Ron "Metta World Peace" Artest
The veteran forward agreed to a five-year deal with the Lakers in July 2009 after Trevor Ariza signed with Houston. Artest chose to wear No. 37 as a tribute to pop star Michael Jackson, who died less than a month before Artest’s arrival in Los Angeles (Jackson’s “Thriller” album was No. 1 on the Billboard charts for 37 weeks). He started in 77 games in 2009-10 but struggled with his shooting and rebounding during the regular season. He missed a handful of contests in the middle of the season after injuring himself in a fall at home.
Artest, who is perhaps best known for being suspended by the NBA for nearly an entire season following his involvement in a player-fan brawl at an Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons game in 2004, admitted to a reporter in 2010 that he drank cognac at halftime while playing with the Chicago Bulls early in his career. Despite the ensuing controversy over his remarks, Artest became a valuable contributor in the Lakers’ title run, improving on his point and rebound averages during the playoffs.
He hit a game-clinching three-pointer at the buzzer in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns before finishing with 25 points in a series-clinching Game 6 victory. He scored 20 points and sank a three-pointer late in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics to help secure the team’s second consecutive title.
During the postgame news conference, an animated Artest described his title-clinching three pointer: “[Kobe Bryant] passed me the ball. He never passes me the ball… And I shot a three. And Phil [Jackson] didn’t want me to shoot a three. I heard him because he’s the Zen master…. He can speak to you and you can hear him in your head, ‘Ron, don’t shoot, don’t shoot,’ but I said ‘whatever.’ ”
Artest wore No. 15 in 2010-11, the same number he wore early in his NBA career and while playing at St. John’s University. Despite starting in all 82 games, Artest posted the lowest scoring and rebounding averages of his career as the Lakers lost in four games to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.
Off the court, Artest continued to bury his once toxic reputation as one of the NBA's bad boys. He joined Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper as the only Lakers to win the league's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award – an honor that recognizes work and dedication inside the community. Artest, who thanked his psychologist during his giddy appearance at the Game 7 news conference, is involved in raising awareness about mental health issues. He testified before Congress on behalf of the Mental Health in Schools Act and appeared in a public service announcement for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. He also supported various mental health charities by raffling off his championship ring for $651,006.
“I still have a lot more to do to become the role model I want to become,” said Artest in an interview with The Times. “I'm not there yet and I have a long way to go. I just think right now I'm an example and solution. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to become an official role model.”
On Sept. 16, 2011, Artest legally changed his name to Metta World Peace. The new name didn't help his game, however, as World Peace posted the lowest scoring numbers of his career (7.7 points per game) during the 2011-12 season. He openly criticized Coach Mike Brown after the first-year Lakers coach moved World Peace into a reserve role.
Unfortunately, the season ended on a disappointing note for World Peace when he was suspended seven games by the NBA for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head while celebrating a slam dunk. He was forced to miss the Lakers' regular-season finale and most of the team's first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets.
Artest's playing time and scoring numbers improved in 2012-13, but the Lakers' disappointing season and first-round playoff exit meant the team was looking to cut costs as they attempted to restructure their roster. The Lakers waived World Peace under the amnesty clause in July 2013 in an effort to gain more room under the salary cap. World Peace signed a two-year contract with the New York Knicks less than a week later.
Nov. 4, 2013