Quiet Storm, of course, gives adequate time to the brawl for which he’s still best known. As a member of the Indiana Pacers, World Peace delivered an unnecessary hard foul to the Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace with under a minute left in the game, and the two got into a heated confrontation. A spectator threw a drink on World Peace, who went charging into the stands wildly swinging punches. A full-on melee developed: Nine players were suspended, with World Peace receiving an 86-game suspension—still the longest in NBA history for a non-drug-related offense—and a $5 million fine.
The brawl, arguably the most embarrassing moment in league history, became powerful evidence for those who had long labeled the NBA a thug league, and for those who, because of his lengthy history of suspensions and on-court run-ins, considered World Peace to be a danger. The racial undertones were difficult to miss: The imagery of black players attacking white fans served as a kind of racial pornography that had many openly opining about the NBA’s ruin.
(The lingering hostility between fans and NBA players was explored in an ESPN The Magazine poll four years later: Respondents believed the typical NBA player was less likely than players from the other three major leagues to respect the fans, remain loyal to his team, or love his wife, and more likely to carry a gun, use recreational drugs, or have an entourage.)
Quiet Storm provides a panoramic view of the brawl. As shocking as the incident was when it happened, in 2004, it seems equally surreal 15 years later. The film offers a real sense of how terrified World Peace and his teammates were as cameras follow them from the on-court, in-the-stands fighting to their locker room. Viewers will cringe while watching the Pacers make their way off the court as fans hurl bottles, and even a chair, at them.
The documentary also conveys the totality of the collateral damage. “I watched it and it’s like, Oh boy, I gotta relive these moments,” World Peace told me, referring to his reluctance to even do the film. “The people I was affecting, we never sat down together, so we never actually experienced those moments together. I never knew how they felt. They didn’t know how I was feeling. On a TV screen, you get a chance to see everything.” In Quiet Storm, the former Pacer Jermaine O’Neal’s interview stands out because of the lingering animosity he still appears to harbor toward World Peace. Another highlight is an interview with John Green, the fan who threw the drink. Green, who’s had his own personal demons to deal with, apparently developed a relationship with World Peace after the athlete called him years later and asked him to lunch.
Though it does a deep dive on the Palace fight and the ensuing consequences, the film makes clear that the brawl was a culmination of years of trauma World Peace had experienced, starting with his troubled upbringing in the Queensbridge housing projects in New York. World Peace often witnessed his mother and father physically fighting. As he notes on-screen, he internalized that violence and learned at an early age that the only way to survive and be respected was to fight. He also discusses his 2007 arrest on domestic-violence charges (to which he pleaded no contest) and the help he received from therapy afterward.