Metta World Peace is incredibly honest. Ask him any question and the former All-Star and NBA champion with the Lakers will tell you exactly what’s up. Even if deep down he doesn’t want to share his vulnerabilities.
“I'd rather not but sometimes it's important, man, I ain't gonna lie,” says the baller formerly known as Ron Artest.
The depths of the mind and machinations of what made World Peace one the most interesting and largely misunderstood NBA players during his 17 seasons in the league are on full display in an excellent new documentary, Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story. It’s one of the best sports docs in years and is a no-holds barred look at his incredibly volatile journey from a kid growing in the infamously rough and rugged Queensbridge Houses to eventual NBA champion and mental health advocate. There are incredible basketball stories in there, including extensive conversations about the infamous Malice at the Palace. But it’s World Peace’s openness in discussing his struggles with mental health starting in his teenage years that he hopes is the documentary’s legacy.
“It's not about me, it's about the future. Somebody needs to see that shit,” World Peace says. “I know when I was younger I needed to see it.”
We caught up with the man, the myth, and the legend in his native New York to talk about the documentary—a Bleacher Report production that’s debuting on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET Friday—and as well as some other awesome stories from his basketball days like the time he broke Michael Jordan’s ribs during a summer pickup game.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Leading up to its debut, you’ve said you have purposely avoided watching the documentary. It’s the day before the debut. Have you seen it yet?
I wasn't going to watch it, you know, it's just so much man, it's like I don't know, man. Do a documentary for what, man? It's always, for me, like, for what? I mean, I like media, I like entertainment, man. There are certain things I'm not big on, you know. This is one of them that I didn't really want to do, but then, you know, people thought it would be great, then Bleacher Report said they want to do this. I'm like “Okay, Bleacher Report, this could be pretty dope.” But I'm thinking it's only gonna be online. You know what I'm saying, I'm thinking it's only gonna be on a website.
You didn't have a grand picture in mind?
I didn't even think about it! And then they sell it to Showtime. I'm like “Oh shit...Showtime's okay, I guess.” And then I got this whole media tour and then I'm like, “Okay, this is a little too much for me.” The thing about the film is it's good for other people. For me, I don't want my shit out there like that, to tell you the truth, I could do without it. But I'm okay with it, fuck it.
For the average NBA fan that from the 2000s there's a fascination with you, obviously, which I think that you can appreciate. But like you have said in other interviews leading up to the release of the documentary, this will make a difference for the people that see it and are shown the perseverance and good that can come out of bad situations.
You know good can come out of bad. I'm only human. That's why I don't like sport commentating. I don't like to say “This guy is not good, Kawhi [Leonard] is better. In two more years Kawhi is not good, Zion [Williamson’s] better.” That's one reason I can't do sports commentating. I never pursue it. Unless they call me then I'll go. I've been on that flip side. I've been on television. I've seen people say bad things, bad things, bad things, man. This documentary has been un-fucking-believable.
Kobe Bryant makes an appearance in this doc. Lamar Odom makes an appearance. Pacers executive Donnie Walsh makes an appearance. A bunch of your Pacer teammates make an appearance. Was there anyone in this doc who spoke about you and told your story that you really appreciated and maybe it meant the most to you?
If I had to pick one it'd be Donnie.
Donnie was the most supportive person. During my NBA career, Donnie Walsh went literally, like a New Yorker, went to bat for me. He really wanted to see me succeed. I'm not saying no one else didn't, but Donnie Walsh, I've never met someone that has supported, man, when I was rapping, Donnie Walsh told me “Keep rapping.”
I wouldn't expect that from Donnie. Especially in conservative Indiana.
You know what I'm saying? An Indiana team that he's been running for 20 years and he knows the culture of Indiana, he told me “Any contract someone offers you we're gonna match it. We see you hanging your jersey up in the rafters. Keep rapping.” Because he said it was a good outlet for [me]. And when I got into trouble with the brawl he was always very supportive. That guy kept me close. I'm surprised he did the doc. But he loves me, man. That shows you the genuine love, because I didn't take the organization under, the organization is still fine.
It's gotta feel great to know that all these people showed up and talked about you and their experience.
It makes me [feel] awesome. I feel good about it but at the same time I get the emotional...emotional damage and spiritual damage that I've done to my teammates and the organization and my Indiana fans.
You talked about some regrets like your relationship with your teammates. Your relationship with Jermaine O’Neal gets the spotlight treatment in the documentary. Is your lack of relationship with your teammates, for the most part in your career, and especially in Indiana, maybe one of the biggest, if not the biggest, regrets of your career?
That's a big regret at that time. I didn't really know I could have friends. The only friends I had were from Queens. So when I got in the NBA I'm like, “Yo, I'm never ever going to forget where I'm from. You're always gonna be my people. That's how we rock.” So I thought I had friends. I thought I had enough friends. I didn't think when I got into the NBA, you know, I need to make more friends. You know these guys I play with and my competition, I'm trying to take their job. I'm trying to be the best, and go back to the hood. That's all I'm thinking about like kind of all the time. I didn't even think about my family as much. It was always about the hood. I didn't think you try to make friends in the NBA. That's one thing. So I never reached out. And when you get older. It's like, be nice, have friends, go to dinner, shit like that.
“Going through that shit was unbelievable. Because everyday I was like, 'What the fuck’s gonna happen today?' There was days I was literally going crazy.”
It's crazy in the doc you talk about never having lunch with your teammates. But you’re on better terms with Jermaine now, right?
He's a real man. He's always been a real man. He's a really good friend, man. Everybody has good friends, right, but I've never really had a situation like this. This is a unique situation because this is someone I've basically lived with for four years, and I never had a situation where somebody was a friend that you should have been friends with. He was a real friend to me. I wasn't a real friend to him. That's what I'm trying to say. But him, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, the one I was closest to on that team was Jamison Brewer.
You alluded in the doc that many fans never appreciated your basketball skills. How much does that bother you?
What bothers me most is that I don't have my awards that I should have. I should have more. So that bothers me the most. Not having the hardware. Even more than when people see my highlights. Now I only have a few things to hold onto. I have tape that I want to put in a nice doc. And then I have quotes, like Michael Jordan said, “Ronald Artest is my favorite player. I wish I could have played against him six years ago.” But I was playing against him in summertime in Chicago. What other players did Michael Jordan say that about? I was pushing him when he was coming back. I never played on Michael Jordan's team in the summer. He would call me and say, “Are you coming today?” Played on the opposite team
Because he always wanted to get the test?
I was in his ass. I accidentally broke his ribs playing hard.
I mean, that's an amazing story right there.
I was sad that was my favorite player I worshiped. [I was just] a 19 year old kid. I was in bed for two days like this [covers his face with his hands]. I couldn't get up. When I left Indiana, LeBron James goes on TNT and LeBron says, “I'm happy Ronald Artest is not in the East no more.” Who has he ever said that about? Kawhi Leonard, when I got back on the floor after I left the Lakers—I hurt my knee went to overseas, China, and I went to Italy, I played against Kawhi. And he don't talk to anyone. I never seen him smile. He said, “Yo, I'm so happy you back. I miss playing against you.”
Hardware is forever, but to get those personal accolades from superstars is amazing.
And Reggie Miller, who should have never had said this, he said I'm the greatest defender he's ever seen. I don't know why he said that, because I fucked his whole career up to tell you the truth. So I'm very happy. I'm very happy with that.
Ultimately, is your story in the documentary about redemption or is it about perseverance?
Definitely not redemption. I think its more like, I think it's grit, man. That was the game I was playing. I came out on top, that shit was crazy. Going through that shit was unbelievable. Because everyday I was like, “What the fuck’s gonna happen today?” There was days I was literally going crazy. I don't know how I was playing the game...don't know how.
Those days are a blur to you?
Yeah its crazy like, if you speak to anybody bipolar and on medication—I gotta have more conversation with people on medication, but there was a point in time when I had so much going on in my head. Like three voices, you know what I'm saying. And never thought that would be a blur. I thought that shit was going to last me forever. So literally, literally you are going crazy. Everything everyone is saying is true. I never thought I would fucking not feel like that.
But again you had the grittiness or the perseverance and the discipline and dedication to get out of that.
It was grit man. I said I would do anything it takes...I did not care and therapy is one of them. The crazy thing was all those wounds I had as a child, we opened those up. We opened them back up, and we closed them, man. But I needed to open them up with my therapist. And that helped out a lot.
Ultimately what do you want your basketball legacy to be?
I don't really care. I love coaching. My basketball legacy is still going. Now I got about 100 kids I coach now and growing. I'm looking to get that number up. And I coach coaches. I got about four coaches, maybe a little more. The number keeps changing. I'm 100 percent in basketball right now. Coaching, not NBA obviously.
Do you harbor the idea of maybe one day being on an NBA staff or getting a college job?
Just head coach? You don't want to be an assistant?
I'll tell you why. I really love coaching. It’s not that I can't work for someone. I have my own companies. But I have so much fun coaching. I have so much fun in direct communication with the player. Now can I be an assistant? Hell yeah. I can sit on the bench and take direction. Happily. But I really love head coaching.