It was vicious and brutal, violent and brazen. It was indefensible, incomprehensible and intentional. And no matter how much Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) has mellowed during three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, the elbow he threw Sunday harks back to his past transgressions.
After a nice dunk during the Lakers' home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, World Peace began celebrating on his way back up the court. He pounded his chest with his right fist as Thunder guard James Harden bumped him ever so slightly while headed in the opposite direction. World Peace drew back and unleashed one of the ugliest, hardest elbows you'll ever see, hitting Harden flush in the side of his head.
Harden dropped to the ground as if he had been shot. World Peace, who squared off as Thunder players rushed to confront him, was ejected from the game and awaits a league ruling on his likely suspension.
"During that play, I just dunked on [Kevin] Durant and [Serge] Ibaka," he told reporters afterward. "I got real emotional, real excited. It's unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow. I hope he's OK. The Thunder, they're playing for a championship this year. I really hope he's OK, and I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden. It was such a great game. It was unfortunate so much emotion was going on at that time. That's it for today."
Artest didn't take questions after his 41-second statement, but he did take to Twitter later, claiming that he "didn't even see James" and admitting that the video "looks bad." Other observers used Twitter to mock his name in light of the agitated act. Harden suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the game. With the playoffs set to begin next week, the timetable for his return is uncertain.
"It was a bad play," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "There's no way around it. It's a dangerous play. It's not a play that should be involved in basketball. And it's unfortunate it happened. I know Ron, but unfortunately it did happen. You can't do that. That's unacceptable."
World Peace has come a long way since his integral role in the "Malice at the Palace" eight years ago, one of the nation's scariest sports incidents ever. That was just one example of his questionable behavior since entering the league in 1999, but he seemed to turn a corner after helping the Lakers win the NBA title in 2010. He won the league's citizenship award last season and has become an outspoken proponent of mental-health counseling.
Elbowing violations typically draw suspensions of one or two games, but the league must consider World Peace's case history. Even though he's been on mostly good behavior for a while now, the league needs to hit him as hard as he hit Harden. Making World Peace sit out the first round of the playoffs wouldn't be excessive.