The transformation of Ron Artest's image really has been incredible.
It would be hard to go back to November of 2004 -- when the infamous Malice at the Palace broke out between the Pacers and the Pistons -- and find anyone to tell you that Artest would rehabilitate his image to the point that he has. Artest was the most visible participant in that brawl. Fairly or not, he was portrayed as everything that was wrong with the NBA because of it.
It took a long time to get here, but it's 2010, and Artest is charming. Adorable, even. I was in the room for Artest's memorable postgame press conference (below) following Game 7 of this year's Finals (I'm one of the people on the laptops Artest keeps trying to get to give him a shoutout). Artest bounced up and down like a toddler as he spoke. He introduced his extended family. He thanked his psychiatrist. Then he went clubbing in his game-worn jersey.
Last week, TMZ obtained a photo (above) of Artest driving around Los Angeles in what was essentially a go kart. The car was not registered to the Lakers forward, so he had a little explaining to do. But he wore a helmet.
When I saw the latest headline on NBA.com, I was surprised: Artest to auction off championship ring. But Scott Howard-Cooper's story, like all of the other latest news concerning Artest, made me smile.
Artest will auction off his first and only championship ring to raise money for mental health awareness. He's spent 11 seasons in the NBA seeking the validation of a championship. In talking to Artest during the Finals, he answered almost every question -- and there were hundreds over two weeks -- with some reference to earning a ring.
But Artest has the perspective to use the jewelry's tangible value for something that may eventually help many people: putting more psychologists and psychiatrists in schools.
"I'm older now," Artest told NBA.com. "So I think it's about that time that I stop complaining about what people think about me, because it's more important than me, you know?
"That whole thing (after the championship), I was thinking about it, in my brain I'm like, 'Am I really about to say this? On national TV?' But then the other part of me was like, 'It's bigger than you. It's bigger than you. It's more about people that really need to hear this.' For five years, I've been wanting to do this psychology-type of assistance, but I never had an outlet where I could make a big impact, as far as where the most people could see it."
Artest is clearly a person who has battled personal demons all of his life. Good for him for looking outside himself here.
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer