REDLANDS, CA – Oct. 29, 2019 – Standing in at 6’7”, retired NBA Champion Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, towers over everyone as he enters the interview room.
“I was a quiet kid, but once you get thrown into the fire with the wolves of the basketball courts [in Queens, New York], you had to come out [of] that shell,” World Peace said. “I just hated to lose and I knew I was trying to help my situation there.”
World Peace arrived to the U of R as part of the Campus Diversity Inclusion (CDI) program organized by Director of Athletics Jeff Martinez and School of Education Counseling Professor Janee Both Grag. According to CDI, 148 students, athletes and community members attended.
The focus of World Peace’s visit is a continuation of his mental health advocacy, crediting his 2010 NBA Lakers Championship win to his psychiatrist and individual focus on mental health, according to various news sources.
“Households with conflict can contribute to an individual’s way of coping with issues in adulthood,” Dr. Santhi Periasamy said in the Showtime Documentary, Quiet Storm: the Ron Artest Story. “Anxiety and depressive symptoms are often responses to encountering stress and trauma throughout childhood.”
The retired NBA player grew up in the Queensbridge Projects in New York City.
“A lawyer from New York took me in when I was 14 years old, put me in private school [and] took me out of the public school situation,” World Peace said. “Hank Carter, he’s an advocate for paraplegics, also took me under and got me into [advocacy]. Giving back at 13 years old, we would move the paraplegics from hospital treatments.”
World Peace attended St. John’s University in New York on a basketball scholarship. His day would begin with a 5:45 AM practice and he would “not even [be] thinking of studying [at the end of the day].”
“I was really disappointed that I couldn’t really major in architecture [because] of the sports program,” World Peace said. “I had to bring projects to school, but I lived really far away and I’m tired and sweating all over the [projects]. So I dropped that. And then I said, ‘Okay, I’ll just go back to math’ but then by that time… I knew I was going to the NBA, so I can never go back to class.”
World Peace revealed that the reason he wanted to study architecture was so that he would be able to create more inspiring community centers in his home state. “I wanted to figure out how to do it. But it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the vision I got now. I wish I would have had it but I was so passionate about basketball I didn’t have time to think about [architecture].”
Going back to school, World Peace earned a degree in mathematics from St. John’s.
He confessed that if he wasn’t playing basketball professionally then he would have been a junior high math teacher. “When I was younger I wanted to make a little bit of money and I knew teaching paid thirty five thousand as a math teacher for junior high math.” His only goal was to build a better life for himself than the one he had growing up. He quickly realized that he would be able to make more money playing professional basketball and turned more of his focus to the sport.
As a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, World Peace applied and worked at Circuit City for one day, according to an ESPN interview.
“[The feeling of being a professional basketball player came] probably when you get to the NBA, before that everything’s up in the air, being drafted and doing the signing doesn’t [give you that feeling] unless you know you’re going to be number one,” World Peace said.
When asked if he considered basketball to be a job he responded, “Sometimes, especially when you’re not having a good day; but it is fun. I’m definitely lucky but we’re only human and no matter what job you work it doesn’t really matter if you’re not having a good time.” But on the really good days he said, “It’s doubly great [because] you’re having a good day and you’re playing basketball.”
World Peace played in the NBA for eighteen years from 1999 to 2017. It was with the Indiana Pacers that World Peace was involved in the ‘Malice at the Palace’ incident that resulted in his and his team members’s suspensions. The incident involved spectators as well as opponents heckling and harassing the Pacers as seen in footage from Quiet Storm: the Ron Artest Story.
When recalling his time playing on the courts in Queensbridge, World Peace stated that he had to be tough and would often play from a standpoint of hate. As he got older that toughness and hatred stayed with him all the way up to his time in the NBA. He remembered thinking that keeping the tough act on the NBA courts wasn’t going to work because he wasn’t there to fight, he was there to play basketball. “When I play it from that standpoint of hate I lose focus on winning the actual game [and then] the hate becomes a habit,” World Peace said.
While he was working on becoming the best that he could be on the court, he was having an ongoing battle between his emotions and his passion. “I had to lose some of my passion [for the game], I was trying to get a balance because my emotional level became too much,” World Peace said. Over the years he came to the conclusion that as long as he worked hard he would be okay with second place but not anything lower. “I’m not okay with third place,” World Peace stressed.
Now thirty nine years old, World Peace looks towards the future of his career with a sense of confidence and optimism.
“[Moving forward] I want to keep it simple, I’m a complicated person so now my plans are ‘How do I satisfy myself?’ I love business, I love philanthropy and I love basketball. That’s the one that’s really really time-consuming. But if all your focus on is helping other people, that’s a great thing, but it’s so time-consuming and that’s all you’re doing.
“I’m in a business now, but you know, I don’t need to be Google. Sometimes people struggle with that drive to be number one and when they don’t make it they just spiral out of control,” World Peace said. “I’m not saying don’t have drive [to be the best] but you gotta know yourself. That’s what I’ve been trying to architect for my own self.”
Photograph by Coco McKown for the Bulldog Blog.