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Metta World Peace, the NBA player formerly known as Ron Artest, shared his struggles with mental illness, while navigating his nearly two-decade professional basketball career, at Pomona College Wednesday.
Roughly 100 community members attended the talk at Rose Hills Theatre, which followed a showing of his award-winning documentary, “Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story.”
The documentary produced by Bleacher Report, chronicles his positive and negative experiences on and off the basketball court, and includes intimate interviews with his former teammates, rivals and family.
The documentary recounts the rough and dangerous childhood World Peace lived in the Queensbridge projects during the height of the crack wars in the 1980s. It follows him to St. John’s University, and culminates with his career in the NBA.
For 17-years in the NBA, World Peace played with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. He won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 2010.
“When you play in the NBA at 20 years old, things may change in your life financially but not emotionally or spiritually,” World Peace said. “There was a point in time where I was trying to transition spiritually but when I got in you think everything is OK but it is not.”
Known as a world-class defender on the court, World Peace was also paired with an explosive and aggressive temper that erupted unexpectedly.
“When I first made it, I always wanted to be that NBA poster boy,” World Peace said. “The dream is to be a player in the commercials not be suspended. For me to see other people get opportunities that I wanted like commercials endorsements … everything that came up I lost it because of my character and personality.”
World Peace was 13 when he first began counseling following his parents divorce, and continued the help when he transitioned to playing professional basketball.
He was involved in many altercations, like the infamous “Malice in the Palace,” that almost cost him his entire career in 2004 and is known as one of the most infamous altercations between NBA players and fans in the league’s history.
He was suspended for 86 games throughout his NBA career as a result of his aggressive game-time strategy and involvement in many fights broadcast on live TV.
World Peace began his career with the Chicago Bulls.
“My first NBA practice I got in a fight,” World Peace said. “I knew I had a problem. I was playing basketball, the game that I loved, but I had this rage, you have no control emotionally.
Steve Ramos, Riverside resident, came to Claremont to see one of his basketball idols, World Peace, in person.
In 2010 when the Lakers won the championship against the Celtics, World Peace thanked his psychiatrist (who he later found out was actually his psychotherapist) – something unusual that struck people differently almost a decade ago.
Ramos said when he watched that moment unfold live, it was unforgettable.
“When Artest thanked his psychotherapist on one of the world’s biggest stages in an impromptu and sincere way, it was really a watershed moment,” Ramos said. “And not just for sports but for me personally. It stood out to me because it helped me come to terms with my own mental health issues and eventually led me to seek out assistance to help myself advance, both on and off the court.”
World Peace said he was fighting with different thoughts in his head but knew the constant therapy would help eventually.
“When you are practicing and know you have to go to the therapist after, it was kind of embarrassing but it is what it is,” World Peace said. “I got more and more comfortable. I knew it was getting better but I knew it was going to take time.”
World Peace acknowledged that the world in general is more accepting than they once were about mental health issues.
“It is always a question about what is this person going to think of me and I think once you remove that person, it becomes just about you,” World Peace said. “Help yourself first and you will become stronger.”
World Peace shouted out NBA stars like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan, who are destigmatizing mental health in the NBA today by openly talking about their own struggles.
Now, World Peace finds joy speaking at events like these, and turning his experience with mental illness into a learning point for others. He also owns Artest Media Group which works to develop film and literary content that is thought-provoking, inspiring, fun and entertaining.
When asked what makes World Peace happy life after the NBA, his answer was short and simple: his four children.
Lesli White, director of external relations at CGU, said she vividly remembers watching World Peace thank his psychiatrist right after winning the NBA championship in 2010.
“It would be brave enough to do that now in 2019, but in 2010 it was brave on a whole other level,” White said. “I also appreciated the audience to hear him for his own words. To be in a community when there seems to be recognition for learning from people who are different from yourself feels really good.”
Kunaal Kapoor, president of the Graduate Student Council, said the event hosted by the Council, was intended to promote mental health awareness among CGU students, the Claremont Colleges and the surrounding community.
“Metta World Peace is a living example of someone who has proven that mental illnesses are conquerable,” Kapoor said. “This event left students with an everlasting message that mental illnesses are not in control of their lives, but they themselves are.”
Layla Abbas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.