No Malice by Metta World Peace and Ryan Dempsey by Metta World Peace and Ryan Dempsey - Read Online

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No Malice - Metta World Peace

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Contents

Foreword by Phil Jackson

Introduction

Queensbridge

1. The Bridge

2. Streetball

3. Life on Fire

4. Just Say No

5. A Way Out

6. Made in Manhattan

7. Ballers

8. The Kings of New York

9. Ron Artest Goes to College

Chicago

10. The Rookie

11. Hennessy Has No Place in the Locker Room

Indiana

12. Naptown

13. From Pretenders to Contenders

14. The Malice at the Palace

Sacramento and Houston

15. Sactown

16. Breaking the Cycle

17. In Houston, We Had a Problem

Los Angeles

18. I Love L.A.!

19. Bigger Than Basketball

20. Give Peace a Chance

New York

21. Empire State of Mind

Worldwide World Peace

22. The Panda’s Friend Goes to China

Los Angeles

23. I Love L.A.! Vol. 2

24. Positivity Not Negativity

Photo Gallery

Foreword by Phil Jackson

I had just been named coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999 when we had Ron Artest and three other draft-eligible players come in to work out with our staff. I sat in on an interview with Ron after the workout, and I asked him why he was coming out of St. John’s after only his sophomore year. He told me he had a responsibility to his family and that he had a steady girlfriend. What I learned from that interview was that even though he presented this warrior attitude on the basketball court, Ron had a naïve, innocent nature about him that was endearing.

Ron was the 16th pick in the first round by the Chicago Bulls, a team I had coached through the 1990s. I closely watched his progress as a professional. He was selected to the NBA’s All-Rookie Team. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers a couple years later in a multi-player trade. While he was with the Pacers, he had success and helped the team. However, in 2004 he was involved in an ugly situation that ended with Ron in the stands fighting with a fan and getting suspended for the rest of the season. It could have been devastating to a player’s career, but Ron was able to rehabilitate his life as an NBA player and as an adult.

After winning a title in 2009 with the Lakers, I was headed to Montana when I received a call from our GM, Mitch Kupchak. He told me that after running into difficult contract negotiations with our starting small forward, Trevor Ariza, the Lakers were going to sign Ron as a free agent. What did I think? I thought it was amazing that what goes around comes around, a simple fact of life. After watching Ron for 10 years through the ups and downs of his career, he was now going to be one of the players I got to coach.

Ron came with all the accolades and blessings of his reputation: tough defense, good team play, the ability to create steals, and the desire to win. The system of basketball we played in L.A. had the reputation of being difficult to learn, especially for older players with ingrained habits. Ron took to the learning experience with a beginner’s mind and mastered playing alongside his teammates.

Playing the 2010 season as reigning champions was difficult. The years following a title can be tough; everyone is ready to challenge the champs. Ron came with the attitude: You guys were champs, I’m just trying to help you win another one. He was always surprising me with his off-the-cuff behavior. He once stopped in front of the bench during a game and asked me to take him out as play continued up the floor. It was unusual for a player to ask for a substitution, as most guys resist coming out of a game. After the game I asked him why he’d asked, and he told me that his replacement was playing better than he was. First time for everything with Ron, but that taught me a lot about how he viewed his place on a team.

The Lakers with Ron as a starting forward won the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. It was a seven-game series and Ron played an important role in guarding the Celtics’ top scorer, Paul Pierce, who had been instrumental in their win versus the Lakers in 2008. It was a knockdown series with hard play that exhausts teams. We struggled through a very difficult seventh game to win. I spoke to the press after it was over and said that I thought Ron was the most valuable player for us in that decisive game.

Ron/Metta has a lot of pride in being a part of the Lakers championship team, but it would probably take second place to his winning the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2011. Ron had to work through mental health issues during his tenure as an NBA player, and began to talk about it publicly and spoke in various forums about his experiences. His message was that being a big strong person doesn’t mean that you can’t struggle with mental illness. In Ron’s post-championship speech to the press, he thanked his psychologist for helping him relax during the anxiety of the seventh game. This was a real positive moment for all of us who had watched Ron/Metta’s career over the last 20 years.

I was recently at the last game Metta played at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He had played a season with the Knicks in 2013–14 and the fans cheered him as the buzzer sounded. He loved it and applauded the fans right back. He also was feted in his last game of the season with the Lakers. His career as an impact player was recognized as well as his longevity, but his ability to remain humble, approachable, and very grateful for his career touched the fans.

There are a lot of players who have been affected by the glamour of playing in the NBA, some in a negative way and some in a positive way. Metta World Peace has kept growing and expanding his education and his life through it all. His story is one for kids and adults to admire.

Phil Jackson won two NBA championships as a player with the New York Knicks, and 11 more as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He coached Metta World Peace in L.A. from 2009 to 2011.

Introduction

There is a solution to every problem. The solution may not be easy, but it’s out there. You just have to find it. There are people who will tell you that you can’t do certain things or that something’s impossible because of who you are or where you come from. Growing up where I did, it’s easy to think like that, but it’s not true. I always wanted to do something that someone said was impossible. If I didn’t think like that when I was younger, I never would have gotten to where I am today. When faced with any problem, you just have to figure out the solution in order to be successful.

That is what drew me to math as a kid, because in math every problem has a solution. Math was definitely a challenge for me, but that’s what I liked about it. It also kept me occupied by something positive when I could have easily been occupied by something negative. There were times when I would walk over to 12th Street in Queensbridge and just work on my math homework. It has always been one of my favorite subjects. My junior high school math teacher was a hard-ass, but he taught me well and I enjoyed his class. It felt like he really wanted us to learn. He inspired me to want to become a junior high math teacher—growing up, that was my first goal. I knew that I wanted to play basketball, but I figured that I could make my living as a teacher.

Today, I still apply math to everything I do. I rely on math when it comes to my business and even when playing basketball—especially on defense. I like to look at the angles. I measure the distance between me and my man. I look at his feet and the ball and then change angles to make sure the center of my body is between my opponent’s feet and the ball. If he’s holding the ball out away from his body, I have to adjust to that. Being able to judge that distance is what helped me rack up more steals.

The problems I faced didn’t get any easier as I got older, but the solutions were always out there. I had to figure out how to be able to run and keep up with these young boys out on the court. That meant changing my ways. Not drinking was one solution. When I was struggling in the playoffs with the Lakers, I’d meet with my psychologist. Together we found a solution to what was bothering me, and for those of you who watched Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, you know how that turned out.

That NBA championship was a long time coming, and nothing could have prepared me for the road it took to get there. Earlier in my career it looked like I had the world at my feet. Going into the 2004 season with the Indiana Pacers, I was a possible MVP candidate. The previous year I was the Defensive Player of the Year and an All-Star. We were thinking NBA championship in Indiana, and I was off to a great start that season. Then everything changed in the final minute of a game against the Detroit Pistons that November.

Before I knew what happened, I had been suspended for the rest of the year. I lost $5 million. I lost all of my endorsements. No more sneaker deals. No more awards. All my commercials came off the air. That shit was over. I was in a real bad situation, but I had to move on. I had to work on finding the solution.

This isn’t a book about all of the things that went wrong in my life. And I’m certainly not going to complain because a lot of people have gone through much worse.

Yes, I’m going to talk about the brawl in Detroit.

Yes, I’m going to talk about applying for a job at Circuit City when I played for the Chicago Bulls.

Yes, I’m going to talk about the fights and my temper and the suspensions and all the other things that have happened during my career.

I’ve faced a lot of problems. They’ve been well publicized, and a lot of them have been my own damn fault, but that’s not what’s important.

What’s important are the solutions I found to help me overcome those problems.

1. The Bridge

I grew up in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Long Island City. If you’ve ever driven over the Queensboro Bridge from Manhattan, you can see those grayish-brown buildings shaped like two Ys connecting at the base. It’s the largest housing project in North America. Twenty-nine apartment buildings with 96 units in each spread out over six blocks. I’m told there are more than 7,000 people living in more than 3,000 apartments and that first number is still growing. When I was a kid in the 1980s and ’90s, the neighborhood was strictly black and Puerto Rican, but now it’s more ethnically diverse.

The projects gave families an opportunity to survive, and for that it was a good thing, but it was also a breeding ground for drugs and violence. In 1986 there were more murders committed in Queensbridge than in any other New York City housing project. That’s not a place you want to call home. Today I think of Queensbridge more as a place for shelter, but growing up as kids we didn’t know any better. It never felt like we had to get out of there. The drugs and the violence were just a part of everyday life. We didn’t fully understand the repercussions of selling drugs because that’s just the way things were. That was normal.

Black people who grew up in more fortunate circumstances are quick to judge those who grew up in impoverished areas. Those are the people who say, Metta is crazy. But I bet if those same people grew up in the environment I did, they would end up the exact same way I did. For all the good and the bad, I am who I am today because of what I experienced on those six blocks in Queensbridge.

My dad was the original Ronald Artest. He was born in Brooklyn but did most of his growing up in Philadelphia. He played a little ball in high school and then joined the Navy. He bounced around before returning to New York in 1977. He married my mom, Sarah, and on November 13, 1979, they gave birth to me—Ronald Artest Jr. Dad got a job at a hospital serving food and my mom worked as a bank teller. There wasn’t a lot of money to go around, but we figured it out. We always found a way to make it work. We had tough times as a family, but we also had a lot of fun.

I have a big family. I’ve got 10 brothers and sisters. I’ve got 40 nieces and nephews, and five great-nieces and -nephews. I’m only 38 years old as I’m writing this. That right there tells you I’m from the hood. Sometimes we had 15 people living in our first apartment on 10th Street. My mom had three daughters before she even met my dad: Shalice, Shaundlyn, and Latoya. When they got older, they had kids who also lived with us.

My older sisters looked out for me, and we rode the bus to school together when I was young, which I thought was the coolest thing. I was closest to Shaundlyn. She took care of me. She also had the best room. My room was a mess, but her room was always clean. She had a bunch of CDs I could listen to and she had an air conditioner. She always let me sleep on her bed. That became my getaway.

I shared a room with my four brothers. That’s probably why it was always a mess. Daniel and Isaiah are my two younger brothers and they have the same parents as me. Wally and Khalik are actually my cousins, but I call them my brothers. They’re my aunt’s kids on my father’s side. Wally is three years older than me and came to live with us when I was 10, because my aunt was an unfit mother and got sent to the psych ward. Khalik is younger, and my parents took him in right after he was born.

With so many people living in the house there was always something going on. There was always a lot of music being played. My parents listened to R&B. My mom used to always play her records on Sunday. Her Sunday Classics, that’s what she called them. She’d play music by Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, and Anita Baker. It was all peaceful and relaxing—a far cry from the type of music that was coming out of the neighborhood.

When I was young I was a Michael Jackson fan. I wanted to dance like Michael. I had no idea that the richest legacy in hip-hop was all around me. In the 1980s and ’90s we had MC Shan, Marley Marl, and Mobb Deep coming up in the area, but I didn’t even know who those guys were. Tragedy dated one of my sisters, but I didn’t know he was a rapper. Hostile and Screwball hung around with another one of my sisters, but I didn’t know they were rappers. Capone from C-N-N was my third cousin. Every weekend I was at Nature’s house. I didn’t know the dude rapped because I was never into street shit like that. We just used to go to his house to watch WrestleMania and get us some Hostess Cakes. Nature’s mom always had the goodies.

It wasn’t until I turned 15 that I was like, Oh shit, Mobb Deep is from Queensbridge. That same year Nas’ Illmatic dropped. I had never seen Nas in the hood, but he grew up on 12th Street right around the corner from me, and now people were saying he was one of the best rappers of our time. That was amazing to me.

Even when I learned more about it, I never wanted to rap myself. I was never interested. I’d write rhymes but I did it for fun. My dad would help me out. It was funny to hear him because he sounded like a preacher. Now, whenever I bring people back to the neighborhood to show them around, I always refer to where we are by saying, This is Nas’ block, or This is Mobb Deep’s block.

The streets were known for being tough, but it was also a war zone inside my house. My parents fought constantly. I didn’t even know what they were fighting about most of the time, but they were both doing stupid shit. Mom was flipping on Dad and Dad was flipping on Mom. Whenever things got physical, I got nervous. One time it got so bad that I thought one of them was going to get really hurt. Shalice must have seen the look in my eye because she took me by the arm and led me into her room. I sat on her bed and she handed me a magazine. There was a crash from the other room. The wall shook and we heard glass break, but Shalice remained calm and turned up the music to drown out the chaos. She’d act like nothing was wrong.

Tell me what you did today, she’d say.

We’d sit there and talk. Even then I was aware of what she was doing, but it made me feel better anyway. My sisters always made me and my brothers feel safe. When my parents were done fighting, we’d go make sure Mom was straight. We were always close as a family, but that was just another way us kids all stuck together.

Between my parents fighting and all the violence out in the street, I grew up living in survival mode. I was a pretty good kid and I didn’t get into any real trouble, but I couldn’t seem to avoid fights. It’s not like I went out looking for them—I swear that I never initiated a single confrontation. I only fought when I had to. That said, I did have a temper. I think I got that from my dad. His mom was also an angry person so maybe it was in our blood.

The earliest fight I can remember being in was back when I was in second grade. This kid tried to cut in front of me in the lunch line. I didn’t know who he was. He was smaller than me, but he was acting like I wasn’t even there. That got me mad. The line was long. I had been waiting for a while.

What are you doing? I asked.

At first he laughed and then he said, This is my spot now. He turned around and ignored me.

You better not think you’re gonna cut in front of me.

What are you gonna do?

As soon as he said that, I snapped. My hands went right for his throat. He clawed back. I hit him. The teachers jumped in quick to break us apart. It was back to the principal’s office for me.

I wasn’t only getting in trouble at school. Even when I was with my own family, I sometimes found myself in survival mode. My family used to have cookouts in the park. Everyone would show up. We’d grill, eat out, and just spend the day there. These were usually laid-back gatherings, but one time I got into an argument with my sister over something stupid. Out of nowhere, my cousin Adam jumped in and started needling me.

Why are you acting like a bitch? he said.

I’m not acting like a bitch, mind your business.

I tried to leave, but he kept following me.

That’s why you’re walking away. Because you’re a little bitch.

I knew he was joking, that he was trying to get under my skin, but it was working.

I’m not playing with you, Adam.

Then stop acting like a little bitch.

He wouldn’t let up and eventually I’d had enough. I turned and got right in his face. I could tell that he didn’t think I was going to do anything, which got me even more upset, so I just hit him. For a couple seconds he might have been out cold because he dropped and just laid there. Oh shit! Even I was surprised. The family stood around Adam as he picked himself up off the ground, but my dad pulled me off to the side to calm me down.

He’s your cousin. Don’t be doing that, he said.

But he wouldn’t leave me alone.

You can’t hit him.

Then what? Just let him keep talking to me?

The next time you get upset or feel angry, step aside and do some pushups. I bet you can’t even do 20.

I didn’t respond. I just dropped and knocked out 40 pushups right there.

My father understood what I was going through. I saw what happened when he got angry and I knew he was on medication. There was a history of mental illness in my family. Everybody has problems and people deal with those problems differently. It’s hard to get support from your family or the people in your community when they’re dealing with their own problems. There were not many well-balanced people in the environment I grew up in, so most of the time I had to figure things out on my own.

But nobody can do it all alone. Luckily there was this free counseling service in our neighborhood. It’s not there anymore, but there used to be an apartment on the 40-side of 10th Street that was strictly used for therapy. It was great because anybody in the neighborhood could go there for help. By the time I was 13 I had gotten into so many fights that my mom made me go, and I’m glad she did. That was the first time I was told that I might have an anxiety disorder. The psychologist I met with was a really good guy and he helped me get control of my temper. He used to take me to the park to play football after we talked and then he’d buy me some food.

I may not have gone looking for trouble, but there were plenty of times when I crossed the line. I could recognize that. Once, when I was outside on the block, these guys started bothering me. I ran inside and got a pair of scissors. I was ready to cut somebody. Thankfully nothing bad happened,