Throughout his 17-year NBA career, Metta World Peace averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals, and was an NBA Champion, All-Star, NBA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He recently joined Chris Sheridan on his podcast, The Sheridan Show. You can listen to their conversation above or read the transcript below.
What were your impressions of the NBA Finals? What caught your attention in this series? (This conversation was recorded when the series was tied).
Metta World Peace: “Aside from all the injuries that many great players suffer, what drew me to this series was Chris Paul. I don’t necessarily believe now, especially at 2-2, that the Suns will win. But when the series score was 0-0, I thought the Suns would win. You know, people and boys change their minds. I thought the Suns were going to win. And when they led 2-0, you thought they were going to win. Now that the score is 2-2, it shows that Giannis [Antitokounmpo] is the greatest player. Now imagine that Giannis, one of the greatest players in the league, doesn’t have to come out against the greatest team, then you would say that Giannis would win. Because the Lakers got hurt. The Lakers were going to beat Phoenix before Anthony Davis got injured. So despite that, Chris Paul stands out, Giannis stands out. And Chris Paul is a killer situation; Chris Paul is a terrific player, he has a killer instinct, and he could very well take advantage of that momentum. I know he’s had a bad game, but it’s just interesting. It’s hard to say who’s going to win, I really don’t know, but it was a very interesting playoff.”
Chris’s right wrist seems to be hurting, and he had a lot of mistakes in Game 4. But some guys are coming out on top. Pat Connaughton was very good for the Milwaukee Bucks. Deandre Ayton was just a monster for Phoenix. Ayton has been as key to the series as Devin Booker.
Metta World Peace: “As controlling as Chris Paul is, Chris Paul controls the game in a way I’ve never seen before, but I don’t think he’s as talented as Booker is now in his career. And I think Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul are about equally talented. You’re probably going to lean on Booker and Deandre. Deandre is young, but he’s also an old soul. He’s very mature. He reminds me of Tim Duncan. He’s so smart. So, yeah, I think those guys are two factors.”
You’ve had success on both ends of the court. You were the defensive player of the year in 2004, were on the first-team defense in 2004 and 2006, and were on several second-team guards. Why are there so few players in the NBA who make it on both ends of the floor? Giannis is one of them, he made the first team on defense, but it’s hard to make a list of five or six players who are great at both ends.
Metta World Peace: “It’s not easy because you have to work at it and want to do it. It’s not hard, it’s not impossible, but you have to be in shape and work on your game. It’s extra time. In the summer, you’re probably working on your offensive game and not working on your defense. But when training camp comes around and you see somebody you want to block, that’s when you switch. You’re going to get a little tired, but will you be able to keep going? And are you okay with sacrificing a couple of points (especially as a wingback)? With the exception of Michael Jordan, I don’t know many flank defenders who would get their numbers and shut down. Kawhi could be one of those guys, but Kawhi would score even more points if he didn’t play defense. So defense is a sacrifice.”
You teamed up with DraftKings for the NBA Finals, and that’s pretty cool: You actively bet against the public every game. Depending on which way most bets go, Metta goes the other way and DK raises the bet against the public. This action is known as “Metta vs. the world.” So, for example, if most people bet on the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, he bets on the Milwaukee Bucks. How did this deal come about? And how do you like it?
Metta World Peace: “It’s fun. I’m really excited about it. I’ve always wanted to work with big brands and big corporations, and now I have a chance with DraftKings. DraftKings didn’t exist when we first came to the NBA, but DraftKings has come along and betting is becoming the norm. It’s fun, and it’s a great campaign.” Metta vs. the world. I can bet on a legal platform, I don’t bet illegally, and DraftKings provides that platform so I can have a great time against the fans. It’s been one of my best experiences.”
There’s a lot of gambling going on on the flights of NBA teams. A favorite game has always been burrees or poker. What’s the biggest loss you’ve ever seen on an NBA team’s plane or hotel?
Metta World Peace: “The biggest loss I’ve seen is when someone exchanges their wallets or puts their jewelry or necklace or maybe even their car keys on the table. It all depends on how much cash you have in your pocket.”
That tends to hit newbies the hardest, right?
Metta World Peace: “It depends on what kind of rookie you are, but I wouldn’t advise rookies to play with the big boys. Wait until you get a contract with the big boys. I wouldn’t advise rookies to play with a small contract, [especially considering] the bloated money these guys are getting in the league right now.”
As for international basketball, you spent a season overseas and played under FIBA rules. The Olympics are coming up, and there have been some changes on Team USA. Bradley Beal has left the team. Kevin Love left the team. Keldon Johnson and Javale McGee have joined the team. How do you think the Olympics will play out for Team USA?
Metta World Peace: “For me, the Olympics is a bittersweet situation for me. I love the Olympics, but I feel like I was left out. Even though I was a wind-up and very unstable player when I played, I just always felt like I should have had the opportunity to play [for Team USA]. The year I was going to play, I got suspended – and when you talk about legacy, a gold medal is very important for legacy. And I was a player, the third All-NBA player. I had to audition. I remember not getting called up to the Olympics, and I thought I would at least play on the team that was playing against the ones that got selected (Select Team). When that didn’t happen, I called my agent and said: “What the hell is going on here! And we couldn’t get any answer. Then I had to call the Olympic office myself. And they didn’t call me back. So I said: “Just let me try.” I realize I wasn’t the best player at the time, and some players didn’t want to play with me, but I said: “Give me a chance to take that player’s place.” At that time, in that era, my defense was so incredible that I was going to take somebody’s place. I’m 100 percent sure of that.”
That was the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, when the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico by 19 points in the first match and ended up winning bronze.
Metta World Peace: “Yeah, you know what I’m saying? We [wouldn’t] take home the bronze. We would have had the gold. I wasn’t on that team. The U.S. had a goal in 2004, and there’s no way we could have lost if I had been on that team. No way. How? I was 24 years old, and I was the best defensive player in the world at the time. I was the defensive player of the year between the Sharks and the Blue Whales, Ben Wallace, Duncan and Garnett. That’s who I had to go through to get this award. Hall of Fame people. That being said, I understand why. But I just want people to hear: If I could rewind time, this is what should be on my resume. Sure, a lot of things on my resume are missing through my fault, but I have Defensive Player of the Year honors, I was close to being MVP one year, I have championships, all-stars, everything but the Olympics. But I was in the Olympics in high school. I have high school history of the United States. Someday, hopefully, they’ll pick me. Sometimes they pick veterans, guys who don’t play anymore. I hope I can play in the Olympics; I deserve it as much as anybody else, I believe. Some people will say others deserve it, too. That’s true, but I’m one of those people who says so. So hopefully one day I’ll get an honorary jersey, at the end of the bench. I even told them I’d bring water. I literally called the office. I said to my agent, ‘Can I be the water boy? Anything? So every time somebody brings up Olympians, I laugh, I laugh, I laugh, I laugh. I’m definitely an Olympian. I’m an Olympian, a gold medalist, and I really believe that.”
“If you look at it in terms of basketball, in terms of professionalism at that age, I wasn’t. But I was a damn good basketball player, and I felt like a damn good American basketball player, one of the best American basketball players in the world. And even though I’m from Queensbridge and as urban as the NBA can be, at the same time I always wanted to represent the United States. And another reason why I wanted to represent the United States: Chris Mullin was an Olympian, and I went to St. John’s. Vern Fleming was an Olympic champion, and Vern Fleming is from my neighborhood, and everybody knows where I’m from. Vern Fleming lived through all the things I was talking about, just imagine this situation with Vern Fleming, and he was an Olympian. He was from the same neighborhood, the same exact neighborhood as me. There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to be an Olympian. No matter what anybody says, I’m an Olympian, I’m a gold medalist. I didn’t cut myself out of that team.”
Before you started recording, you mentioned that you wanted to get into coaching. Where did that aspiration come from, and what can you do to make it happen?
Metta World Peace: “Coaching is something I really care about. One person gave me some good advice: Don’t say you want to be a head coach, because no one will take you. But at least you can see me coming. I want to be a head coach. The reason is because it’s fun. It’s not because of anything else. I just think it’s fun. If I never get to be a head coach, that’s fine. I’m not going to cry about it. But if I do, I’m definitely going to be excited about it. I definitely want to be a head coach, and one of the main reasons is because I have a unique perspective on how to be a core and role player. I think Jason Kidd might have that perspective, too. He was once a role player, and then he became a major player. And he was a point guard, so he was always in control of the game. Anyone who has ever had that experience of seeing both sides of the game is something I really like. I played under a lot of good coaches at home… some great coaches even before I got to the NBA. And then I played under Fran Fraschill – everybody knows what a great coach he is – from Tim Floyd to Rick Adelman to Phil Jackson. When you take all that into consideration, it’s really nice to know that you have all this knowledge, and you can potentially give it back in the form of youth. And I’m working as a coach right now. I have about 10 teams that I’m coaching right now. Even though it’s not the NBA, it’s fun. It’s mostly running and shooting and dunking on the floor. It’s simple. I love it, and if I can ever do it in the NBA, I want to pick up the pace a little bit.”
Spreading out and shooting and diving to the floor is how you play. Who’s the best teammate you’ve ever had?
Metta World Peace: “All my teammates. When you’re in the locker room, especially when you’re under pressure to win, when you’re away from your family, etc., [it’s hard]. If you’ve read all the stories that have appeared in the media over the years, that’s what we go through together in the locker room, at dinner, during phone conversations. Like all players, it’s not as easy as it may seem. Even though it’s a lot of money, I’m speaking as a person, it’s not as easy as you might think. I’m very thankful for all my players, but the ones that stand out are Shane Battier: Shane Battier, Yao Ming, Derek Fisher, Reggie Miller. Steven Jackson, Kobe. A few people stand out. And then I played with some great veterans: Will Perdue, Dickie Simpkins, Randy Brown, Greg Anthony, Dale Davis. I’m very grateful, very grateful.”