For all those lockout and post Dallas sweep blues, let’s take it back to glory days like Bruce Springsteen and remember the Lakers champion season of 2009-10. Now let me ask you a question? What was the most important shot of that championship season? A beautiful buzzer beater from Derek Fisher that will prove timeless on both ESPN and YouTube? A cute crossover that turned into a terrific turnaround? Maybe it was a swish? A fade away? A Kobe? Perhaps one of those half a dozen or so game-icers with the hottest shots of the year, but most important?
The most important shot of the 2009-10 season was an awful, flat footed, Fred Flintstone clanger in the fading minutes of the 2010 Western Conference Finals. The only way the most important shot of last season read on the stat sheet is when it rattled off the rim, planted a smacker on the glass and then was hugged by a rebounder.
One of the most pivotal scenes in last year’s NBA story came from one of its biggest characters. Now, it may have looked like nothing, but it was one of those back against the wall, against the world moments where our hero has to dig for something deeper before they fell harder than Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock in ‘The Other Guys.’ Our guy in this picture however — our hero on the big jumbotron screen was Ron Artest.
It’s the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns and the sand in the hour glass is falling fast in this game before the series heads back to the Arizona desert. The Lakers are in play and Artest finds space to shoot a two, but he doesn’t split that deuce. Instead the ball careens off the rim and is offensively snatched by the grasshopper grasp of Pau Gasol. With everyone focused on the Spaniard and that player with Italian roots, Artest shadows to his left and is open behind the three point line. It seems that nobody cares except for Gasol who serves Ron the butter. As Ron spots up awkwardly, there’s almost a collective gasp between players, fans, coaches and commentators. It seems that Ron spent a little too long in the freezer as the shot already looks cold. Now the game’s yet to be iced as Ron’s feet barely leave the ground while his shot barely makes the rim. With no goose neck for this lame duck attempt Ron backpedals awkwardly like a mummy. This time he won’t be the daddy, yet.
Everyone’s wondering what Ron was thinking. Ron was probably remembering at the start of the season when he said that if the Lakers don’t win the championship everyone could blame it on him. At that very moment, they were. Marv Albert can’t believe it. There’s exclamations made but no trademark ‘Yes!’ The Zen master is not calm. Everyone in the huddle is a little upset. Ron admits with an ‘I know, I know’ nod that the shot was ill-advised as Phil Jackson asks him, “why?” Then when he looks away Artest pulls one of those awkward faces to himself. One of those ‘aaaaakwaaaard’ looks. As Ron looks more than a little embarrassed, Lamar Odom nudges Ron and reassures him that everything’s alright. That’s that QB love right there. Still everyone’s left wondering why the HELL Ron took that shot. Well I’m going to tell you. (Don’t worry Ron I got you).
Former Laker come New Jersey Net Jordan Farmar puts it best, “Still, I like that Ron Artest shot.” That shot was crucial and counted. It made its mark despite being an X instead of an O. Sometimes things do happen for a reason and I’m not talking about no patronizing, clichéd end of relationship excuse. Just like Jordan, Artest was never scared to take a crucial shot, make or miss, and just like MJ said before, to succeed he had to fail first.