Within a five-second span, Metta World Peace threw everything away.
His vicious elbow didn’t just damage Oklahoma City forward James Harden. It damaged World Peace’s reputation. His ensuing ejection didn’t just hang the Lakers out to dry as they somehow managed to escape with a 114-106 double-overtime victory Sunday over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It left them wondering if they can win without him, since World Peace probably will draw a lengthy suspension. And his apology afterward that it was an “unintentional elbow” isn’t just laughable because the Lakers’ public relations staff refused to allow him to take follow-up questions. It’s head-scratching because the replays show World Peace’s blow was hardly an accident.
There’s no reason World Peace would cock his arm and then rear back with such force unless he was planning to hit somebody. And because of the severity of that incident, World Peace deserves a suspension that lasts as long as Harden remains sidelined as he tries to recover from a concussion.
Let’s make one thing clear: World Peace is in most cases a good person and doesn’t fit the image he once had in large part because of his involvement in one of the darkest moments in NBA history. In 2004 as an Indiana Pacer, Artest went into the Pistons’ crowd after beer had been thrown at him and punched a fan. The incident sparked an 86-game suspension, the longest penalty for a physical altercation in NBA history, and he received a year’s probation for pleading no contest to assault charges.
Since then, World Peace earned the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award last year for his efforts raising money for mental health charities, including raffling off his 2010 NBA championship ring. He famously thanked his psychologist for helping him control his emotions following Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. And covering him for the past 2 1/2 seasons, World Peace (and Ron Artest) has proved to be a genuinely nice human being who makes people laugh with his goofy antics along the way.
But that doesn’t matter.
When the NBA looks at the replay, they’re not going to care about intent. For better or worse, they’re not going to care about his reputation, either. They’re going to care about what World Peace did. And it was inexcusable.
In a moment when emotions completely overwhelmed him regarding his third dunk, World Peace cocked his arm and then reared back to deliver the vicious elbow. Say what you will about World Peace being caught up in the heat of the moment, not realizing his own strength or even realizing Harden was within striking distance. But logic suggests otherwise. Because of that, World Peace will have to pay a heavy price.
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