BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
NBA superstar Metta World Peace, who was recently signed to the New York Knicks, celebrated his homecoming at CANZaciti Roadhouse in Astoria Monday, just a few miles away from his hometown of Long Island City.
Dozens flocked to the popular Queens sports bar for a chance to mingle with the St. John’s University grad, sporting their favorite Knicks gear to show their support for the newest addition to the team.
“I’m a big Knicks fan and am excited to see Metta World Peace,” said Christopher Badilla of Jamaica. “He’s going to bring the defense we need to the team. I always liked him – he’s from Queens, he went to St. John’s and I’m a big fan of St. John’s. It’s great to see him come home.”
“It’s really exciting to see Metta come back and celebrate right here in Astoria,” echoed Knicks fan Casey Rodriguez of Long Island City. “He grew up just a few blocks away from me. He could be celebrating anywhere so it’s great to see that he chose to do this in Queens.”
But while a good portion of the crowd could be seen wearing their Knicks jerseys and hats, a number of Los Angeles Lakers fans, the team World Peace played for the last five years, could also be spotted.
“I’m not a Knicks fan, I’m a Laker fan,” said Jason Haggerty of Astoria, who was wearing a Laker jersey. “I loved watching him play for the Lakers, but if he was going to have to leave my team, I’m glad he left for New York, his hometown.”
The CANZ franchise is no stranger to famous athletes, said part-owner Steven Ferraro. The bar has partnered with New York Yankees player CC Sabathia and former Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Drew Gooden.
“It seems like every year at CANZ, we’re doing things with professional athletes,” Ferraro said. “It feels good. It’s a pleasure and honor for us being that a New York sports bar and brand to have one of the new New York athletes come and have his welcome home party here – it means a lot for the brand. It’s a good thing to give to the fans and to the people of the neighborhood.”
“He’s been a good friend of ours for years. It was just a natural fit,” he added. “I just feel like [Metta] is a big sports guy and he’s a big Queens guy. He’s about the fans, he’s about the people.”
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.