Top 5 Ron Artest off-season stories
At this point of the year, the off-season has got to be quite a blur for Lakers forward Ron Artest. His off-season reminds me of the movie Bad Boys II for several reasons: 1. It was nonstop and fast-paced. 2. It was long and 3. You didn't always know what was going on, but it was still fun to watch. It at least made me stop for a second to remember everything he's done. For a quick refresher, here are Artest's Top 5 off-season moments.
1. Raising awareness on mental health issues - For all the funny antics Artest has done this season, let's get serious for a second. Artest should be continuously lauded for embracing his platform and joining Rep. Grace F. Napolitano last week at Eastmont Intermediate School in Montebello to speak on mental health issues. As The Times' Bill Plaschke noted in a recent column, "Artest stepped back into the punch line of the joke that has haunted him for most of his 30 years. In torn jeans, tennis shoes, collared shirt, sport coat and vulnerable grin, the wacky one took the stage at his weakest. I've never seen him stronger. For 20 minutes in an auditorium that was hushed and reverent, the Lakers tough guy bared not his elbows or his fists, but his soul."
What's great about Artest's involvement here is he knows the irony of it all: ""I know no parent wants their kid to be hearing from the guy who was on the Jimmy Kimmel show in his boxers. "But I put all that aside today."
All accounts indicate that even if the delivery was off, Artest's message was spot on in knocking down the misperceptions about mental health issues and how it's OK to seek health from therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. Although the theme of this entire season has illustrated a new chapter of his life, this event seemed to fully illustrate how Artest has come full circle since the Malice at the Palace. At first, people thought he was the one who needed help. Now he's in the position to help others.
2.Game 7 Press Conference - This is technically the off-season, even if it's just moments removed from the Lakers winning an NBA championship. This legendary press conference featured comedy: Artest pleaded for reporters to "acknowledge me," he asked his daughter why she was staring at him and he expressed giddiness over the fact the Lakers were on a Wheaties box. The press conference also featured apologies: Artest accepts responsibility for his behavior in Indiana and apologizes to that organization for being selfish. And the press conference also featured gratitude: Artest thanked Kobe Bryant for passing him the ball late in the game. Artest thanked Phil Jackson for knowing how to get in his head. And most memorably, Artest thanked his psychologist for all the work she put in during the 2009-10 season.
3. Go Speed Racer: Immediate questions come to mind when the news came out that Artest was cited for having expired registration on a race car: Where did Artest get these set of wheels? How fast was he going? Can I get a ride? Hopefully, he'll still be able to drive this car to work next season, and then challenge teammates to races in the parking lot after practice.
4.'If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball': Artest proved this off-season that there are actually more difficult concepts for him than learning the triangle offense: dodgeball. That's right, the sport everyone loved to play in elementary school gym class might require a few more flashcards than the Zen Master's offense. It also leads me to wonder how he'd do in an intramural bowling, softball or soccer league. The results probably wouldn't turn out well, but there would be a. great Youtube moments, b. great after parties and c. strong possibilities in scoring Lakers tickets.
5. "Champion" As soon as Artest signed last off-season to a five-year deal worth $33 million, he demonstrated his tremendous confidence that the Lakers would win another championship. He recorded a rap song, which was released after the 2010 title, and performed it at numerous L.A. post-Lakers championship parties. Some may wonder why his Twitter excursion doesn't get in the Top 5, since they've included random jokes, jabs at Doc Rivers and LeBron James as well as anything else that comes to his mind. But I'll admit my background as a rap fan plays into it. Given Artest's ability, I actually liked the song, and plenty in the hip hop community reacted in similar fashion. I can't wait until the music video comes out.
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Photo: Ron Artest, who admitted in October that he'd begun seeing a psychologist back in his days with the Rockets, thanked his shrink after winning his first NBA championship with the Lakers. Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images.