Just over a year since continuing his basketball career domestically seemed like little more than a dream, Metta World Peace is returning to the NBA for his 17th season. The former Defensive Player of the Year signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in late September, allowing him to wear the purple and gold for a seventh season and reuniting him with former teammate Luke Walton.
Much has changed for World Peace and the Lakers since last season, of course, but nothing more than his role in the locker room. Along with Kobe Bryant, the 35-year-old served as a mentor of sorts to the Lakers’ young players in 2015-16. Now his long-time teammate and friend is retired, leaving him as the eldest statesman on a team replete with young talent and expecting to lose more games than it wins.
Will World Peace miss Bryant in what could be his final NBA campaign? Considering what he told Bill Oram of The Orange County Register earlier this week, it’s safe to say the notoriously-intense forward may be longing for Mamba even more than his millions of fans across the globe.
“I so wanted that No. 60,” he said. “That’s all I was talking about, if I got back to the Lakers, was changing my number to 60.”
To honor Kobe Bryant’s final game on April 13, when the retiring superstar scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz.
“I was so honored to be there,” said World Peace, who played with Bryant from 2009-13, and again last season.
“I wanted to surprise him,” World Peace said of the tribute. “I was so honored to be there. But, whatever.”
Bryant, you may remember, scored 60 points in his basketball swan song last April. It was a night Lakers followers won’t ever forget. But just in case they needed their memories jogged, World Peace was preparing to remind them on his jersey each time he took the floor in 2016-17.
Why will he be donning that familiar No. 37 this season, then? World Peace didn’t sign his new deal with Los Angeles before the league’s deadline for number changes passed. Shame. Here’s hoping World Peace finds another equally unique and heartwarming way to honor Bryant throughout the season-long grind.