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The worst moment of Ron Artest’s professional basketball career served to push the man now known as Metta World Peace down the path toward a happier, more productive life.

Once ridiculed for thanking his psychiatrist after helping the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA championship in 2010, World Peace made it easier for fellow NBA players Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan to speak publicly about mental health issues in recent years.

‘Malice at the Palace’ nearly destroyed Ron Artest’s NBA career

The Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons engaged in a brawl Nov. 19, 2004, late in their NBA game at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The fight spilled into the stands after a spectator threw a drink at Metta World Peace, still known then as Ron Artest, and the incident came to be known as the “Malice at the Palace.”

The punishment was swift and severe as the NBA suspended nine players. Artest was hit the hardest, losing the final 73 games of the regular season and the Pacers’ 13 playoff contests. It hit him in the wallet to the tune of $5 million.

The incident came to define his career and is a large part of the 2019 Showtime documentary “Quiet Storm,” which tells the player’s life story while asking what sort of life issues would compel a player to attack a fan and be deemed crazy by complete strangers.

“I don’t judge what people do. Whether it’s somebody at a coffee shop tweeting or a media person, you don’t know how smart or ignorant that person is. Nobody knows how smart or ignorant I am. I can’t judge people anymore.”

Metta World Peace was an outstanding NBA defender

Metta World Peace, who changed his name from Ron Artest in 2011, retired in 2017 following an 18-year professional career. The 6-foot-6 small forward averaged a modest 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in the regular season but put up slightly better numbers in the playoffs.

Where he truly excelled was at the other end of the court. Artest’s man-to-man defense on shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards was regarded as some of the best work in the league and he was selected the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the 2003-04 season.

Possibly not coincidentally, he did not win the award again after the suspension for his role in the Malice at the Palace.

Speaking out on mental health issues earns an award

Ron Artest was prescribed antidepressants in the years after his suspension for the Malice at the Palace but threw them away. He would later consult with Dr. Santhi Periasamy, a psychologist Artest credits with straightening out life issues that began in his childhood.

Artest publicly thanked Periasamy after the Lakers who the 2010 NBA championship. It caused him to be ridiculed by some at the time but raising awareness of mental health contributed to his selection as the league’s 2011 Walter Kennedy Citizen Award winner.

Other winners of the annual honor have included Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson, LeBron James, and Damian Lillard.

Metta World Peace has gone on to work with the Los Angeles Lakers’ G-League team in player development, operates Artest Management Group to assist athletes with financial matters, and has opened a film division.