What became of Ron Artest? The man who stuck with the public and won with Kobe and Pau

Always controversial, Artest was the protagonist of the embarrassing Palace fight, although he achieved redemption by being key in the 2010 ring with the Lakers.


November 19, 2004. Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, Michigan. The Pacers visited the track of the reigning champions, the Pistons, and are one step away from propping up a 7-2 record that would contrast with the one that would be left to their rivals at the end of a game (4-4) that were very close to lose. In fact, with only 42 seconds ahead, the scoreboard was favorable to the visitors by a clear 82-97 that left practically everything seen for sentence. Few things to say remained for the locals, lazy at the start of the season after winning their first ring since 1990, with a certain Joe Dumars in the offices who had brought the lost culture of the Bad Boys back home and had congregated one of the best defensive squads ever (the Wallace, Prince, Billups, Hamilton ...) around a nomadic coach like Larry Brown to win the championship in a way that was as unexpected as it was deserved against the Lakers of Shaq and Kobe, who passed to be Kobe's Lakers, with Shaq heading to Miami and Phil Jackson into exile (temporarily), ending an era in the NBA. One that had filled the void left by Jordan and that had resulted in a veritable dynasty.

The Pacers had precisely seen how the last chance they ever had was diminished by those Lakers in the 2000 Finals. And the new reconstruction, with a Larry Bird that changed the benches for the offices, brought a horde of players that made dreaming the city with the ring for the last time. A few months before that meeting, the Pistons had eliminated Indiana in the Eastern Finals (4-2), for which a special rivalry was forged between the two teams, who had starred in a tough and intense series that fell on the side of future champions. The Pacers got there with Rick Carlisle on the bench, another curiosity of fate for a man who the previous year had led the Pistons to the first of their six consecutive Conference finals. And in 2004-05, his second year at Indiana, he was trying to take another leap with the Pacers in what would be, officially, Reggie Miller's last season as a professional.

But the project would be embarrassingly truncated on November 19. Stephen Jackson, one of those players that Larry Bird had masterfully achieved in dispatches just for that season (coming from the Hawks after winning the ring with the Spurs in 2003), made two free throws that put Indiana ahead of 15. On the next play, Ben Wallace received a hard foul from Ron Artest, a 25-year-old player who was on his way to earning the star nomenclature and who had played the All Star and won the Best Defender award in 2003-04, a reward with double merit if we take into account that it was reserved for tall men, an incomprehensible tradition from which it does not completely escape except in a few exceptions. Wallace (a four-time winner of this trophy) revolted prey to the impotence generated by the superiority of the rival and unleashed the storm. Neither player was famous for being mild-mannered, and the ego of one for the coming course was directly proportional to that of the other, who had won the championship with exceptional defense over Shaquille, including an 18-point match. and 22 rebounds in the fifth and final game of the Finals.

Wallace's reaction staged a tangana that apparently ended with both players reassured and Artest sprawled on the scoring table. The gesture of the latter was interpreted as a provocation on the part of the local fans, who visibly rebuked him. The situation remained that way for a few seconds until a Pistons supporter named John Green threw a glass full of soda at the forward, who as soon as he noticed his impact moved the fight to the stands, initiating one of the most embarrassing scenes of the season. NBA history. Artest leaped into the stands to go after the man who had thrown the glass at him. When he went to the public, he already began to cause havoc: he caused a newscaster to fracture five vertebrae and injure his head. David Wallace, Ben Wallace's brother, tried to hit Artest. Stephen Jackson also entered the public area, but not to separate his teammate, but to punch other spectators, causing players from both teams to go to peace while many supporters tried to escape the altercations. and others joined a tangana that had already surpassed the imaginable.

It did not end there, and the Pacers players returned to the track chased by several Pistons fans. Artest knocked out one and Stephen Jackson knocked the other down, which was finished off by Jermanie O'Neal. Artest himself was escorted by a team assistant and Reggie Miller, dressed in a suit due to injury. Local fans threw glasses and popcorn at the Indiana players as they faced the locker room tunnel and O'Neal faced them as the team's point guard, Jamaal Tinsley, came out of the locker room to help him. Pistons coach Larry Brown had to improvise a speech to calm things down. Needless to say, the game ended at that point, with no more than 40 seconds remaining and with the victory for the Pacers. Although, obviously, no one spoke of the outcome of the match after that.

The next day, on November 20, the NBA sanctioned Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal and Ben Wallace indefinitely. A day later, they released the real consequences: in total, 137 games for Pacers players and 9 for Detroit. Artest, who finished with a clean punch with the public, received the longest sanction in the history of the competition, which included the entire season and a fine of almost five million dollars. In total, the forward lost 86 games, the 73 that remained of the regular season and the 13 that his team played in the playoffs. In which they were eliminated, by the way, by the Pistons in six games, the last of them in Indiana and with a tremendous ovation to Reggie Miller, who retired that same day leaving an indelible legacy in a small market but who understands and knows basketball, even though since the departure of their long-awaited idol they have not seen the championship so closely again and are now mired in a small crisis of results that makes them fall in the first round again and again.

A Artest had a hard time getting over that episode (if he has), and the fame of trouble that he already had multiplied and he was always with him. Many times, he prevailed in trials that spoke of his head and not his basketball ability, growing up to that point and with good seasons before and after said episode. In fact, before the fight he was at 24.6 points (his career high), 6.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists, and shooting 49.6% from the field, 41.2% from 3s. and 92.2% in free throws. The sanction stopped short a season that promised a lot and of which he was being one of the most outstanding players along with Steve Nash (who finished as MVP) or Shaquille O'Neal (second in that vote). The Pacers had 44 wins after reaching 61 the previous year, and that roster that promised a championship ended up unraveling with Larry Bird cutting his losses and sending Artest to the Kings the following year, when he had played 16 games. There he met Rick Adelman, who tried to modulate his character and used him together with Mike Bibby, the last stronghold of the 2002 West finals against the Lakers in the most glorious stage of the franchise since he moved to Sacramento, to reach the last playoffs reached by a team that today maintains the longest active streak in history without stepping on the final phase.

Artest averaged 18.8 and 20.5 points per game over the next two seasons before Adelman drove in what turned out to be his arrival at the Rockets. In Texas he averaged 17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds with 39.9% in triples and led in the playoffs to a team that arrived without Tracy McGrady or Dikembe Mutombo, in addition to losing Yao Ming along the way. That did not prevent them from forcing the seventh game against the Lakers in the semifinals, a round in which Artest had continuous clashes with Kobe Bryant, especially in a second game in which he received an elbow from the guard in the fight for a rebound but it went to him to whom the fault was pointed out, being sent off both there and in the next match, this time for a harsh infraction on Pau. Artest scored 21, 25 and 25 points in the first three games, but sank in the last four (9.5 with 27.9% in field goals and 15.4% in triples), in addition to losing the two first buses going to Staples for the seventh, moving in the third with the team management ... in a tracksuit. The Angelenos, who won 65 victories during the regular season, went on their way to a ring that they ended up conquering.

Interestingly, it had been the same Artest who had come to the Boston Garden a year ago, when he was still a member of the Kings, to watch the sixth game of the Finals between the Celtics and Lakers. The victory of the locals was the end of a 22-year drought and a very hard blow to the morale of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, they took a long time to leave the locker room. That's where Artest visited them, almost a year before the already familiar clashes with Kobe, he approached both of them and told them that in the future he would like to be part of the Lakers. Without anyone knowing, of course, the role he was going to play later and that would give new meaning to his career and that of Kobe, who had rings for each finger of a hand after the forward crossed his path.Back to childhood and success at LA

The forward's wishes were fulfilled in the summer of 2009. After a somewhat odd summer, negotiations between Trevor Ariza's manager and the Lakers for a renewal came to a standstill. Ariza had been one of the members of the staff who had obtained the ring the previous year. His defensive skills, accompanied by his great size, coupled with his great shot of three, had allowed him to square perfectly in the offensive triangle and had ended up being essential for the achievement of the championship. As his continuity was unclear, Mitch Kupchak spoke with Artest, whose contract with the Rockets was about to expire. Before the deal was signed, Artest announced on Twitter that he was leaving for the Lakers and Ariza, baffled, signed as a free agent for Houston and was immediately traded to the Hornets from Chris Paul. The former Lakers plays for the Blazers today and is one of the few players from that time who is still active.

The arrival of Artest to the top favorite to the ring caused a stir. There he met with Lamar Odom, a childhood friend and with whom he played as an amateur in the Brooklyn Queens Express, a team that one summer stood out for finishing with a 67-1 record and in which both shared a dressing room with another future star of the NBA, Elton Brand. For Artest, reuniting with Odom was like reliving his childhood, one that happened in the harsh environment of public housing in Queensbridge, New York. In order not to forget his roots, the player tattooed a Q on his right leg and a B on his left and in several interviews he has acknowledged that he heard gunshots while playing on the Twelfth Street courts. He once witnessed the death of a young man during a game, when one of the players tore his leg off the scorer's table and stabbed it after a fight. "He continues to belong to the ghetto. That will not change. I will never change my culture," he told the Houston Chronicle during his time with the Rockets.

Basketball was the salvation of a boy whose childhood strongly marked an abrupt character and a personality that was always on the defensive. Artest was constantly on the alert, and often felt threatened in normal situations. After triumphing in high school and at St. John's University, he was chosen in the 16th place in the draft by the Bulls and shared a team with Brand, chosen in the first by the same team. Despite being in the second rookie quintet (Brand was Rookie of the Year) and averaging 12, 11.9 in his first two seasons, Jordan's legacy was very recent and he soon turned to the Pacers, where he exploded as a player until the famous Palace fight. His reunion with Odom on a competitive ring team was a blessing for him, even though he had a hard time adjusting to Phil Jackson's psychology. On one occasion, the Zen Master advised him to always throw with the same hanging style instead of constantly varying it, which caused him great irregularity. "Why do you always mess with me?" Artest then snapped at a Jackson who didn't understand what was going on. Brian Shaw, Jackson's assistant, found the key, and commented to the technician that the tone of his voice (in whispers) and his body language (getting too close) were interpreted as a threat to Artest, with whom he learned to take care of his gestures and to have a lot of positive feedback.

The Lakers had to slightly adjust their counterattack with Artest, slower than Ariza, and needed time to include him in the offensive triangle. However, the player ended up being the key to achieving a new championship. At 2.01 and 118 kilos at the time, he showed off his tight defense and toughness (the previous year he had been considered the toughest player in the NBA by the General Managers) to annoy fast and talented forwards like Kevin Duran, who averaged 30.1 points per game in the regular season with 47.6% from field goals and 35% from 3-pointers, but was stopped short in the first round by Artest, who only allowed him to score 25 points per night with 35% and 28.6% respectively. In addition, the forward restructured an attack in which he was used to posting weaker defenders and charging to the offensive rebound and learned to flow the offense, and sentenced the Suns in the sixth game of the West finals with 25 points and 4 of 7 in triples. And 33.7 + 7.2 + 8.3 from a superhuman Kobe, of course.

His moment came in the Finals; specifically, in the seventh game against the Celtics, in which it emerged as a differentiator after the bad series of shots by Kobe (6 of 24) or Pau (6 of 18) gripped by nerves only comparable to how close they saw a ring they wanted but had not yet achieved. They did it thanks to a triple by Ron one minute from the end that left them six up, an advantage that they managed to make profitable until the final 83-79. The image of the forward (20 + 5, with 5 steals in that duel) throwing two kisses in the air is a living history of Staples, and his jumps at the end of the match after hugging Kobe did nothing but soften his figure and grant him a redemption eternally postponed. At the time, Artest was not the man who had beaten the crowd at the Palace. He was the one who had won a ring with the Lakers after an ugly match for the fan but precious in substance and meaning. Jackson said years later that "the beauty of that game was in his stark identity. It was like watching two veteran heavyweights who had fought with all their weapons return to the ring for the last time and toil until the last bell sounded."

From person to character

Arts will always be a man of difficult analysis. His tough childhood or the presence of a murder contrast with his tough personality on the track, almost aggressive and, as we have already related, even violent. In 2011-12 he nudged James Harden out of the blue, knocking him out after making a dunk. The Thunder players had to hold down Serge Ibaka to keep him from going after him, who was evidently sent off. Earlier, in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, he dyed his hair gold, in part emulating a Dennis Rodman with whom Phil Jackson sometimes compared him. And on September 16, 2011 the name was changed to Metta World Peace. "I did it to inspire and bring together young people from all over the world," he said at the time, also assuring that he chose Metta as his first name because it is a traditional Buddhist word that means loving kindness and friendship towards everyone.

His eccentricities and dizziness with the name do not end there, and in 2014, when he was about to leave for the Chinese League (where he played for a few months), he was called for a time The Pandas Friend (yes, the friend of pandas). Now she calls herself Metta Ford-Artest. "I have taken my wife's [Maya Ford] last name and added it to mine," he explained. Of course, he recovered his original name for his shirt in 2018, when he played a 3x3 games in the Big3. League co-founder Ice Cube asked him as a personal favor to slightly go back in time. The aggressiveness he displayed and his inexplicable demeanors were greater than a sizable talent, one that took him a step beyond the elite but succumbed to a career-marking fight that held him back when his ceiling was higher and when some analysts ranked him as one of the players to watch in a year in which the Lakers' dominance of Shaq and Kobe had ended and the opportunity to emerge from the bustle was crystal clear.

Nor was everything in Artest's life extravagant and troubled. Sometimes his fame earned him extra techniques, while on another occasion the police searched his home looking for weapons ... and it was a movie. Many remember the forward for his later years, either as a veteran or witnessing Kobe Bryant's farewell live after his return to the Lakers in 2015 (after more altercations at the Italian Pallacanestro Cantù) and with whom he retired in 2017. remember his good-natured character, always away from bragging and good press. On a certain occasion and on a trip to China, he met a boy who could not afford his textbooks and, of course, a pair of sneakers signed by him. Neither short nor lazy, Artest took off the $ 45,000 watch he was wearing and auctioned it off to pay for the boy's education. On another occasion, he wanted to give up all of his salary so that the Kings would not trade his friend Bonzi Wells. And his statements have never been too much, as to Mark Ziegler, of the San Diego Union-Tribune, after his first tours in Los Angeles: "I don't know what Zen means, but I would like to be a Zen man. I hope it allows me to float. I've always dreamed of floating. " You can tell he had just met Uncle Phil, of course.

In addition, the renamed World Peace has done things outside of basketball and is the founder of the Artest Media Group. Established in 2010, the brand management company's clients include himself and musical artists Vinita, Deacon, Sade Artest, Rugby, and Emmaline Cleary. Music producers Wip, Q, and Lucky are also associated with the group. And, within the sport that made him known, he has put his head slightly on the benches, being in charge of the development of the players in the Lakers' subsidiary in the G-League during 2017-18. In the last two years, his participation in the first edition of Celebrity Big Brother (which is Big Brother Vip in Spain) was announced and in 2019 it was made public that Showtime would launch a documentary called Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story in which will tell the whole story of what happened that night in 2004 that will be with him forever. In addition, the player continues to be very active on Twitter, participates in podcasts and gives interviews in which he reviews his friendship with Kobe or that 2010 ring, in addition to continuing to publicly support the Lakers.

Artest is, therefore, a man who goes from person to character. He managed to escape from that past that will never go away completely with his solidarity behaviors or his charitable works (he won the J. Walter Kennedy Best Citizen Award) and as a player he will be remembered for the continuous problems he caused, but also for his defensive tenacity and his commitment, demonstrated with phrases that have never left anyone indifferent and have always been inherent in his person: "Whatever Adelman needs me to do, whether he comes off the bench, sixth man, seventh man, start, I don't even It matters. Whatever he needs me to do, I'm 100% sure it's going to work out there, "he said of his coach at Kings and Rockets and a character that marked him deeply. Of course, for historical phrases, the one he left when he achieved redemption by winning the ring with Kobe and Pau: "I did not imagine that winning this trophy would make me feel so good. Now it seems that I am someone." Someone, of course, is. And no matter how many names he has, for us he will always be Ron Artest. A unique character.

Photos from as.com
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