By all accounts, the signing of Metta World Peace was a good thing. Low-risk, high-reward, cathartic and karma-mending — it pretty much covered all the bases. But not everyone was pleased. The following is an email exchange I had with a self-described “fan of the blog” who insisted that the conversation be reproduced only under the strictest anonymity. So here it is.
Rab Sliverman: Winners. Champions. The true greats of the sport. Men who transcend the game; who come to define the era in which they play. You can list them with surname-free bliss.
Magic. Michael. Wilt. Kareem. Isiah. Hakeem. LeBron. Kobe. Bird.
Is Bird a surname? Okay, it is. But it doesn’t really sound like one and animals don’t count so my oh-so-salient-point and the song remains the same.
And to this hallowed registry of unfathomable athletic splendor, you think the New York Knickerbockers Professional Basketball Club and Traveling Medicine Show should ad…METTA?
I am appalled. Shocked and appalled. You dare to besmirch the memory of James Naismith himself. Men named Metta do not ply their trade in the Mecca of Basketball. These hallowed halls, upon which have trod the finest cagers in the sport, and you…you…
It’s repugnant is what it is. Metta may be a New Yorker by birthright, but the real denizens of this town know, his act won’t play. Not on Broadway, the Bowery, the Bronx or Staten Island too. Uptown, Downtown, crosstown…like the kids say, we ain’t down with World Peace.
Cavan: Yes, let’s talk about some of these legends, shall we? One of them cheated on his wife with enough women to violate an Applebee’s fire code. Another routinely punched his own teammates in the face and just named his brother Emperor of Charlotte. One guy appeared in Conan the Destroyer. Children out of wedlock; a former SOCCER player, for crying out loud; a Los Angeles Laker; and Isiah Thomas: check; check; check; check.
Ahh, “class”. The last refuge of a sports scoundrel.
Metta World Peace will never outrun the Malice monsters; never do near enough to make people understand the name change. Partly because it wasn’t just the Malace, and it wasn’t just the name change. Partly because we as a society are quicker to forgive monsters of true power than mere men at play. He is, however, coming back to the one place where hearing his old name could conjure a memory apart. Good memories. Memories of home and a playground concrete’s tautest roots.
It sounds so benign, doesn’t it? No harm done. Just a bit of Malice, like that lovely movie with that bloviating lie-bral gasbag has-been, Alex Baldwin. But it was no mere bit of moral-free cinematic flotsam from the soulless cesspool that is “Holly-wood.” Oh no, it was an insult to everything I hold near and dear.
A man (if I dare to use such a word). A trained, sculpted athlete. 6 foot 7 inches and two hundred and fifty pounds of coiled fury. His sense, barely tethered together by his taut, sinewy, glistening, oiled, muscular, oily-muscled man-frame. At the merest provocation — a cup of lager mind you — goes tearing into the stands like wild Bengal tiger, blood and/or saliva dripping from his curled lips, his eyes shot red with unfettered rage, red as the blood that courses, nay throbs, with pugilistic fervor through every throbbing vein in his chiseled frame.
He has only one thought (if you can call it that): revenge. He wants to feel the flesh of another man against his white knuckled fists. Pounding his supposed tormentor again and again, harder and harder, faster and faster, his mind a blur, until the helpless victim is reduced to a pulpy heap.
And do you know who witnessed this atrocity?
Children. Young Children. Some as young as six years old. And do you know who possibly witnessing this atrocity right next to the young children barely six years old? Even younger children.
Won’t somebody please think of the children!
Cavan: We overdraft our bank accounts to make sure Junior’s Christmas morning includes a nice three-hour session of Call of Duty IX: Mow Down the Foreigners on XBox 360; drag him to parades in baking heat, hand him a sparkler, then tell him to cheer humans shooting and stabbing and lighting other human beings on fire. And Ron Artest clocking some drunk shithead is grounds for shipping him to Attica?
He was 24 years old when the Malice went down. Twenty-four. When I was 24, I could barely be bothered to put pants on. I would go months — literally months — without washing my shower towel. I ate cheese six, sometimes seven times a day. I wore glasses repaired with a wad of duct tape the size of a June bug because my weekly expenses for the $300 I made working in a kitchen included rent, food, gas, drugs, and more drugs, and not saving up for a pair of glasses that didn’t melt to my face on hot days. I lived in a walk-in closet on the third floor of Washington, D.C. row house. I was seriously into Arcade Fire. In most pre-Columbian societies, I would’ve been sacrificed to the corn gods during a GREAT harvest.
He’s 33, has a chip, was sent off from LA with heaps of heartfelt praise, and is looking to close out a very, very good career by helping his childhood team take that next step — the team that overnighted him a parcel of malaria-laced elephant shit on Draft Night, by the way.
I’m all in.
Sliverman: Fine. Let’s leave Ron’s crimes in the past where they belong. Though I notice your youthful follies did not merit incarceration. You certainly needed a good, strong bath, a colonic and a stern talking-to, but as much as you might have been (and might still be, a no-goodnik punk who’s what’s wrong with this country — where’s your work ethic and making something of yourself and bootstrap-pulling and elbow grease and putting your grimy, possibly drug-filled and -fueled nose to the proverbial grindstone?)
And he’s called Mr. Artest, not Metta or World Peace [chortles]. Snoop Doggy Dogg is Snoop Doggy Dog. Not Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion. Puff Daddy is not Puffy is not P. Diddy is not George Sand.
Where was I? Oh yes, you ruffian kids are useless with the eye-phones and the twitterers. But enough of all that.
Let’s talk about basketball, if your substance-addled mind can still recall the rules set down by the great James A. Naismith on stone tablets and passed to Cousy to Russell to West to Havlicek to Erving where it was translated into the Elvish language of Quenya by Shane Battier.
Artest’s supposed defensive prowess has been ever-dimishing with age. The footspeed that allowed him to ably guard small, big and medium forwards alike is as much a relic of the past as my trusty rotary phone and prized IBM Selectric Typewriter.
If you think he can spread the floor, recall that he shot a putrid .403 from the field, and that was under the kindly eyes of Mike D’Antoni. He hasn’t cracked .414 since ’08 and he’s a Bargani-esque .342 from deep. If you’re expecting a Three and Dee guy, Ron ain’t it, pardon my use of low-class argot.
I’ve got some pockmarked, asthmatic intern here by my side wielding a protractor and a Ventolin inhaler. He says these numbers is no good. He’s got new numbers. FANCY numbers. And lo! They’re terrible too! A Tee-Ess of .517 and an E-Eff-Gee of .488 and win shares? What’s that? Speak up boy! Assert yourself. You’ll never make it in this biz we call ness if you don’t learn to announce your presence in bold, robust, baritone…er…tones.
I aught to dock that boy’s salary. What? He doesn’t get one? Well, problem solved. Hmph. That’s what you get with a Princeton grad.
Right-o. Win Shares. He doesn’t get many or something. Purr? No he doesn’t purr, boy! Artest is not a cat, striking high cheekbones and devilish, vaguely Asiatic eyes notwithstanding.
Intern-kid here says his purr is no good. Hmph. Sounds licentious if you ask me.
So there you have it. A fading defensive player who only exacerbates the team’s…JUST SAY IT STOP WRITING NOTES LAD. JIM CAN’T HEAR YOU…spacing issues.
What a great addition. And that’s assuming he isn’t wearing a straight jacket and drinking from a sippy cup with his shoelaces and belt taken away for his protection while he ‘rests’ at the local loony bin by December.
Thus endeth the lesson.
Cavan: No, he’s not a beacon of efficiency. Even after 14 seasons, his jumper’s release still displays all the grace of a broken windhsield wiper. He hasn’t had a PER higher than 15 since 2009, and and his 106 DRtg a year ago was the second worst of his career.
Still, I feel like some context is in order here. You remember last year’s Los Angeles Lakers, right? One more regular season loss, FEMA aircraft are sent to Southern California. Darius Morris played serious point guard minutes. DARIUS MORRIS! During one stretch in mid-February, they rolled out a starting lineup of World Peace, Andrew Goudelock, Earl Clark, and George Mikan. That was it — those were the only four players they had. Everyone else was in the hospital. George Mikan has been dead for eight years.
Here are the facts: MWP has one of the most intense, well-respected offseason regimens in the league; he enjoyed a bounce-back season a year ago; and he really, really wants to be here. Don’t think that doesn’t count for something.
Will he revert to Captain Bonehead between two and five times a week? Probably. Will he get ejected for sitting on someone’s head? Ten-to-one, tops. Will there be drama? Yes. Just, Law & Order Drama and not, like, Steel Magnolias drama, you know? Quick-hitting and intermittent.
You’ll come around, Rab. We’re talking about arguably the greatest New York City product of his generation; a guy who bleeds concrete and oozes 90s tough. He’s going to fit, he’s going to work, he’s going to teach, preach, and reach, and he’s going to be a blast to watch.
Sliverman: But I jus–
Cavan: Sorry, Rab, we’re out of time.
Sliverman: Oh come on, on mor–
Cavan: Sorry, this isn’t a February Bobcats game recap. Gotta keep it under 2000 words.
Sliverman: Well can we make it a 10-part series?