After winning an NBA Championship in the 2008-09 season, the Los Angeles Lakers really only made one change for the following season and that was replacing Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Houston Rockets, with Metta World Peace, then known as Ron Artest.
While Artest was an All-Star caliber player on the court, and an enforcer, he did not have the best reputation in basketball as he was involved in the infamous ‘Malice at the Palace’ brawl in Detroit that saw Artest get suspended for the remainder of the 2004-05 season, a total of 86 games including the playoffs.
He did not cause any problems with the Lakers though, and ultimately played a major role as the Lakers went on to win back-to-back NBA Championships with Artest making a key three-point shot in Game 7 to help defeat the Boston Celtics.
One of Artest’s teammates on that squad was Luke Walton, who now serves as World Peace’s coach on the Lakers.
While he is very fond of him now, Walton admitted that he was a little worried when they signed Artest in 2009 because of his reputation, via Tania Ganguli of the LA Times:
“I was a little worried when we signed him because all I knew was what the media said and … playing against him,” Walton said. “He was a bruiser. And then when I got to know him I realized quickly how great a teammate he is. He’s a very smart basketball player, too. Like he really knows the game, he knows how to play a team concept, and he was always there for his teammates and had our backs.”
This has been a common theme for World Peace throughout his career, especially in his later years. Ever since that Lakers championship in 2010 he has gone from being one of the NBA’s most hated players to one of its most beloved.
For the second consecutive season World Peace was given a training camp contract by the Lakers. Last season he beat out some young players to make the team, and he will look to do the same this season as he potentially enters his 17th NBA season, 18th as a pro.