So much for World Peace.
Just as the NBA launches into the playoffs of its best per-game television ratings season ever, it's faced with disciplining one of its longtime bad boys, one who happens to play for one of the league’s golden franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Metta World Peace, the forward formerly known as Ron Artest, will serve seven games, including playoffs, for an elbow he delivered to the head of Oklahoma City’s James Harden on April 22. The incident will cost him some $430,000 of his $6.8 million salary (players are fined 1/110 of a season’s salary for each game suspended, regular or postseason, according to the league).
For Artest/World Peace, a veteran for 13 seasons, the incident is just another routine episode in his unbalanced career. The salary he’s forfeiting doesn’t approach the $4.5 million he lost as an Indiana Pacer back in 2004, when he got sacked for 86 games (regular season and playoffs) for instigating the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Other offenses for which the mercurial player has been penalized include smashing a television camera, various flagrant fouls and an in-game tiff with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley. Artest was also once suspended from the Sacramento Kings following a domestic violence case for which he served 10 days in jail. That incident came shortly after he wound up in legal hot water in Sacramento for allegedly neglecting his pet Great Dane, though charges were never filed.
Some may have expected a tougher penalty for the slam to Harden’s head. A possible reason it wasn’t: as bad as it looked, World Peace’s intention seemed to be a demonstrative celebration of a dunk, not committing bodily harm. But with Harden still awaiting medical clearance to play after a concussion, he still had to pay.
The NBA record for the costliest suspension is held by Gilbert Arenas. The then-Washington Wizard gave up over $7 million in a 50-game suspension during the 2009-10 season on the heels of a legal mess over guns in the locker room. There’s also former Golden State Warrior Latrell Sprewell, whose 68-game ban for choking his coach in practice back in 1997 cost him over $4 million (Sprewell avoided a harsher punishment when an arbitrator ruled the Warriors couldn’t void his contract, which the team wanted to do).
And Artest’s (as he was known at the time) co-conspirators in the Pacers-Pistons melee — Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson and Ben Wallace — also got hit hard. David Stern, who believes in running a tight ship, hands out suspensions and fines like candy. LeBron James once got slapped with 25 grand for kicking a water bottle. World Peace may not have meant any harm to Harden in this case, but he was, at best, oblivious to his presence. And so he pays, again.