My all black Indiana Pacers jersey says Artest on the back. Black number 91, black letters, black pinstripes. I love that jersey. I love that guy. You wanna talk about wearing the black hat? More like major crimes. Shiiiiiiiit.
Even back in his high school days he was known for his mouth and his temper as he earned a 13 game suspension in his freshman year. During his senior year, The New York Times said he "has never been one to bite his tongue" after he guaranteed he would lead La Salle Academy to victory in the 1997 Championship game. Of course he came through with 26 points in a 71-54 win over St. Francis Prep, whose coach said after the game "He is a bit cocky, but he's definitely the best player in the city." Artest only added to that reputation at St. John's University where he carried his team while also accusing his teammates of "slacking" and "choking". All very tame stuff, I know. Amateur antics. But he would mature, a strange word to use when talking about Ron Artest in any of his many incarnations. I don't mean mature as opposed to immature, I'm using it as a verb, the same way the FBI does when describing a serial killer who is evolving his killing technique.
The Bulls drafted Ron Artest 16th overall. He arrived in Chicago and immediately applied for a job at Circuit City because he wanted to get the employee discount. I'm telling you, I love that guy. In 2009, he would admit that he used to drink Hennessy in the Bulls' locker room during halftime, but overall, his years in Chicago were relatively quiet. Then he got traded to Indiana.
Yeah, you know what's coming. But there's some other fun stuff before that. There was the time he destroyed a video monitor at Madison Square Garden after a loss to the Knicks. After throwing the monitor, he actually grabbed the camera that was live on air and smashed it as well:
He got 3 games for that. Then he went after Pat Riley and the entire Miami Heat bench:
He got 4 games for that. But it was a good year. He won 2004 Defensive Player of the Year and made his first All Star appearance. He launched a record label, Tru Warier, and spent the summer promoting an album for the group Allure, the first to sign with his label. At the beginning of the next season he asked his coach, Rick Carlisle for a month off because he was tired from all the promotional work. That got him suspended again, this time for 2 games. It would not be his only suspension that year.
November 19, 2004. Auburn Hills, Michigan. Here's the broad strokes. The Pacers are up 15 on the Pistons with 50 seconds left in the game. Artest gives Ben Wallace a hard foul for no apparent reason other than because he is a maniac. Nobody in their right mind hard fouls Ben Wallace at any point, let alone up 15 with 50 seconds left. Little scuffle, then Artest lies down on the scorers table like he's gonna have a nap. Somebody throws a drink on him and... there's Pacers in the stands fighting fans! The whole thing gets blamed on Ron Ron. And he is the first guy to run into the stands and attack a fan so I guess it's fair. Here's what I took away from the whole fracas: Stephen Jackson squared off with Richard Hamilton, Rip wanted no parts of that. Artest ran into the stands and rag-dolled the wrong guy. Stephen Jackson appeared to land an incredible right cross to the chin of a fan that was trying to spray a drink on Artest while avoiding being involved. I couldn't find a clip of that punch alone and I don't want to make you watch a 6 minute clip in the middle of reading this, so I'll post the full riot at the end. What I will show you now is the undisputed, fight of the night, hay-maker that Jermaine O'neal put on the fan that tried to square off with Artest. Whether or not Artest had connected with his punch seconds before is up for debate. But when this guy picked himself off the floor, there was only one thing to wonder about:
For the record it was a punch, not attempted murder. But he laid that man out! Smokey, tell 'em what happened.
Well that one ended up costing him 86 games and about $5 million in salary. From there he requested a trade, got put on the inactive list, got traded to the Sacramento Kings and did all kinds of crazy stuff. Ron Artest offered his entire salary to keep Bonzi Wells with the Kings and also threatened to kill Bonzi if he didn't resign in Sacktown. Bonzi left. Artest also offered his salary to keep coach Rick Adelman in the state capital. He also left. Ron Artest did not kill either of them.
Then he was traded to Houston. He had himself a few run-ins with Kobe and really gave him a hard time in the 2009 NBA Playoffs and had this to say after an especially heated Game 2 during which he was ejected: (Just listen to the first 30 seconds, it's absolute gold)
Table leg through the heart? That was enough to convince the Lakers to sign him to a 5 year contract, seemingly just to avoid having to play against him anymore. It worked out. He had a crucial buzzer beating put-back off a Kobe air ball that got them past the Phoenix Suns and then made the crucial 3 pointer that basically clinched the 2010 NBA Finals. The 2010 NBA Finals Game 7 post-game press conference may be Ron Artest's greatest moment:
Immediately after winning his first and only NBA Championship ring, he announced that he would auction it off, reportedly to raise money for mental health awareness. The following year he won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for "Outstanding service and dedication to the community." The man had come a long way. In the off season, he changed his name to Metta World Peace and after successfully auctioning off his hard fought NBA Championship ring, he donated $110,000 to 2 New York children's foundations.
And then he did this to James Harden:
World Peace everybody! Yeah, he didn't last long after that. Knee problems led to the Lakers waiving him and the New York Knicks being the New York Knicks, signed him to a 2 year contract. Within 5 months, they had waived him as well and it was off to China to play for the Sichuan Blue Whales. In China he actually changed his name again, this time to The Pandas Friend. He lasted just 15 games there as his knee injury continued to plague him. But his overseas odyssey was not finished. Last stop: Italy!
The Pandas Friend signed with Italian squad Pellacanestro Cantu in late March and played with them for 2 months. Fittingly, he was ejected in his final game, a playoff loss. He was involved in a scuffle in which he didn't pick up a foul, but managed to get called for 5 personal fouls in 1 minute of game time. And with that, The Pandas Friend said ciao to Italy and became...
A Laker again? Oddly enough the Lakers decided that with such a young team, they need a "character" guy to come off the bench occasionally and teach the youngsters what the NBA is all about. Well he is a character. Currently Artest/World Peace/Pandas Friend is head of player development for the Lakers G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, yet another team, but this time he doesn't have a jersey so nobody has to worry about what name to write on the back.
That guy has worn a lot of different jerseys over the years. He has worn #15, #23, #37, #51, #91, #93 and #96 over the course of his career. He has also played for a lot of teams over the years. In high school he played for the Cardinals at La Salle Academy. In college he played for the Red Storm at St. John's University. As a pro he was a Bull, a Pacer, a King, a Rocket, a Laker, a Knick, a Blue Whale, a Vitasnella Water and then a Laker again. He's seen it all. He's done it all. What more is there to say? Say Queensbridge.
And now, as promised, Malice at the Palace!