LOS ANGELES – The math spills from Metta World Peace’s mouth effortlessly, and it adds up to a parallel universe where a few things break a bit differently and his resume is unquestionable. Do I believe him when he says that, in the infamous 2004 season, he would’ve averaged 22 points if he wasn’t sent home after landing that straight right to the jaw of A.J. Shackleford? Not necessarily. Do I believe he believes it? Absolutely. It doesn’t take a long conversation with Metta to realize that this is something he thinks about a lot: The career he could’ve had, the acclaim he never received, and the tallies he’s missing.
The world at large has long forgiven World Peace — defensive lynchpin, Queensbridge legend, restless savant, gorgeous human being — but that does not mean that he has forgiven himself. So in an ersatz macrobiotics cafe in Beverly Hills, donned in a cinched athletic top and matching black basketball shorts, World Peace makes his Hall of Fame case.
“I’m not a big individual player, but if I had a more stable career, my stats would’ve been better and the argument would’ve been better,” World Peace says. “I would’ve had the Defensive Player of the Year the year I got suspended. MVP that year, sh*t. Three All-Star appearances, that’s three more All-Star games. Then I got traded to Sacramento, so now I’m not even in the East, and I miss those All-Stars because it’s crazy over there. You’ve got Shaq, and Kobe, and Duncan.
“All the suspensions, all the games I missed,” World Peace continues, between bites of a ghastly yellow lump of unidentifiable vegetable pulp piled high on his plate. “Two points there, five rebounds there. I missed out on so much, that’s more important than the money. I lost all my endorsements, and no teams wanted to rescue me, so no max offers, but that’s not a big deal to me. The stats, the numbers. The numbers don’t lie. I can’t show those numbers. That hurts.”
It’s only been a year since Metta World Peace finished his NBA career with a season full of DNPs on one of those desultory, post-Kobe Lakers teams, but he refuses to call himself retired. After all, he still plays in BIG3 and Nike’s Drew League (alongside his son, Ron Artest III).