Metta World Peace, Daniel Artest have gone down different hoops paths
On the Queensbridge basketball courts as youngsters, the Artest boys were known by their peers as the Range Rover and the Land Rover.
Few people beat them -- or messed with them.
Ron Artest was the Range Rover because he was the more slender of the two, the guy athletic enough to defend any position and streak his way through a double team to the hoop.
Brother Daniel, born on the same day as Ron three years later, was the Land Rover because he was shorter but stronger, especially under the basket. Rebounding was a passion.
The young duo proved to be nearly unstoppable in New York City-area pickup games.
"When we were on the court together, we caused a lot of havoc,'' said Ron, the 6-7, 260-pound Knicks forward now known as Metta World Peace after legally changing his name in 2011.
When World Peace's career began taking off, beginning at St. John's in the late 1990s, he assumed the same would happen to his younger brother because he said Daniel was just as talented. He said he dreamed of the day when they would team up again.
Nearly two decades later, he's still waiting for that to happen.
Making a strong impression
Daniel would have loved to make it to the NBA just like his brother, of course, but he insists he's at peace with his path, which has taken him on his own hoops odyssey.
"For every Ron Artest, there's a Daniel Artest,'' Daniel said.
It was a recent Friday afternoon and Daniel, who will turn 31 next week, was sitting on a bench in the Queensbridge Housing Projects, excited to be back home for only the second time since 2005.
The Queensbridge Housing Projects, located in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, is commonly referred to as the nation's largest public housing project. Brick buildings are separated by playgrounds, winding pavement paths and patches of grass, with a basketball court centrally located.
The fifth of nine children, Daniel said the Artests grew up in adjoining corner apartments, with 17 people residing in their five bedrooms at times. But Daniel said he didn't feel all that cramped. Heck, he and Ron were too busy playing basketball to notice the crowd.
Outside Queensbridge, Daniel first made waves as a basketball player when Ron arrived at St. John's on a basketball scholarship in 1997. Then 14, Daniel would accompany his brother to St. John's and pass the time scrimmaging against college kids, even some of the varsity players.
"Remember Anthony Glover from St. John's?'' asked their father, Ron Artest Sr., referring to the 6-5, 231-pound big man who answers to the nickname "The Corrections Officer'' on New York City courts.
"Daniel used to move him around like he wasn't even there,'' the father said. "This kid was like 14 years old and I'm saying to myself, 'This is unbelievable the way he moved him out of the way.' I thought, listen, he's going to make it.''
But there was a problem. Daniel didn't like going to high school, and more often than not, he didn't. When he did attend classes, he admittedly didn't take it all that seriously. He said he attended four schools in four years, one of them twice, and never played a minute of basketball at any of them.
"We didn't have the household to push him in education,'' said World Peace, now a Knick. "We went to school, but it wasn't something that we had to do after a certain point in our life. So he took advantage of those temptations and it hurt him because if he just had a diploma, he would have gone to college.''
By the time Daniel was 18, he watched as players he thought he was better than got Division I scholarships. That set off a series of stops and starts at junior colleges across the nation in a somewhat frenzied attempt to land a Division I scholarship.
In the span of two years, Daniel landed at five different junior colleges -- and played at only two of them. He said he left the colleges because of problems with the coaches, the school, academics or just wanting a different place. But when he did make it onto the court, his pure talent took over.
A year and a half after his last high school stop, he passed his General Educational Development tests and landed at the University of Southern Nevada. He qualified academically for the spring semester and was eligible for the second half of the 2002-03 season. Playing for George Tarkanian, Jerry's son, he said he averaged 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in 12 games.
"He was definitely a Division I player,'' Tarkanian said. "Just a big, strong guy who played on the perimeter, and people had such a hard time guarding him. He was just so much stronger than them.''
It wasn't long before he was noticed. Daniel's 12-game stint at Southern Nevada was good enough to earn him a scholarship offer a few months later from Division I Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, then coached by Billy Tubbs.
"I had just taken over and we were recruiting anybody that could play because we pretty much had to replace a whole team,'' Tubbs said. "We were hitting junior colleges pretty heavy that year.''
At 6-4 and about 265 pounds, Daniel was unique in that he was physical enough to play down low but athletic enough to play outside. The coaches at Lamar saw Daniel as a potential mismatch for opponents and thought he could thrive in the Southland Conference.
But Daniel balked. He described his decision to walk away from Lamar as a mixture of cold feet and a big head, thinking that perhaps offers from bigger schools were on their way. It's the only decision he regrets.
"I didn't have the right guidance at the time,'' Daniel said. "Ron was doing his thing. Everybody was focusing on Ron. I made all these decisions by myself. I never had help to choose a school. Everything I did by myself in my basketball career, all on my own.''
Daniel's father added, "Maybe I should have been more on him, but I was just focused on getting him through life . . . Trying to keep him away from alcohol, drugs.''
After Daniel passed on Lamar, the bigger offers didn't come. He played at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., the next season in what would be his final collegiate games.
Weight becomes a problem
"He's just as good as me,'' World Peace said the other day after a Knicks practice, the sweat dripping down his face after he stayed late to work on his jumper. "He was a better rebounder and stronger, a much better rebounder than I was . . . I've always said Daniel should have been a pro a long time ago.''
After failing to land that coveted Division I scholarship, Daniel fell out of game shape and said his weight ballooned well into the 300s. World Peace said he constantly has tried to motivate him to get in shape during the last decade.
"In shape for my brother is about 270,'' World Peace said. "There's not many people who are 6-4, 270 who can move like him, windmill dunk, shoot threes and rebound. All he has to do is get to 270.''
Daniel often has tried over the years, to no avail. For example, with an eye on the NBA, Daniel lived with World Peace in Sacramento in 2007 and worked with one of the Kings' assistant coaches each morning that season to get in shape. He played on the Kings' summer-league team, too. But it didn't lead to an NBA job, and the issue of his playing shape lingered.
Daniel has spent the years since then bouncing around the semipro level, with stops in cities such as Rockford, Ill., Rockville, Md. and Louisville, Ky. He now lives in Avon, Ind., works in the shipping department at Amazon.com and plans to play a second season this year with the semipro Indiana Diesels of the Premier Basketball League.
"Reunited'' would feel so good
World Peace refuses to let go of his dream of playing alongside Daniel one day.
He initially envisioned it happening in high school or college, but he said Daniel getting left back one year negated that, and World Peace went pro after his second year at St. John's.
Then World Peace thought they could play on the same NBA team after Daniel's summer-league experience with the Kings, but that didn't work out.
The last time World Peace tried to make it happen was during the NBA lockout two years ago, when he said he wanted his younger brother to go overseas with him. But he said Daniel wasn't in shape.
Now World Peace has a new plan.
Speaking after a recent Knicks practice, he said he's thinking he can play two or three more years in the NBA, maybe even more. But after he's done with the NBA, he wants to make one more run at reuniting the Range Rover and the Land Rover on the court.
This time World Peace sees it happening overseas, maybe China.
Even if it's only for one game, World Peace wants to make it happen. He wants to wear the same uniform as his brother, as he always envisioned as a kid.
"One time, I want to play with him," World Peace said. "When I'm done, hopefully he's still playing, and let's go play overseas one time together, for a week, month or something like that.''
When that was relayed to Daniel, he said he cried. He knows this is his last chance to step on the court with his brother in a pro setting, and he says he's taking it seriously.
Through running, working out with P90X and -- of course -- playing lots of basketball, he says his weight is down to 285 pounds. And counting.
"I'm going to make that happen,'' he said. "Ron has done so much for me over the years, the least I can do is get into the best shape of my life so we can finally play together.''