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Updated: Ron Artest honored for winning 2010-11 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award

April 26, 2011 | 11:37 am

Liygd0nc For his efforts raising awareness and funds for mental-health issues, Lakers forward Ron Artest was named Tuesday as the winner of the 2010-11 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

"I'm not going to tell you there it's up there with the NBA championship, but it's definitely over the Defensive Player of the year award that I got," said Artest, who won that honor for the 2003-04 season. It's important because there are kids here in America who aren't doing well. I want to see those kids have an opportunity to succeed, whether they're on drugs, are abused or have a lack of confidence, bullied, cyber bullied or have family issues. I'm trying to help out and bring awareness."

The award honors an NBA player or coach who has displayed "outstanding service and dedication to the community" and is determined by the PBWA, a panel of 150 writers who cover the NBA for newspapers, magazines or the Internet on a regular basis. Artest, who's made leaps in overcoming his soured reputation for his involvement in the 2004 "Malice at the Palace" incident, became the first Laker since Magic Johnson in 1992 to win the award, which has been handed out annually since the 1974-75 NBA season and is named after the NBA's commissioner from 1963 to 1975.

Artest took many steps this season in mental-health advocacy, an initiative Lakers Coach Phil Jackson praised him for "going out to visit schools and kids and registers the importance of using counseling during troubled times for kids in their developmental years." He raffled off his 2010 NBA championship ring for more than $650,000 toward the cause, appeared in a public-service announcement with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and appeared before Congress in support of the Mental Health in Schools Act.

"It's just giving people the opportunity to have opportunity," said Artest, who plans to follow through on unspecified initiatives once the NBA playoffs end. "If they're not mentally stable, you never know where people will end up. You never know what potential they may have had or goals that could've been reached."

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Ron Artest. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images