Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hard to Be an Enforcer Named 'Metta World Peace'

Originally published January of 2012:  Kobe said this week Metta needs to be the team's 'enforcer', so thought it was a good time to revisit this one.

The transformation of Ron Artest has been a lengthy one.  Probably, no one would have guessed that the guy who started the biggest riot in sports with fans would have come so full circle as he has done.

Earlier in his career, while playing for the Indiana Pacers as the visitor against the Detroit Pistons, he was the first of a group of players at the end of a game to physically challenge fans and go into the stands seeking them out.  He threw heavy punches and connected as if he hadn't forgotten his days growing up tough in New York City.

That episode has long passed and his role in the last Lakers' championship is starting to fade too.  He was an integral part in their ability to overcome the Boston Celtics in 2010 and reverse the previous year's results.

Artest had taken the unusual steps of publicly seeking redemption in the years that followed the riotous behavior in Detroit.  He went on sports talk-shows to offer his softer side.  He would hip-hop rap and try to find the humor in things, too.  He seemed uncomfortable in this couch role at first, but he kept at it and adapted to become very personable.

His basketball career continued and did successfully.  He was a perennial defensive first-teamer and in the running for defensive player of the year, a-la Dennis Rodman.  He had created a niche for himself in a game hard to find niches.  His 6'7" small forward buff-like frame was used to push others around on his way to the basket and for creating space for his 3-point shot

Also, as the Dennis Rodman of his generation in the NBA, he impressed fans with wild haircuts and writing in his hair.  He endeared himself by creating his own character.

He became more of an entertainer of sorts, trying stand-up comedy, stints on late-night shows instead of just sports shows and an appearance as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars.

Through it all, he has created foundations to help the less fortunate and consistently given to charities, including giving his championship ring away to raise money.  He has shown courage in announcing his donations to organizations focused on helping people with mental health, something he says he has struggled with.

His name change to Metta World Peace is all part of his evolution.  He continues to try and find himself.

The dude who was once known as one of the Enforcers in the NBA, has now become a huggable teddy bear of a guy.

But, his latest move to Metta, might have played him out of the NBA.

When you earned the money by becoming a defensive stopper and a hard-nosed gamer willing to take on the stiffest of challenges, and people have come to expect that of you, it's hard to be anything else.

Metta means loving and kindness.  World Peace means exactly that, world peace.

His shiny career is coming to an end.

With his name Metta World Peace, he may have found more of who he is, but he has lost his desire for what made him so great at roundball.

Like Rodman before him, Artest will be remembered for being different and coming to the realization that being different and searching for the meaning in life are okay things to do for pro athletes, who are constantly in the limelight and expected to know exactly who they are and what they want.

They were able to give more perspective on how to be yourself when everyone is telling you that you have to be one way.

Artest, the basketball player, has become Metta World Peace, the fledgling entertainer humanitarian.

He may have made a career path for himself after basketball.  He won't make the Hall of Fame, but he won't be forgotten too quickly by the public, either.

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