There is no story more bizarrely interesting to me right now than Ron Artest, NBA Champion. Ron’s name is still synonymous with the Malice in the Palace back in 2004. He had long been known to be unstable before that. He has slowly been turning over a new leaf. His behavior has improved. He seems more aware of himself. He has consistently proven himself as a top notch defender. But most recently, Ron Artest is known for being the hero of Game 7. He is the only one, in the midst of all that defensive, physical chaos, who kept it together all game, trusted in himself, and won the game for the Lakers. It makes perfect sense of course. When you think of Artest, the words defense, physical, and chaos come to mind.
Ron, not known for his shooting, shot the second highest percentage of any Laker. Pau Gasol shot slightly better. His 20 points were second highest to Kobe’s 23. It was Ron’s clutch three pointer that allowed the Lakers to burn just enough clock to run out the game. It was his five quality steals that gave the broke shooting Lakers enough possessions to squeak by. And of course, it was his defense on Paul Pierce, keeping him to 18 points on 33% shooting, that kept Boston from running away with the game.
Of course, it would not be true Ron Artest joint with a healthy dose of the bizarre. There were these interesting comments made after the game:
“I was nervous as a mama, but I have to thank my doctor,” he said. “She came and saw me last night, and she’d come follow me on the road because there’s so much going on on the road and I know myself. I know in these situations I don’t think the right way and I need help to think the right way and focus and stay relaxed. All I did was relax at the moment I took the 3-pointer. I settled in and trusted in myself.”
“Phil didn’t want me to shoot the 3. He’s the Zen Master, so he can speak to you and he doesn’t need a microphone. You can hear him in your head, ‘Ron, don’t shoot.’ Whatever. Pow, 3. I love the Zen though . . . A voice came down and told me to shoot the ball,” he said. ” ‘Shoot the ball,’ he said. God told me to shoot the ball and I shot the ball.”
“I really couldn’t feel where I was at,” Artest said. “I couldn’t feel the Finals. I was more in the game and what my coach wanted me to do. When we won, I didn’t even know we won. I honestly didn’t know we won. I actually cried before the game. How stupid is that? How dumb is that? How do you cry before the game and then you don’t cry after you win? Daddy, you raised a dumb child.”
He then smiled at his parents, standing above him and laughing, then kissed the trophy again.
“Hey, Daddy. Hey, Mommy. Look at me now!” he screamed. “Look at me now!”
Ron’s jokes are always just a little bit off. His sense of humor seems to come from the same place as Gilbert Arenas’s. Mars perhaps. But there is more going on than parental validation issues. There is evidence that Ron is aware of the person he is, and was, and the person he wants to be. He is actively seeking the person he wants to be, and he is carving an interesting path to it. His performance in Game 7 will go down as an interesting chapter in an interesting life.