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Ron Artest to donate part of his salary to mental health charities

December 9, 2010 |  4:05 pm

Lakers forward Ron Artest is saving up his money and waiting until July 1, 2011 to figure out what to do with it.

But this isn't because of a possible NBA lockout. That's the date he'll decide how much of his $6.79-million salary he plans to donate to charities benefiting mental health awareness.

"The lockout has nothing to do with it," Artest said before the Lakers' 87-86 victory Wednesday over the Clippers. "It's just the season. I already got enough publicity off the ring. It's time to focus on the season."

Artest is referring to his current charitable effort where he's raffling off his 2010 championship ring through his website, where he says bidding has reached about $500,000. He also had a party following the Lakers' game at the L.A. Live's Conga Room to raise money for the effort, and plans to announce the winner Christmas morning. He acknowledged the large number of fans who expressed genuine concern for raffling his ring away, including his wife, but Artest said she had no problem with donating a portion of his salary.

"We lost $7 million before, unfortunately," Artest said, referring to the money he lost for his 86-game suspension in 2004 for his involvement in the Malice at the Palace. "But at least it's going toward something good."

Just when it's hard to conceive how Artest can top himself, he somehow does. We're not talking about his funny and random comments, such as his contention that he'd love Clippers forward Blake Griffin to dunk on him ( "I hope he dunks on me and puts his shoulder on my face") and that he'd actually purchase the poster ("I'd buy it and tell him to sign it. I don't care"). He'll always offer plenty of those. But it's hard to fathom which effort -- raffling off his championship ring or donating his salary -- is a more serious sacrifice.

With the Lakers scheduled to meet President Obama on Monday at the D.C. area Boys and Girls Club to celebrate the team's 2010 championship, Artest remains hesitant with sharing with Obama his belief that there should be more resources so that all children have affordable access to therapy. But he acknowledged President Clinton and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shared interest in what Artest called his "turnaround" when he received the keys to Las Vegas for his work with Xcel University, which works with community centers and schools to identify high-risk students. He also appeared at Eastmont Intermediate School in Montebello, where he spoke to students about the mental-health issues he has dealt with since age 13 and promoted the Mental Health in Schools Act, which plans to be reintroduced to Congress in February during the 2011 legislative session and would provide $200 million in grant funding involving mental health issues.

Artest had envisioned these efforts during his time with the Sacramento Kings (2005-2008), where he organized free group counseling sessions for children, and then posted videos on YouTube so other children could identify with similar problems they may have experienced. But he feels the momentum picking up even more, thanks to his latest efforts.

"It's appreciated and a blessing," Artest said. "Obviously I would like to have more, but it's definitely appreciated. It's going to make an impact regardless. It will snowball and have a domino effect later. It will have a domino effect real real soon, once people see what's exactly going on."

--Mark Medina

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