When Metta World Peace, then going by Ron Artest, followed his first impulse and darted into the stands at the Palace at Auburn Hills after having a drink thrown on him, nobody—not the fans in Detroit that night, not the Pistons or Indiana Pacers players on the floor, or those of us watching from home—could be prepared for what was about to happen.
Eleven years later, the “Malice at the Palace” remains every bit as wild and unfathomable as ever. It was a moment of infamy for the NBA, and the lowest moment of World Peace’s basketball life. But to hear him explain today, the brawl eventually helped spark the change he had been waiting for.
In an exclusive and lengthy interview with Free Association, Sportsnet’s weekly NBA podcast, World Peace, 36, opens up about that night:
“It took me awhile [to recover], man. When I had the brawl I went into a real depression. I had been in really good shape. I was an all-star the year prior, and I probably had more all-star years ahead of me in the East. I was 245-250 lbs and feeling good. After the brawl I got up to 275 lbs—quickly. I was ready to retire.
Larry Bird was in my corner 150% through that. But I was very disloyal to Larry, being an egotistical kid and whatnot. Even if you put the ego thing aside, I was still disruptive, dysfunctional, and mentally unstable. That’s a bad mix right there, and that’s what Larry Bird had to deal with. Larry took time out of his day to come down every day and work with me. The year I averaged 25 points per game had a lot to do with Larry. I was working with him every day. Every single day. But I still wasn’t ready mentally for the NBA. I was so caught up in myself. I’ve tried to get back to Indiana a couple times over the last few years, to play for the Pacers. But there was so much damage I had done there that I didn’t think Larry would want to take another chance on me.
At this point I wish that I had done things I’m doing now when I was younger. I think, ‘If I had been more focused back in those days, been more mentally stable…’
When I returned the following year [after the brawl] in Indiana I was causing problems in the locker room, and eventually I requested a trade. So Larry traded me to the Kings. When I got to Sacramento I told Rick Adleman, “Look I don’t think I can give you anything.” He said “Ron, we’re going to go as far as you can take us.” I immediately went to the media and told them “We’re going to make the playoffs.” Everybody laughed. We were in last place. But we made it to the playoffs, and almost beat the Spurs that year. Rick Adleman changed my life. But it took awhile. I was still destructive and unstable. But I was getting better and better.
The thing I realize now is that life goes in stages. When you’re 16 years old you’re at home. By the time you get to college you start partying a bit. Then you get to the NBA and you think you’re somebody you’re not; you’re partying more and drinking too much. Then you’re 25 and you’ve hit rock bottom, you hit the wall. And then you get older and you’re like, maybe I shouldn’t be partying as much and I might want to hold back on all the clubbing and help myself feel better. Now these days I feel better.”
This is a sneak-peak at next week’s episode of Free Association. Listen on Tuesday for the full interview.
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For information on Metta World Peace’s “Family Defense” fundraiser visit familydefense37.com.