But then a funny thing happened. Artest came to the Lakers and started making headlines for the right reasons. Sure, he showed up in his boxer shorts on Kimmel, but that’s not so bad considering the good things he was bringing to the table. His teammates consistently complimented his work ethic and his unselfishness. After the 2010 championship run, including a clutch game 7 performance, Artest famously praised his psychiatrist for his preparedness and subsequently became a spokesperson for child therapy and psychiatry. He auctioned off his championship ring for the cause and went on to the win the 2011 NBA citizenship award for his efforts. Talk about a turnaround!
Yet some critics wonder even now if this is just a temporary reprieve from the real Ron. They think his good deeds are a PR shell game to improve his image and that this impending name change is just the tip of another Artest drama iceberg. Personally, I’d like to think that Artest, just like the rest of us, has learned something about himself over the years. That he’s not just some static force for wackiness and drama and misconduct, but a dynamic, evolving person who has made mistakes but who has also made genuine strides in his own personal development. I’d also like to think that no matter how different of a cat he might be, Artest really does mean well.
I know, I know, we are tempted to sit back and pick apart Artest’s latest attention grabbing headline. Maybe changing his name is just a cheap public relations ploy. Maybe with the Lakers being out of the media forefront after not winning the NBA Championship (and an impending lockout that might keep players off the court for the foreseeable future) Artest is just looking for a way to shine the spotlight on himself. Perhaps it’s a stunt to gain ratings for a new reality show or maybe there is a forthcoming rap album that will be tied into some sort of cross promotion. The truth is Artest, or should I just start calling him World Peace, is never an easy guy to figure.
As for me, I try not to see him through such a cynical lens. From where I sit Ron Artest has come too far, taken too many steps forward to just become a bad parody of himself. Sure, he will always be one of the craziest characters to have ever suited up in the NBA. But for Artest’s sake, let’s hope that he continues to evolve. To prove that he is more than just an irreverent character. That he has character too.