I can’t lie: I miss the old Ron Artest.
The guy swigging Hennessey at half-time? Sounds like a guy I’d want in my fox-hole. The guy whocan be enraged to the point of starting a brawl in an arena of 20,000 people? Sounds like a guy I want behind me during a banger. Personally, I loved every minute of it. He may have butchered the Pacers franchise, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t cheering on Ron Artest as he charged that sucker who got caught with cement shoes. (Besides, Pacers fans don’t even exist. I think they were just actors David Stern paid to make the world believe he would actually award a franchise to Indiana).
Act as if you didn’t watch that YouTube clip at least 20 times. (I’d watch the clip of when Jermaine O’Neal dumped that stiff white guy with a stiff black right hand 1000 times before I’d watch a UFC fight, but that’s just me. And any Lakers fan would too—just imagine him gleefully celebrating on the ashes of the Kobe-Lakers dynasty—and you’re telling me that didn’t up the enjoyment of the video by at least 13%?)
But you know who doesn’t miss the old Ron Artest? The NBA at-large.
Ron Artest used (and hell, still probably is) the baddest dude in the NBA. He could guard wing players and bang in the post. He was a monster. If you’ve ever played pick-up basketball—and played against a guy that smells like gin and seems willing to knock your teeth out for every loose ball—Ron Artest was that guy in a 6’8” frame and in the NBA. NOBODY was messing with Artest.
Artest, at his best, transformed all the chaos into just being an all-around intimidating player. There wasn’t a way he COULDN’T go about influencing a game on any given night. When Artest was at his craziest, paradoxically, he was playing his best basketball.
Obviously, the Lakers couldn’t have Ron guzzling Hennessy at half-time of their games. They couldn’t let the Artest-train barrel off the tracks and take the Lakers team with them. It was a calculated risk, and at the end of the day, the Lakers trusted the strength of their organization to rein Artest in. And that they did.