Much like everyone else in the basketball world, former Los Angeles Lakers and current Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton has found himself glued to ESPN’s 10-part documentary on the 1998 Chicago Bulls entitled “The Last Dance.”
A recent episode focused on the most eccentric member of that Bulls team in Dennis Rodman. The late-2000s Lakers had their own controversial player as well in Metta World Peace.
Because of Rodman’s antics during that time, many teams didn’t want to sign him and the Bulls ultimately brought him in pretty cheap. World Peace had his own reputation when he joined the Lakers as a free agent in 2009, which scared off many teams as well.
What both did have in common was that they were beloved teammates who played crucial roles in helping their teams win a championship. Walton recently spoke with The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Joe Vardon, comparing the two enigmatic role players:
“We had Metta World Peace,” Walton said. “When Metta got here, everyone was kind of like ‘Oh, boy,’ and Metta was one of the nicest, most gracious teammates that I had ever played with. He was, for what everyone else thought of him around the NBA world, he was an incredible guy. And (he) fit right in, and we obviously don’t win a championship against Boston without him.”
Rodman and World Peace undoubtedly had their similarities in how they helped bring their teams championships as unlikely heroes. One thing that is for sure is that both became absolutely beloved by both teammates and fans for their energy, defensive intensity, and ferociousness.
Walton is right in that the Lakers don’t win the 2010 NBA Championship without World Peace. In addition to his clutch plays such as the buzzer-beater in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and his massive 3-pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, World Peace really helped to set the tone for that Lakers team, especially defensively.
Rodman and World Peace were simply wired differently that others, but each brought something that was absolutely necessary for their teams. Former head coach Phil Jackson understood that and worked with both to get the most out of them which led to great success from both a team and individual standpoint.