was interested in playing in China, where the seasons were significantly shorter. He had been in contact with former teammate Yao Ming, and he intended to go back to China in the near future. China was his first desire because it offered him the biggest adventure. Scoring forty-something points a night sounded like a fun concept to the 33-year-old, who had sacrificed scoring upon arriving in LA.
He admitted that his boxing dream was over, and the “malice in the Palace” had tarnished his reputation. Also, his age made it difficult to go into that line of sport even though his father was a former boxer, he had trained as a boxer when he was younger, and he had a passion for the sport.
“Arena football is something that I’m interested in,” he said excitedly. “It’s something that I think can be fun.”
Over 24 minutes of questions, answers, and conversation, World Peace provided one last glimpse into his mind at the Lakers’ facility. He was due to return to China in the upcoming weeks, and his excitement when discussing Greece, England, and China was impossible to deny.
Many may instantly dismiss his comments, but the wise ones will quickly remember that he tried standup comedy, changed his name to World Peace, thanked his psychiatrist, talked to his knee, and auctioned off his only championship ring for charity--and no, he did not buy a replacement ring.
If there is one thing Metta World Peace has proven time and again, it is that no one should ever doubt his ability to surprise.
Good luck in China, Metta.