Americans are fascinated by athletes. There is an entire media industry built around critiquing their work, assessing their value, and holding them accountable to the adoring public that craves their success and pays their salaries. Athletes rarely allow the public to see beyond carefully crafted branding strategies. Some shun the public’s attention altogether, some crave that attention and can’t live without out it. Metta World Peace is one of those rare athletes who make no pretense of hiding who he is and what he’s about. Metta has struck a chord with Americans. Whether by design or not he is more transparent and accessible than most athletes and exerts far less control over what he allows us to see. When he won a championship ring with the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most recognizable and valuable sports franchises on Earth, he thanked his psychiatrist in his post-game comments. Not the kind of thing most athletes would do. But our guest has had to struggle for everything and knows what is a real accomplishment. He was raised on public basketball courts in New York City where people have been killed over petty personal disputes. He has had to look over his shoulder his whole life. In one of the most competitive sports, he became a first-round pick in the NBA, an All-Star, won the NBA’s coveted Defensive Player of the Year Award, and of course, became a World Champion. While achieving the impossible he struggled to leave his past behind. He has fought his battle with mental health in front of the cameras and has become an important voice in understanding mental health and how mental health problems impact athletes and athletics. He has come so far from his rough and tumble roots that he won the J. Walter Kennedy Award given to the NBA player who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community. Of all the things he has achieved that is among the most impressive because it shows the true colors of this playground warrior.
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