After a few seasons in Chicago, which included a successful rookie campaign, Artest was traded to the Indiana Pacers, where he found his place in the league as a defensive menace and a capable offensive threat. In 2004, his contributions to the Pacers were recognized as he made the All-Star team as a reserve, was named to the all-NBA third team and took home the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Ron’s consistent display toughness, strength, defensive intensity and just a little bit of craziness was quickly making him one of the most feared players in the league. He was becoming a complete player and the Pacers were winning a ton of games.
Despite getting off to a rocky start to begin the 2004-05 season, Ron was finally back on track, and through seven games was averaging 24.6 PPG on just under 50 percent shooting. People were talking about him as a possible MVP candidate and it appeared that Ron was on his way to becoming one of the best players in the league.
However, one evening during a game in Detroit, things took a turn for the worst, and Artest’s career was changed forever.
It all began with a hard foul by Artest on a Ben Wallace dunk attempt during the ending moments of the game. In response to Artest’s ill advised foul, Wallace shoved him in the chest, causing an altercation to break out between the two teams. Artest, in an effort to calm down and stay away from any trouble, lied down on the scorer’s table while officials sorted everything out.
Yet, he would not be cool and composed for long, as a fan proceeded to throw a liquid-filled cup at the calming Artest. A retaliating Artest proceeded to enter the stands and attack the spectator he thought was responsible. From this, multiple players followed Artest into the stands and pandemonium ensued. Fans were spilling onto the court and debris was flying every which way.
Consequently, Artest was suspended for the rest of the season and was effectively labeled a bonafide cancer– a tag that he is still trying to shake off today.
Since that fateful day, Artest has been making a conscious effort to rid himself of that label. It has taken him awhile and a few trades, but it seems that Artest is finally in the right place as a Los Angeles Laker; not only in terms of setting, but for his mindset as well.
Next: The Lakers X-Factor