I’m happy for Ron Artest.
Its just that, we judge Ron to be authentic. He doesn’t act “crazy” or anything like that for the betterment of his career, because reality would be quite the opposite. He doesn’t play up his character with the prospects of endorsement deals and bigger contracts tattooed on the back of his mind (like, say, Dennis Rodman).
He doesn’t do things for the pleasure of others (except maybe Kobe and Phil). He doesn’t flop, because that would go against instincts and his basketball knowledge of what is right and wrong. He doesn’t draw the charge, because of the same thing. He plays gritty defense, the type that borders on too physical in today’s NBA. Playing against Paul Pierce, the difference is palpable.
Pierce looks to draw the charge, flop for the call, pretend he was hit with a folding chair, whatever he has to do to get possession/foul shots. Which is fine, that is what players do in the NBA in this era. But that isn’t what Artest does.
Artest openly thanks his psychiatrist, promotes his love of his family and hood, and promotes his new rap single after winning a championship. Showers of confetti were still tumbling in Staples and Ron Artest was still basking in the glow of finally attaining that ultimate prize. He got the interview over Kobe Bryant, probably because he makes better TV.
He is unpredictable, especially on the court. He is booed by the LA crowd and has large chants of “NO” when thinking about shooting threes. He was largely doubted all season for his inability to be Trevor Ariza, which turned out to be a good thing. He is constantly battling for Kobe’s respect and approval (this all sounds like Rodman). He was the best player on the court last night, or at least most consistent (that seemed wrong, maybe even dirty to mention that).
This is why I have so much joy for Artest.
It doesn’t even seem real. His was certainly the most entertaining post-game interview ever. The Octagon appeared to be seizing in a hysterical fit of laughter. But that is who Artest is, or at least seems to be. He looked like a new dad coming out of the delivery room, aware that his entire life will be different, if not better, and so joyous and happy.
When the Lakers needed players to step up in games 6 and 7, Kobe and Pau were there. But so was Artest. He was the difference, and really the reason they won the past two games (I say this with the knowledge that with Kobe, all things are possible). He hit shots that were needed to be made, even if the crowd thought someone else, anyone else, should have the ball. He grabbed tough rebounds that needed to be saved, and stole countless, invaluable passes that resulted in Los Angeles fast breaks.
Its not a coincidence that he inhabited the court every minute Pierce was out there, or that he did play more than any other Laker, including Kobe. And by the way, Pierce was terrible this series. He really was. And despite that, he would have won Finals MVP had Boston pulled this one out. You can give credit to Artest, but that doesn’t do justice how bad Pierce played in multiple games.
The Octagon compares Artest to our child, and by our he means NBA fans. He is deviant at times, but you know his heart is usually in a good place. He needs some form of guidance, like from Phil and Kobe, men who he respects and will willingly listen to. For me, last night will be the night Ron Artest became a champion, even though this counted for Kobe’s 5th and Phil’s 11th.