From Bum to Hero, Artest Rescues L.A.
Everyone, that is, except Ron Artest.
Remember when he charged into the stands 5 1/2 years ago and incited the Malice at the Palace debacle? In a strategic context, what Artest decided Thursday night was every bit as ill-advised. Indeed, he winged a three-pointer against all laws of logic, and when he missed badly and hand-delivered an opportunity to the Phoenix Suns, he became the biggest idiot in Hollywood. He looked even worse when Suns guard Jason Richardson, on the third try after a frenetic sequence of offensive rebounding, banked in a three-pointer without calling it to tie matters at 101. Suddenly, Artest loomed as something more dubious than the man-child who helped cause the wildest in-arena disturbance in American sports history. He also was going to cost the Lakers a chance to repeat as NBA champions, or so it seemed.
"Everyone was saying, 'Don't shoot. Don't shoot.' You know, there was a point in time when I shot 40 percent on threes," said Artest, trying to rationalize his blunder. "I've hit a lot of shots before."
But this was now, in the twilight of a career filled with minefields, and with 3.5 seconds left, the last player anyone wanted to see on the court after a timeout was Artest. The shot was called, of course, for Kobe Bryant. He was swarmed on the sideline by Grant Hill and Steve Nash, and he forced an twisting, awkward, double-pumping attempt that found nothing but air. The fans were anticipating overtime and cursing their misfortune when in a flash, dashing across the lane, they saw Artest. He caught the ball, turned around and heaved up a shot that should have had no chance of going in, given his previous foible. Yet he got it off in time. And he'd retrieved it when Richardson, of all people, could not. As the red lights came on and framed the basket, ending the fourth quarter, Artest's shot took a path that he didn't deserve and none of us expected.
It banked off the glass and went in.