Exclusive: Metta World Peace talks Lakers, coaching, BIG3, Hall of Fame, business ventures, and more
During his time in the NBA, Metta World Peace, the man formerly known as Ron Artest, went through drastic highs and lows. At one point, he was considered to be one of the best all-around players in the league with a bright future in front him. Then it all seemingly came crashing down with the Malace in the Palace while he was in his prime with the Indiana Pacers.
Fortunately, the incident in Detroit was a new beginning for the controversial forward famously from Queensbridge, New York. World Peace took advantage of a situation to turn things around in his life both on and off the court.
Now he’s among the most beloved athletes in this country with an NBA title as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and a thriving business to his credit in what may very well be his post-playing career.
Recently, World Peace spoke with ClutchPoints to talk about what he’s doing these days from his businesses like The Panda’s Friend clothing line and Gradelo App to coaching, the Lakers’ current squad, Kobe Bryant, joining the BIG3 League and whether he feels he’s a Hall of Fame candidate.
You’ve been a busy man with off-court ventures. Can you tell us a little bit about the Gradelo App?
MWP: Gradelo is a marketing platform for athletes. You can go to Gradelo.com. Also, went to UCLA in the summer for digital analytics at the UCLA extension program.
We’re giving athletes a platform to market themselves. Also, we’re helping the youth access education needs. Job search on our platform. It’s amazing! You can do it digitally and we have the app. The app is more for sports, so you can sign on to the app. You can be a player. You can be an owner. You can be a manager. You can do whatever you want. You can play live games. It is so much fun!
We’re in the baby stages raising the money now, so everything is going pretty well. I just encourage people to stay updated with what we’re doing. I think they’re going to really enjoy the finished product and I’m excited about it.
You’ve also got your clothing brand, The Panda’s Friend. What motivated you to start the clothing line and where can fans find your gear?
MWP: Well, ThePandasFriend.com started from my daughter’s love for Pandas. I had my brand, the Artest brand to World Peace. So I came with something I can stay close to my family.
My daughter loves Pandas. I love the fashion world, so I decided to mix her love with a passion for what I like to do on the business side. So now we’re able to spend more time with each other because we’re involved in the same business.
Now we generated some money and we’re doing a basketball festival. Proceeds are going to the board of education in L.A. The economic workforce developing the public in L.A. We’re also involved in the Y.M.C.A. We’ll have a lot of booths set up, so kids when they come they’ll be able to have access to a job search or understand the tutoring platform that’s out there. We’re going to have tons of booths set up. It was all done because The Panda’s Friend was able to generate money.
That’s the type of brand I’ve tried to create. Something that gives back. Obviously, you want to make a good business out of it, so we’re currently looking for co-founders and giving people an active part. Smart people that can help take the brand to the next level.
I feel like I wanted to do a brand where not only can you make a little money, but you can give back. Your message is bigger than the amount of money you bring back. We’re doing that with The Panda’s Friend. I want to keep that going and I’ve got so many plans for places like Buffalo and Detroit where The Panda’s Friend will be a really good asset to the community.
What has your experience been like being the player development coach for the South Bay Lakers?
MWP: I love it! They give me the opportunity to work with a player, which I love doing. Even though I’m involved in business and I’m trying to spend time with my kids, just being able to be around a player, help a player, Chuck Person and Larry Bird helped me, it gives me satisfaction. It has been what I’ve been doing for years, and I somewhat need to be around the game.
It is also fulfilling when you see a player that you helped a little bit do well in the game. A player that you talked to try to build confidence and do a little bit better such as Rob [Heyer]. Demarcus [Holland] over at the G League. I worked with Michael Holyfield. Also, I spent a little bit of time with Travis [Wear]. A brief time with AC [Alex Caruso]. A brief time with Thomas Bryant.
It’s kind of cool to see these guys in a Lakers uniform. On the Lakers roster and playing and trying to reach their dreams, so it’s very fulfilling.
Are you still interested in a coaching career once your playing days are over?
MWP: Absolutely…Coaching is fun. First, you’ve got to love it. It has got to be something you want to do. So I did coach in high school while I was playing with the Lakers. Coached Beverley Hills High School, assistant coach. It’s definitely something I want to do. I would love to be a head coach one day.
You recently decided to join the BIG3 League. What led you to that decision?
MWP: It’s live on Friday. Last year was tape-delayed on Sunday, aired on Monday. Now we’re playing on Friday to a huge audience, and for me, on a digital aspect, it’s a platform to drive traffic to my brand. When you’re in the digital world or the e-commerce world to drive traffic, you’re able to track that traffic. You’re able to identify your buyers, your consumers, your customers and be able to expand on it, so that’s from the digital marketing side.
The exposure, and then it’s basketball also. For me, the BIG3 was more of a digital marketing opportunity for me and basketball second. It’s a great league. I’ll be there playing all 10 games. We’re going to so many different cities, and Ice Cube is doing a really good job. They just fired [Roger] Mason, which is unfortunate. They just hired Clyde [Drexler] as their new president.
I think they’re trying to do the right thing. That’s the only thing that matters.
Did you reach out to Kobe Bryant or Lamar Odom about potentially joining in the BIG3 League?
MWP: Not really. Maybe I should. I don’t think they’re going to play any more games, so I don’t know. It would be interesting to have Kobe on the same team in the BIG3.
Is there anyone you think should join the BIG3?
MWP: I would say [Latrell] Sprewell. I would say Shaq. There’s a lot of people I want to see play. Eddie Robinson.
Is there anyone you are looking forward to facing in the BIG3?
MWP: Not necessarily. I play basketball every day. I play at Equinox. I play at UCLA recreation center. I still play for fun anyway. Basketball is fun. I do enjoy the work, so it’s not like I’m saying ‘I can’t wait to see this guy.’ Not necessarily.
I am looking forward to just going out there playing hard. Trying to have a good game. Trying to win a championship. I am looking forward to that.
What do you think of the current Lakers squad?
MWP: I love it. I think they’re going to get better. They’ll probably get close to .500 this year, which is a huge step in the right direction. [Kyle] Kuzma is so good. Brandon [Ingram] and Julius [Randle] are stepping it up. They’re going to be better next year. Lonzo [Ball] is going to be better next year. This is a real deal team.
I think [Brook] Lopez is fitting in amazing. This team is going to be a really good team. I’m excited about it.
Who has impressed you the most on this Lakers squad?
MWP: Isaiah Thomas. I forgot to mention Isaiah. All of them have been impressive because they’re playing together. It’s not easy to do, so there’s not one person that stands out.
Obviously, Isaiah Thomas changes everything. Hopefully, he comes back healthy. I’m not in the Lakers’ front office or the coaching staff, but you know, I like the team.
Do you believe that LeBron James and Paul George will end up signing with the Lakers this summer?
MWP: Well, to me, to say that LeBron and Paul George sign with the Lakers then I better hope that somebody is gone. My character has never been to hope somebody joins the team. I’m a LeBron fan, too. I remember Paul George coming to the NBA when he was young. I’m a fan of these guys but at the same time it’s players on the Lakers right now, so I can’t say I wish somebody else comes and takes someone’s spot that’s playing right now today. So I really don’t care if they come or not.
What sets Los Angeles apart from any city that you ever played in?
MWP: The difference entertainment, so you’re on TV. Obviously, live TV is really good for advertisers, right? You’re entertaining. Entertainment business. And in L.A., it’s the NBA entertainment business and if you love that life, if you like playing well and fans cheering for you, great. If you want to have fans around the world, which you could do anywhere, but L.A. is different, but now the world has gotten smaller with social media, so you don’t need to necessarily be in L.A. to build a huge fanbase.
If you want to be close to the acting and the producers and that world or if you just want to be part of a legendary organization. It’s all in L.A., so there’s a lot of great characteristics about all the teams, but obviously, the Lakers and Los Angeles, and the weather.
Now if was the Detroit Lakers and the organization was in the cold. Who knows? Maybe people don’t want to come. But you’ve got the weather. You got the entertainment. Too many things going right for L.A.
Do you have a Kobe Bryant story you perhaps haven’t told anyone?
MWP: I couldn’t tell you about some stories because certain conversations are just for us. People got enough of Kobe. People pretty much know everything about Kobe.
Kobe has given his all. Came into the NBA at 17 years old. 20 years. All that stuff. His work ethic, I know everybody knows he’s been in the gym at 5 AM in the morning. Leaves at 8 AM.
He’s a really good writer. I saw all the stuff that he’s working on. He’s doing some really cool content with books. I think people will be excited about. He’s always been a really good writer. Sometimes he would come into the room and we would just rap to each other. He’s such a good writer. He’s such a good rapper. It would’ve been really cool for people to see actually, but not everything is for everybody.
You had a lot of success with the Lakers winning a title in 2010, but what about your time with the Houston Rockets? Do you think the combination of you, Tracy McGrady, and Yao Ming would’ve been a dominant force had injuries not taken a toll on the other two?
MWP: Yeah. I just don’t think that three was meant to be. Tracy was hurt. Yao got hurt and my whole deal was probably determined by whether Yao and Tracy were going to come back or if they were going to keep me.
That three was never meant to be. Never meant to be.
Where did you have the most fun in your NBA career?
MWP: The most fun I had was definitely in Indiana because I was so good at that time in my prime. When you’re on the court and you can do whatever you want and nobody can do nothing about it. No matter who is out there. No matter what coaching scheme. No matter what defensive scheme you have. It’s a really good feeling. No matter how many double teams they send at you. I did that in Indiana. I did it in other places. Sacramento and Houston, also. I feel I was doing, for the most part, what I want.
Is there anything you would change or wish you could’ve done better during your career?
MWP: Not really. I like where I am at right now. I’m coaching, which is great. I’m going back to UCLA…I’m training my kids. Attending my daughter’s competitions. Everything is really good. I’m excited. I’m happy.
Who is the toughest player in the NBA right now to defend?
MWP: Right now, I haven’t been paying attention that much to the teams, so I couldn’t tell you, but I can give you an uneducated answer. I would say [Joel] Embiid. I think Embiid. I’m going off last year and potential. Things I’ve seen last year. Some of the things he’s doing this year. I think he’s amazing. I love him. He’s so good. I hope he stays healthy. I hope he stays in shape. He’s getting a little bit on the chunky side, so that may be a problem.
I think he would be better if he really dedicated his training to his body. Improving that body. Becoming more fit like a real NBA player. Then he’ll be really good. He’s already really good.
Do you believe you’re a Hall of Famer?
MWP: Absolutely. As a competitor. And I’m not as competitive as I used to be because my career is coming to an end. I’m unofficially retired. I didn’t announce yet. I don’t know when I’m going to announce or when I’m going to retire because I just love the game.
I know I’m competitive because I still try to play, so I go to the park and if there’s an NBA player there and we happen to play 5-on-5 I’m going to have fun.
The only argument I have is I was one of the best wing defenders ever. When you do something really well in the NBA, you have a chance, right? So I think I have a chance, but I think I would’ve had more of a chance if I would’ve had a more stable career. My numbers would’ve been up there, but I think my only shot is being one of the best wing defenders and the year I was Defensive Player of the Year. I held all small forwards to an average of six points. Sometimes players would get 20, but for the most part, players were getting like five points. Sometimes no points. Two points. Seven points. A lot of that, so that’s my only argument. If I make it, it’ll be because of that.
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