Metta World Peace rides subway to Madison Square Garden for game
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The rattling sound of the approaching subway car delivered the news that Metta World Peace has been waiting for his whole life.
Finally, it was time to leave Queensbridge and head into Manhattan to join the Knicks.
The vibrations of the arriving F train getting louder by the second, the man formerly known as Ron Artest stood up from the bench where he had been sitting (next to a surprised fan, of course) and laughed as he watched the train come to stop.
"This," he said, "is something I've always wanted to do."
Then he boarded the subway car, bound for the Garden.
His dream of becoming a Knick finally a reality in his 15th year in the NBA, World Peace thought it would only be appropriate to return home to Queensbridge and take the subway to his first regular-season game at the Garden, like he had done so many times as a youngster.
So a little past 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, World Peace arrived with a few friends on 21st Street and 41st Avenue, an intersection that borders the Queensbridge housing projects where he grew up.
Instantly people who had been milling around the subway steps recognized him. People called out, "Hey, Ron!" -- no one calls him Metta around here -- and World Peace stopped to shake hands and hug about a dozen people. Someone handed him a phone to talk into.
Through the turnstile, World Peace noticed a crowd was following him, and the platform quickly started to fill. "I've got to get a seat," he said, laughing. "I can't be standing." He did have a basketball game to play in a few hours, after all.
Once on the train, the first thing he wanted to do was guess how many stops until 34th Street, to show he hasn't forgotten his roots. But as the 15-minute ride continued, he grew somewhat wistful, recalling memories of growing up Artest.
Of course he was disappointed that the Knicks passed on him in 1999 to take Frederic Weis, who never played a game for them. But the St. John's product has come to believe that he was too immature then to handle what comes with playing at home.
"I was 19 years old, making a ton of money and I didn't know what to do with it," he said while riding the train, occasionally glancing out the window behind him for signs of where he was.
Throughout his career, he said he entertained thoughts of joining the Knicks, but said he didn't think the interest ever was reciprocated. Eventually, he said he figured it wasn't meant to be for him.
"I never thought this day would come," he said.
But then it did, after the Lakers waived him over the summer and the Knicks swooped in. And as he made his opening-day commute Wednesday, it seemed as if he almost didn't believe at times that this finally was happening.
Dressed in dark jogging pants, a black T-shirt featuring his "TruWarrior" street ball nickname and a dark puffy vest, World Peace also carried a backpack with the Knicks logo, which he proudly showed off while on the train.
He said he's "been through a lot" over the years, both on and off the court, oftentimes living a "dysfunctional" life. But he believes his experiences have prepared him to play in New York City, just a subway ride from his home.
"Being a Knick in my 15th season, I'm not caught off guard," he said.
And with that, the train slowed to a stop at 34th Street and Herald Square, a few blocks from the Garden, his new home.
"This is us," World Peace said as the train stopped, and off he went, finally a Knick.