Coach

‘Metta Day,' World Peace Ignites Staples Center Crowd

Metta World Peace missed his first three shots before making seven of his next 10 attempts on Tuesday night at Staples Center

On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Orleans Pelicans 108-96 on what may as well have been labeled "Metta Day." Exactly two days short of the anniversary of "Mamba Day," the day Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his LA Lakers' finale, World Peace took over Staples Center.

"Kobe got Dom Perignon. I got water. I loved it," World Peace shared that his teammates showered him in ice water following the game and jokingly complained that it was cold and that he could have died.

Of course, World Peace didn't score 60 points in what was billed and what felt like it may well be the final time he plays at Staples Center. In fact, the 37-year-old entered the halftime break with zero points despite starting and playing 10 minutes prior to that point. The farewell to World Peace seemed like it would be far from memorable, though the personality and his play on the court was anything but that.

After missing his first shot out of the break, World Peace proceeded to hit seven of his next 10 attempts to tab 18 second-half points, which mixed in well with four steals, four rebounds and one assist on the night.

That's not bad for a 37-year-old, is it? To be honest, World Peace's stat-line would have been welcomed by any of his teammates, as he led the team in scoring.

Arriving at Tuesday night was no ordinary feat, however. After playing in China and Italy, World Peace joined the Lakers on a non-guaranteed contract at the start of their 2015 training camp.

"When I first came here last year, (former General Manager) Mitch (Kupchak) said I had a 50 percent chance to make the team," World Peace responded when asked about whether he ever thought a day like Tuesday would have been possible after the Lakers used their amnesty clause on the forward. "I said, 'Are you sure I got a 50 percent chance?' He said, 'Yea.' I said, 'Cool. That's going to be easy.'"

World Peace continued, "And this year, he said, 'You got a 10 percent chance to make the team -- 10 percent.' He asked me, 'Do you want to come?' Easy. Ten percent, I'll take it. I'll gamble with that any day."

The veteran continued, "If they give me a chance, I'm going to do what I got to do. I'm a basketball player. This year, he wanted me to focus on the young guys, just keeping them in order, different things like that. And that's what I did."

Before moving on from his thought, World Peace concluded, "You give me a one percent chance, you might as well give me that spot."

Back to Tuesday's game, World Peace's presence electrified the crowd consisting of 18,997 adoring fans. On the introductions, World Peace earned the loudest cheers. Then, seemingly every time World Peace touched the ball, the crowd came to life and begged him to shoot. When he started hitting shots, the energy World Peace generated seemed to only grow with every passing second.

In what could best be described as a meaningless game for a team that is near the bottom of the league, Staples Center provided a flame thrower of playoff-like energy thanks to World Peace's relationship with the fans and their love for him as a player and as a person off the court.

When he checked out of the game with 6:29 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lakers leading by 15 points, the crowd rose and applauded the player most famous in LA for hitting a game clinching shot in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Chants of "Metta" rang out with World Peace's teammates leading the crowd from the bench.

"Who would have ever thought there would be a Buddha session in Staples Center?" World Peace smiled.

World Peace would return for the conclusion of the game, but the game and the night had already been won by the Queensbridge native. His former teammate and current coach, Luke Walton, had shone the spotlight on the player formerly known as Ron Artest, and World Peace had provided Staples Center and the 2016-17 Lakers the perfect story for its final home game of the season -- possibly the final time World Peace ever plays at Staples Center or dons a Lakers' jersey.

"[I'm] definitely grateful for everything," World Peace responded when asked if he was comfortable with the thought that Tuesday could be his last game at Staples Center. "Obviously, I'm going to keep working out. My goals didn't change."

For anyone wondering, World Peace's goal is to play 20 years as a professional basketball player. On Wednesday night, he'll officially complete 18 years seasons since leaving St. John's University in 1999. If the Lakers have a training camp spot up for grabs come late September, don't be surprised if they give World Peace a chance and he beats the odds yet again.

On Tuesday night, though, Staples Center didn't want to take any chances and ensured that World Peace felt the love and heard his adopted name: "Metta! Metta! Metta!"

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