AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Back at The Palace for perhaps the final time, Metta World Peace recalled the moment that landed him in basketball infamy.
“I see the flashbacks sometimes. Not necessarily out here – because when the fans are there, it’s cool. But when nobody is in there, you reflect on it,” World Peace said in the locker room before Wednesday night’s game. “Sometimes you can look, and it’s like, I see exactly where everything happened.”
World Peace was still known as Ron Artest on Nov. 19, 2004, when he jumped into the stands at The Palace, precipitating perhaps the ugliest melee in NBA history. Now with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was back in Auburn Hills for Wednesday night’s game against Detroit. It was the final scheduled visit to the arena for the Lakers, since the Pistons are planning to move downtown next season.
“It’s different now. I always like to make some jokes, sometimes,” World Peace said. “I come to the building, I’ll just say like, `A lot of history here.”‘
A lot has happened since that night in 2004, when Artest was a member of the Indiana Pacers and his actions left his career at a crossroads. He was suspended for the rest of that season after the “Malice at the Palace” – but when he returned, he was able to continue what turned out to be a lengthy pro career.
Artest played a key role when the Lakers won the championship in 2010, and the following year, he even won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, an honor presented by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. Artest was honored for his work in promoting mental health awareness.
He changed his name to Metta World Peace in 2011.
Now 37, World Peace has played in only 18 games this season. He was inactive Wednesday.
As his career winds down, he feels a long way removed from the brawl against the Pistons.
“I have no choice but to laugh about it now,” he said. “There’s nothing else you can do.”
He even has nice things to say about The Palace.
“Great building, great fans. I know we had a lot of wars on the court,” he said. “The Pistons – those were the roughest games I ever played in.”
Detroit’s most recent NBA title came in 2004. Before beating the Lakers in the Finals that year, the Pistons had to go through Indiana for the conference title. Months before the brawl, Detroit eliminated the Pacers in six games.
“That series, we had them bruising,” World Peace said. “Our whole group was tough, and their whole group was tough.”
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