COMMENTARY | The savage elbow Los Angeles Lakers' forward Metta World Peace landed on the side of James Harden's skull is one of the most random, unjustified acts of violence in league history and should have resulted in a longer suspension for the baller formerly known as Ron Artest.
Its incongruity, however, should not be confused with some unprecedented viciousness. During a midcourt brawl in 1977, for instance, Kermit Washington delivered a roundhouse to Rudy Tomjanovich that resulted in the bone structure of Rudy T's face detaching from his skull and spinal fluid leaking into his mouth.
Despite the media sensationalism surrounding the World Peace elbow, there have been countless more violent acts of varying intensity, most of which have been punished less severely than Artest's blow.
We've also seen more malicious acts.
Karl Malone, who scored the second most points in NBA history, was almost as dirty as he was dominant.
Behold, as Malone elbows San Antonio Spurs' legend David Robinson in the face--the blow so severe, the Admiral's head dangles as his helpless body collapses.
Watch Malone elbow the Dallas Mavericks' version of Steve Nash in the mouth, crushing his lip as the PG attempts to steal the ball.
Tip of the iceberg.
The Mailman, along with a laundry list of players both past and present, delivered so many dangerous elbows and cheap shots that he makes Ron Artest seem worthy of the name World Peace.
In fact, I'm not even sure whether there was any malice involved in the Artest incident, at all. It seemed like an extension of his excitement, which is exactly what makes the attack so worrisome.
Even though it led to a concussion for the Oklahoma City Thunder's sixth man, the elbow itself is not extraordinarily brutal when you consider the league's history and physicality.
For ages, bigger, stronger men have distributed bone-crushing elbows while boxing out or under pressure. The overwhelming majority of these "plays" have resulted in no greater penalty than a foul.
What makes Artest's attack so unique, however, is how out of place it was. It simply makes no sense for a man who just dunked to feel so overwhelmed with joy that he must elbow anyone in his path in the head. That brand of celebration is way outside of the range of normal human behavior.
Subsequently, given Artest's legitimate personal strides and commitment to self-improvement in the past few years, this random assault suggests that he is not yet in complete control of his emotions and actions.
Temporary insanity, which many theorize is what we witnessed, may be a suitable justification for leniency when considering whether to lock someone up and for how long. But in the NBA, when you're talking about an unavoidably physical environment and you're weighing league safety against one man's ability to earn a paycheck or a team's ability to compete, temporary insanity is reduced to an ethical gamble.
It should also be noted that temporary insanity isn't as effective when the person has a history of anger management issues and thirteen suspensions under his belt. In that case, "temporary" becomes a dubious qualification.
This comes without moral judgment from an admitted Ron Artest fan.
The soul doesn't exist in a way that can be easily examined under a microscope. Truth be told, I would argue that given the totality of the evidence available to me--superficial as it may be--which ranges from extreme acts of violence to endearing interviews to unfathomable absurdity to candid, heartfelt confessions, Ron Artest appears to be a troubled man who is trying to be good.
I respect that.
Particularly, I admire the courage it takes to openly discuss mental illness, which is still taboo in our country, and his unwavering dedication to charity, which proves that his characteristic immoderation can be channeled positively.
That said, if this act suggests that Ron Artest is still not in control of his emotions, then it is in the best interest of the league and World Peace--both the man and the unattainable concept--for him to be suspended until he is.
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